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Published: 2020-05-29

A word from Arcum's director

One hundred years ago the second big wave of the Spanish Flu reached the northern parts of Sweden with a devastating result. Due to an extensive susceptibility to the virus many societies were struck hard, worst of all Arjeplog where 3 % of the population died. There are many parallels between the pandemic in 1920 and the present-day Arctic; the relation between remoteness and immunity, the development within the epidemiologic transition, epidemic pathways, health care access and organization, demography, regional authorities and the state, communication and information, equality, monitoring, pandemic planning, and potentially the role of vaccination. This far we can conclude that the Arctic has been relatively saved with low mortality and infections, but unfortunately, we cannot be sure that all is clear.

Arctic science has of course been affected enormously by the Covid-19 pandemic. The mega project with the research vessel Polarstern frozen into the ice near the North Pole (Mosaic) was interrupted, researchers had problems to return home from visits at polar stations, workshops and conferences have been cancelled, upcoming field work is under threat, and courses and programs have moved online. Internet connection is one of the major challenges to online education in the North American and Russian Arctic regions. The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) did a tremendous effort when they in three weeks turned the working groups and council meeting, the scientific program of ASSW (Arctic Science Summit Week), side-events, receptions, coffee break and even the performance of throat singers from Tuva digital.

Arcum continues to work from a distance, which works fairly well. We have coffee meetings every morning, weekly staff meetings and for autumn we plan in parallel processes, one where physical meetings and travel is possible and one that builds on a continued work from home. We continue to support Arctic activities at Umeå University, twelve applications were funded in the Spring call. We also continue to present Umeå Arctic Seminars. Linus Lundström and Lena Maria Nilsson were the first to go online with their presentations, and next week (3 June) the former director at the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, Björn Dahlbäck, presents his perspectives on the Arctic.

It is my sincere hope that you all, under the strange circumstances, are well – and that research and teaching can be upheld. I also hope that things will be better soon, and that Autumn will offer opportunities to work with the Arctic Five, with the Arctic Council, with other countries and universities, and that The Chinese Nordic Arctic Reseatrch Committee (CNARC), Umeå Arctic Forum and University of the Arctic Board of Governors all will take place in Umeå later this year. Until then I wish you a splendid Spring and soon to come, summer holidays.

Peter Sköld, director Arcum