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Published: 16 Jun, 2017

IASSA leadership change at Arctic conference in Umeå

NEWS The international Arctic research conference ICASS IX gathered at least 800 participants from all over the world in Swedish Umeå on 8–12 June. Now, Umeå is passing the baton of running the secretariat to Iowa and Archangelsk.

“These past days, we have been totally overwhelmed. We have manifested that there are many of us, and what interesting and important research we conduct. And we have definitely put Umeå on the Arctic map,” says Peter Sköld, professor and director of the Arctic Research Centre at Umeå University, Arcum.

Until now, he has been president of the international Arctic research body IASSA, International Arctic Social Sciences Association, and has, together with his Arcum colleagues, been hence running the secretariat of the organisation for the past three years. Now, Peter Sköld and Arcum can soon take a sigh of relief when the baton is passed on. Particularly since the conference ICASS IX, 9th International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences, was a total success and attracted huge interest.

The 800 participants from twenty countries had 204 sessions to choose from and nearly 900 presentations. Many of them ran parallel, of courses. In fact, if all presentations would be have been scheduled after one another, it would have taken three months and ten days of non-stop cramming to take part in the entire programme.

However, to tie everything together, each day set off with a joint plenary session on a given theme in the Aula Nordica auditorium. These sessions were also recorded and can be watched in retrospect by following the links below. After the morning plenary, the participants then had a smorgasbord of sessions to choose from. The topics ranged from Indigenous living conditions, and education to the spread of infectious diseases in the Arctic, and how societies can better prepare for the climate changes that are already an evident fact in the Arctic region.

“The Arctic is the climate canary of the world. Changed climate and living conditions can be seen earlier and more evidently here. Hence, it’s of particular importance to share the experiences of the Arctic people to the rest of the world,” says Peter Sköld.

Amy Martin in interview.
Amy Martin from Montana holds a radio interview with Carl Christian Olsen from Greenland and Carolina Behe from Alaska. Photo: Ola Nilsson.

On the Sunday – no day of rest for the enthusiasts – a new chairperson of the Arctic international research body IASSA was also elected. Umeå University has held the chairmanship and has hence, according to the organisation’s practice, run the secretariat over the course of the last three years since the previous ICASS conference.

Universities in Russia and the US had been nominated for the post, but it was in no way certain before the secret votes had been cast. However, by then it was clear, the Russian American Andrey Petrov took home the majority of votes and will take over as president of IASSA. He comes from Russia, has completed his doctoral degree in Canada and is now leading the Arctic Centre at the University of Northern Iowa in the US. By his side, Andrey Petrov will have the Northern (Arctic) Federal University in Archangelsk, Russia, which will also host the next ICASS conference in 2020.

Those who were unable to get to Campus Umeå were able to follow each plenary session on the web through Region Västerbotten. Follow the links below to see the recordings. Also in the press, on the radio and on TV, the conference was well covered, not just locally but also in Sami media, national media and international media.

“I wish it would be as simple and stimulating to work as a journalist in the US as at ICASS in Umeå,” said a pleased Amy Martin, freelance radio reporter from Montana in the US, who covered the entire conference.

Photos from ICASS IX

Read more about the conference

Filmed plenary sessions from ICASS IX

Thursday 8 June: Opening ceremony and plenary session
Extractive Resource Development and Sustainability in the Arctic
Friday 9 June: plenary session
Indigenous perspectives on knowledge
Saturday 10 June: plenary session
Indigenous perspectives on knowledge
Sunday 11 June: plenary session
An Interdisciplinary Dialogue on Society and Climate Sensitive Infections: Current and Future Challenges
Monday 12 June: plenary session
Arctic Science Through Metrics Lenses – Analyzing National & Global Trends
Monday 12 June: closing session
Closing of ICASS IX

Top photo: Ulrika Bergfors

Editor: Anna Lawrence