Umeå University is Sweden’s Arctic University in new report

15 September 2023

A new report from the University of the Arctic (UArctic) network indicates that Umeå University finds itself in the top tier of producers of Arctic research in the world. In Sweden, the University stands out particularly when it comes to the total number of Arctic themed publications, and when it comes to the research field's relative importance to the University, such as the proportion of Arctic themed publications. Without a doubt, this means that Umeå University is Sweden's Arctic University.

The University Management has used many methods to strengthen the University's Arctic profile. This goes in line with the history of the University, since research about Northern conditions has taken place here since Umeå University was established in 1965. Another important milestone in this direction was the establishment of the Arctic Research Centre in 2012. In recent years, collaboration with neighbouring universities in the Arctic Five has contributed to new opportunities for Arctic research. The establishment of Arctic Five Chairs and Fellows promotes collaboration between universities in northern Norway, Sweden and Finland. The Arctic Five has also influenced Arctic strategies and priorities in the EU.

Dieter Müller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

Despite these initiatives, one may wonder how visible Umeå University is within this research field. We know that there are strong and partly unique initiatives at Umeå University such as the Arctic Research Centre and the Climate Impacts Research Centre with its activities in Abisko, but also Várdduo – Centre for Sámi Research and the Umeå Marine Sciences Centre. But other universities have also invested in Arctic research. Hence, it is particularly pleasant to see that Umeå University is positioning really well in the bibliometric analysis of Arctic research in the UArctic report.

The entire report can be downloaded from the Academic Archive Online (DiVA). I would also like to add that our university's bibliometricians have played a leading role in producing this report, in collaboration with researchers at the Arctic Research Centre and IceLab, who have developed various aspects of the analysis.

The report shows that Umeå researchers, over the period of 2016–2022, have participated in over 1,170 Arctic themed papers, which, when taking co-authorship into account, corresponds to 650 single-author papers. Only six other institutions in the world manage to reach a higher level than that. In Northern Europe, only the University of Iceland and our partner university, the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) in Tromsø, are listed higher than Umeå University. Both are, however, positioned lower than Umeå when delving deeper into the citation impact of research. Arctic publications correspond to 6.7% of the total scientific publications at Umeå University, which can be compared with 4.2% for Luleå University of Technology or 3.1% for Stockholm University. All of this emphasises the importance of Arctic research at Umeå University.

Although this result is flattering for Umeå University, there is still reason to reflect on the current status of Arctic research in Sweden. Swedish research does not only produce fewer publications in the field than the US and Russia, who are the biggest nations in this context. But also Britain, Germany and Norway produce a somewhat higher volume of publications than Sweden. Even China has more than double the amount of research about the Arctic than Sweden. And the other Nordic countries, despite their smaller population compared to Sweden, produce nearly the same amount of Arctic research as Sweden. Among the Arctic council member countries, Sweden is hence distinguished as the weakest member, particularly if population is taken into account.

Nevertheless, Swedish research has an impact and the level of citation reaches above the global average in Arctic research. And in addition to that, Arctic research is growing and is being internationalised. In Sweden, international collaboration takes place particularly with Finland and Iceland, which gives Sweden a midfield position.

Beside the fun in landing on top in this kind of report, we can of course consider what role this type of research can play. The Arctic is facing dramatic changes. Climate change is particularly noticeable here and industrial investments increase demand for Arctic resources. The geopolitical situation renders more attention to this region. The Arctic is "hot stuff" and societies need to adapt to the consequences of the changes that follow. Arctic research is found in all disciplinary research domains and provides important contributions when it comes to understanding these changes and covering the needs of tomorrow.

In that way, Umeå University's strong position in Arctic research feels encouraging and it gives us a reason to continue along that track.

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