A big step forward for international research cooperation in Svalbard

In January, 24 institutions from nine countries formally joined forces in an extra-ordinary initiative towards long-term research cooperation - the Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS).

A group of people

SIOS General Assembly 2018.  Photo: Christiane Hübner / SIOS Knowledge Centre

SIOS establishes and maintains coordination between research infrastructures in and around Svalbard and promotes open access to infrastructure and data. The common goal of all SIOS partners is to establish an observing system that will improve knowledge of environmental changes in the Arctic. SIOS will enhance our understanding of climate change and its effects collaboratively yet efficiently.

On 26 January 2018, the state secretary Rebekka Borsch from the Norwegian Ministry of Education opened the General Assembly during which the consortium for the Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS, www.sios-svalbard.org) was consolidated through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

Knowledge centre

– In Svalbard, five people are working in a knowledge centre that has been established through SIOS. They are working on facilitating research infrastructure, in addition to ensure the sharing of knowledge and data. They aim to encourage the institutions to do research together and to collaborate. To invest in infrastructure, for example, is easier when you join forces, says Kim Holmén, international director at the Norwegian Polar Institute and Chair of the SIOS Board of Directors.

He says it is important to ensure that scientists do not repeat each other's research in Svalbard to make the research more efficient, but also to lessen the impact on the vulnerable environment in Svalbard.

Climate change

Environmental change is one of the most important challenges we face today. Global climate models demonstrate that Polar Regions play a crucial role in the Earth's climate system. The Arctic region will experience the most severe and rapid warming worldwide, with a computed annual average temperature increase of 4-8 degrees Celsius and significant precipitation increases in scenario simulations for the end of the 21st century. This will have consequences for humans and the natural environment locally, but also has implications globally. For this reason Svalbard, situated in the High Arctic, is an important arena for investigations of environmental and climate change.

– It is a huge step that we are now in an operational phase after ten years of preparations and pilot activities, says Holmén.


The SIOS consortium (23 members and 1 observer): 

  • Akvaplan-NIVA (APN), Norway - www.akvaplan.niva.no 
  • Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz Zentrum fuer Polar-und Meeresforschung (AWI), Germany (Founding Member) - www.awi.de 
  • Andøya Space Center (ASC), Norway - www.andoyaspace.no/ 
  • Arctic Centre, University of Groningen (RUG), The Netherlands - www.rug.nl/research/arctisch-centrum/ 
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche (CNR), Italy (Founding member) - www.cnr.it 
  • Geological Survey of Norway (NGU), Norway - www.ngu.no/en/  Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences (IGF PAS), Poland (Founding Member) - www.igf.edu.pl/home.php 
  • Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Norway - www.imr.no 
  • Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC), Norway (Founding Member) - www.nersc.no/ 
  • National Institute for Polar Research (NIPR), Japan (Founding Member) - www.nipr.ac.jp/english/ 
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) - Arctic office, UK (Observer) - www.arctic.ac.uk/ 
  • Norut Northern Research Institute (Norut), Norway - www.norut.no/ 
  • Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), Norway - www.nilu.no  Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Norway - www.nina.no 
  • Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), Norway - www.niva.no 
  • Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET Norway), Norway (Founding Member) - www.met.no/en 
  • Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), Norway - www.nve.no/english/ 
  • Stockholm University (SU), Sweden (Founding Member) - www.su.se  The Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), Norway (Founding Member) - www.npolar.no 
  • The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), Norway (Founding Member) - www.unis.no 
  • UiT The Arctic University of Norway (UiT), Norway - www.uit.no 
  • University of Bergen (UiB), Norway - www.uib.no  University of Helsinki (UH), Finland (Founding Member) - www.helsinki.fi/en 
  • University of Oslo (UiO), Norway - www.uio.no