The future of the Arctic both affects and is being affected by current rapid global changes such as climate change, globalization and technological development. It is thus intertwined with the future of our planet, and not only on an environmental level. Having had the opportunity to study Arctic issues during closely three of the five years I spent preparing my Ph.D. thesis, I am now very happy to have integrated the Arctic into the future of my research.
Mistra Arctic Futures has provided me with the opportunity to study Arctic issues using a very broad approach. Having had the possibility to attend transdisciplinary events, such as program meetings and conferences, are formative experiences that have had positive effects on all areas of my research. The opportunities to interact across disciplines have also strengthened my beliefs about how to address Arctic issues. No single discipline will alone be able to provide a framework or a platform from which the Arctic cannot just survive but also thrive ecologically, culturally and economically.
Working in a transdisciplinary environment means that I have had the pleasure to present my research for people from a variety of different disciplines. This has meant that I have been forced to defend implicit assumptions that I have made and to defend the usefulness of my research and results. But I have also received comments and suggestions from researchers working in a very different context and discourse to what I am used to. Without a doubt, this has improved my papers. But it has also helped me to improve as a researcher. Researchers in every discipline make some fundamental assumptions that will shape the results of any study. In that way, economics is no different from other disciplines and the cross disciplinary interactions I have experienced have helped me to better understand how these assumptions and my research output interact.
Working in this program has also shown me the great research interest that exists in Arctic issues. Drawing from my own experience, I have also noted that economists are largely underrepresented in most Arctic social science events. I believe that this is troubling. I do not argue that Arctic social science projects necessarily need to integrate economic theory, but if economists contributed more to Arctic research, that would increase the plurality of Arctic research through e.g., different definitions of sustainability and methods of studying governance. Having made this journey, it is also clear that economic researchers working with Arctic issues can benefit from expanding their audience which will generate a lot of interesting feedback and we can also benefit from making our voices heard in a forum where the results of current research are very likely to be a major part in shaping the future of an important region.
Mistra Arctic Futures has given me the opportunity to invest a large part of my early research career to the Arctic. It has greatly deepened my understanding and helped me realize how little I knew (know!) of the complex challenges that the region is facing. Through this project, I have also improved as a researcher not the least through the realization of the limits any single researcher or discipline faces when trying to address these challenges. I have had the opportunity to meet with many inspiring people, from both within and outside the research community and I look forward to having the possibility to contribute to Arctic research in the years to come.
-Eric Sjöberg defended his Stockholm Univesity dissertation Essays on Environmental Regulation, Management and Conflict on 17 October 2013. Read more about the dissertation here. He has been appointed Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA.