Arctic collaboration transcends political tensions

Of all world regions, the Arctic is the most sensitive to climate change and drives feedbacks that amplify the effects of global warming around the planet. Understanding the Arctic relies on developing a better knowledge of the hugely expansive Russian Arctic regions, which offer unique opportunities to study landscape systems across large latitudinal gradients, linked by major river networks.

However, these regions have been something of a blind spot for the international community of Arctic scientists. This is due to access difficulties and to research findings going unrecognized because of language barriers. Happily, at a time of mounting political tension between Russia and the United Kingdom, early-career Arctic scientists from both countries are working together.

Following workshops held in March at Lomonosov Moscow State University and at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK, a group of these researchers are now collaborating to remove logistical hurdles and to combine complementary resources and expertise. The workshops were organized by the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s Arctic Office, the UK Polar Network, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists in Russia and the UK Science and Innovation Network.

Immediate challenges include pooling knowledge that is scattered among publications in English or in Russian. Imminent outcomes include the organization of a conference in the Russian Arctic, a database of funding sources, and guidelines for working in the area (see go.nature.com/2jvdtnk).

This successful collaboration demonstrates how science diplomacy can transcend the hostility of government politics. Such cooperation among early-career researchers now should advance scientific and social progress over the decades to come.

Nature 558, 30 (2018)

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