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Last Update: 2011-08-29   Source: Research Infrastructures
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SIOS: towards an integrated Arctic Earth Observation System

The goal of SIOS is to establish an observational research infrastructure for the Arctic Earth System integrating studies of geophysical, chemical and biological processes from the research and monitoring platforms. The EU is funding the Preparatory Phase of this new infrastructure which is part of the ESFRI roadmap. The greatest achievement so far is the comprehensive participation in the initiative. By today, not only all countries with research stations and regular activities in Svalbard are involved as full or associated partners, but also all Arctic countries. Since the start of the project in 2010, two more international institutions have applied for and have been accepted as associated partners. SIOS will start operation in 2013.

What has the project achieved?

SIOS also has taken an initiative towards other environmental ESFRI projects with potential activities in the Arctic, aiming at an optimal coordination between the different projects in the region.

The SIOS Gap Analysis process has resulted in the most comprehensive inventory of scientific instrumentation and observation programs in Svalbard ever performed and a list of proposals for scientific infrastructure still needed to achieve a comprehensive Arctic observation system.

Why does this matter?

SIOS addresses all types of changes of the Arctic System, with a focus on climate change, ecosystems and pollution. There is increasing agreement in a wide scientific community that such changes are especially pronounced in the Arctic (thus serving as an early warning system) and that these dramatic changes may have a significant impact on the global system.

Polar research is both a national strategic and a highly internationalized field; the activities in Ny-Ålesund with many national research stations and partial redundancies are a clear example of that. On the other hand, polar research is logistically challenging and thus very expensive. Therefore, it is momentous to achieve the best possible coordination and cooperation in order to further develop this research field. We foresee that such efforts in the frame of SIOS will lead to a natural task sharing, also considering national polar research strategies.

Who is involved?

14 countries are participating in the SIOS preparatory phase project, under the coordination of Norway. Moreover, a SIOS Advisory Board has been established which is meant to give advice on the scientific profile and the operational solutions of the project. In this board, major international programmes, organizations and core stakeholders are represented.

What is the European Added Value?

SIOS will establish an observation system that covers the whole Arctic System from upper atmosphere/solar terrestrial coupling to deep sea and Earth crust processes. No single country active in the (European) Arctic addresses this wide spectrum. Currently, there is transnational cooperation of varying degree on Svalbard that has been a platform for international Arctic research since the beginning of the 20th century. An important aim of SIOS is to achieve a high degree of cooperation in all relevant fields. Also the archiving and accessibility of data varies largely from field to field, so that a harmonisation of this aspect is necessary. There have been several transnational access projects related to the research in Ny-Ålesund. SIOS will both secure a continuation of this and lead to a significant extension of such access with respect to locations, scientific disciplines and types of platforms.

Most countries involved in SIOS have national polar research stations in the Svalbard area, and virtually all countries have national polar research plans. The SIOS project is a unique opportunity to harmonize existing and develop a future common polar research strategy with minimized redundancies.

SIOS will provide a "one-stop shop" for arctic system data and a common information base for European Arctic topics. Already at this early stage of the project there is strong interest from related initiatives, such as the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi and the Danish monitoring programmes in Greenland to coordinate their efforts with the development in SIOS. Also the pan-Arctic initiative SAON has expressed its interest in getting SIOS involved in their efforts of a pan-Arctic data and information system.

How much money has been funded by the EU?

The EU contribution to the SIOS-Preparatory Phase project amounts to €4 million.

For more information

Project website
Project Coordinator: Dr. Karin Refsnes, Research Council of Norway, P.O.Box 2700 St. Hanshaugen, 0131 Oslo, Norway. E-mail
Project manager: Dr. Georg Hansen. E-mail

ESFRI Roadmap