Canada’s North is a socially, economically and strategically vital area. Covering half of the country’s landmass, but containing only one percent of its population, the North faces unique challenges related to such issues as resource development, increased self-government and land claims settlements. More recently, climate change, which has its greatest impact on the North, has become an increasingly important issue. Conducting research in the North can yield invaluable information about the causes and impacts of climate change, the movement of pollution, the importance of biodiversity and other issues of importance to Canadians.
In response to these concerns, NSERC has made major investments in northern research through a variety of programs, including its contributions to the International Polar Year initiative (see NSERC’s Northern Research Report for more information).
In the fall of 2010, NSERC issued a call for proposals for the first-ever Discovery Frontiers grant, part of the new NSERC Frontiers initiatives which address national research priorities and global challenges by supporting a small number of major new transformative and integrative initiatives.
The initial Discovery Frontiers call for proposals focused on Northern Earth System research. The resulting $4-million grant will support one large project focused on Canada’s North. Led by top Canadian researchers, the project’s teams are set to generate high-impact research for the benefit of Canada, specifically Canada’s North. The Discovery Frontiers initiative is designed to bring together groups of researchers in new ways to address a major research challenge. The groups will incorporate new and emerging ideas, and combine their complementary expertise to conduct transformative, paradigm-changing research.
The future of northern research includes building the High Arctic Research Station (HARS). The concept received a strong endorsement in 2008 from an expert panel appointed by the Council of Canadian Academies. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is currently undertaking the planning and design of HARS, which will be located in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.
Northern research is, by its nature, collaborative, interdisciplinary and international. Canadian researchers work with, and play host to, many colleagues from other countries in an effort to better understand an area that is changing in ways that can affect the whole world.