Knowledge Mobilization in the Canadian North: Portrait of the ArcticNet Project

Written by Louis Melançon, Research Assistant at Research Impact Canada

The Canadian North is undergoing significant transformations. Climate change, industrialization and modernization deeply affect the people who live there, as well as local ecosystems and their resources. ArcticNet is a network of Canadian Centers of Excellence that brings together scientific experts, engineers, government agencies and partners from northern communities to study these changes and enable governments to better cope with them for the years ahead.

Since its establishment in 2004, ArcticNet has invested $146 million in nearly two hundred projects, employing over 350 researchers. In 2020-21 alone, it funded 33 projects linked to 35 Canadian universities and 173 researchers from 15 countries. ArcticNet funds research projects in northern Manitoba, northern Yukon and the four Inuit regions of Canada, spanning five research domains:

  • Marine ecosystems
  • Terrestrial ecosystems
  • Inuit health, education and adaptation
  • Industrialization and Northern policy
  • Knowledge transfer

In 2020, the North-by-North program was created, allowing Inuit people to lead and conduct their own research programs, on topics important to their communities, for the very first time. Eleven projects totaling $1.6 million were approved in its inaugural year, bringing together 52 researchers. The North-by-North program is complemented by the Northern Research Leaders program, which aims to strengthen the research capacities of local institutions. With a $4.25 million fund spanning four years, this program successfully filled 14 new researcher positions in its first year, collaborating with academic institutions such as Yukon University as well as several First Nations organizations.

The knowledge transfer aspect of ArcticNet includes several very interesting projects. The KUUK-SHIPI-SHIPU (“river” in Inuktitut, Naskapi and Innu) project led by Esther Lévesque of Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières aims to convey cutting-edge scientific data to northern communities. For example, the team has developed a new calculation protocol for improved communication of mercury content in traditional foods, interactive maps highlighting Inuit knowledge and an intercultural database to predict potential consequences of opening a mine in the region. The “Mapping the Permafrost” project, led by William Quinton of Wilfrid Laurier University, provides resource managers and planners in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories with valuable data on the presence of permafrost and predictions about its transformation. Affiliated with a NASA satellite mapping program, the project also involves young people from local First Nations communities in its team to provide research training.

Finally, in 2020, ArcticNet also launched ArcticKT Portal – an Arctic knowledge transfer portal named. It is a dynamic web platform that features a wide range of content — regional impact studies, scientific summaries and short videos — relating to each of the major research themes of ArcticNet. This content can be filtered by geographic region or keywords. ArcticKT offers an open-access platform that brings together scientific knowledge for the benefit of Northerners, so they can make informed decisions on issues that concern them.