Margareta Johansson on the collaboration with TSU

Research on Siberia is one of the most important areas in which TSU has chosen to work. Some time ago, TSU founded the new international research network SecNET. Three TSU research stations – Aktru, Kaybasovo, and Khanymey – entered the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic (INTERACT). At the end of October, the TSU research centre TSSW gathered scientists from all over the world to participate in a forum on the influence of climate change on the environment and the people of Siberia.  Margareta Johansson (administrative director of INTERACT, researcher at Lund University, Sweden), told us about the collaboration with TSU and the purposes of studying Siberia.

First I came to Russia 3 years ago and since that time, I have been here 3 times. I joined the international group that had already started working on the project. I did not know what to expect from Siberia. What I met was fantastic people. I spent so many hours at work. It is important that I work with people I like. Which is why I come back.

Today I work with approximately 20 Russian scientists. If you ask me about the major differences in professional relationships here and in Sweden, I will answer: there is a strict hierarchy in the Russian academic system compared to Sweden. In Sweden, it does not matter if you are a professor or a student. You are supposed to do certain things together. Here it is different.

The main goals of our project are to make data from the Arctic available, make sure that we get new data by sending people there, and communicate inside the network, making sure that data that comes from there can be compared in one way or another. When we publish a paper, the information will end up in such places as the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will be directed towards the policy makers. And, of course, the knowledge should go out to local people as well.

If we look at INTERACT, we have a direct communication with local communities where we have the research stations. We try to inform local communities of what we are doing when we bring and install all the strange equipment. One way to do it, instead of just making posters with “We do this and that” is making people look for information themselves. It is like treasure hunting but instead of treasure, people hunt for information themselves. Another way is trying to involve the local communities and trying to make them speak about what they need. The needs are very different. If we think of the Faroe Islands, they have needs for energy; in Alaska they have such problems as drinking water.

As for Siberia, I have not got deeply involved in specific problems people may face. But the first thing that comes to my attention is that you have a lot of thick permafrost here, so if you have a warming temperature, it will take much time, if at all, to get rid of the permafrost. Therefore, for a very long time you will have problems with it. For example, problems with drinking water. Lakes will be draining, because the upper layer of the permafrost is active. It gets thinner in summer and thicker in winter. When it increases, the water in the lakes may find new ways. So they might drain. In addition, if you have this active layer of permafrost, you have big chunks of ice in the ground. They melt and the water may come up in places where you have infrastructures and then you have problems.

Participating in such projects as SecNET will provide TSU with the opportunity to climb the ladder in rankings. Of course, you are collaborating with people from everywhere. But maybe, not in a systematic way. You will have the national networking, as well as the international networking. It is good to work in networks, because you publish together. If you are a scientist, the ranking positions depend a lot on what you publish and where you publish it. That is something that will really improve. Because if we do the research together, you have more exciting stories than if you do your own little research. 

What we could not have done without TSU and TSSW is bringing together all the Siberian partners. I think it is essential. It is so much more important to get people involved and ask them to contribute, rather than just come here and say – look what we are doing. Tomsk State University just happened to be in the middle of everything. Literally. It has a fantastic infrastructure; and it has the backup that you need. Your university has decided to invest in the project, which shows that it is really interested in the issues.

The interview was conducted by Snezhana Nosova, Senior Lecturer at the TSU Department of Social Communication  

Tags: TSSW