Overline: WORKSHOP

How can we learn to move away from exploitive research practices? How do co-production of knowledge, cooperation, and participatory research work in practice? What can be gained through taking the local perspective? How can better communication be fostered across academic disciplines, activism, local communities, etc.? These are some of the questions that will be discussed at this 2-day virtual workshop on Methods and ethics in Arctic transformative research, to which we invite researchers from all disciplines, policy makers, activists, and others with an interest in Arctic research and research ethics. The workshop will include presentations, a panel-discussion, and discussion-based sessions between participants.

  • If you would like to participate in this workshop, please send an e-mail to nina [dot] doering [at] iass-potsdam [dot] de until September 11, 2020.


  • To critically reflect on the harm that scientific practices aimed at sustainability can cause and to discuss possibilities for improvement
  • To contribute to the growing but limited debate on research ethics and ethics in Arctic research taking place in Germany at the moment
  • To establish connections and find partners to collaboratively plan an in-person workshop on these issues in 2021


As the Arctic continues to undergo profound social, cultural, political, economic, and climatic changes, research activities in the region are intensifying (IPCC, 2014; Larsen et al., 2014; Petrov et al., 2016). Faced with global warming, academics and activists are seeking a better understanding of the complex dynamics that influence global climatic processes. The objective of many researchers thereby is to gain new academic insights as well as to advance the goal of a sustainable future by supporting transformation processes. Within the wider field of sustainability science, academics and research institutions (among them the IASS) have conceptualized this approach as ‘transformative science’ (Schneidewind et al., 2016).  Their work offers a reflexive critique of scientific practices, focuses on institutional change, and is dedicated to knowledge creation “with and for a changing society” (Schneidewind et al., 2016, p. 15). This aligns with the recent emphasis in Arctic sustainability studies on inter- and transdisciplinary approaches, adaptive co-management, action research, and knowledge co-production (Petrov et al., 2016). However, despite methodological improvements, Indigenous and local communities in the Arctic and elsewhere continue to experience exclusions, regularly struggle to have their voices heard, and often have no control over research processes (e.g. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, 2018). Indigenous researchers, such as Métis anthropologist Zoe Todd, highlight on-going appropriation of Indigenous knowledge in Euro-Western research, the use of Indigenous ontologies without acknowledgment of Indigenous thinkers, the absence of Indigenous scholars from European academic settings (Todd, 2015), and the lack of recognition of Indigenous knowledge as scientific knowledge (e.g. Pfeifer, 2018). In Germany, debate about research ethics is growing, yet few (social) science projects currently undergo ethics review (van Unger, Dilger, and Schönhuth, 2016). Difficult questions need to be raised to ensure appropriate consideration of the harm that scientific practices aimed at sustainability can cause (this includes critical reflection on the concept of sustainability, see Andersen, Heide-Jørgensen, and Flora, 2018; Petrov et al., 2016). 


  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop will be held online. Access information will be sent to participants. 
  • The main language of the workshop will be English. We explicitly welcome participants speaking other languages. Please let us know if you require translation support. 
  • To enable mutual learning in an online format, we may need to restrict the number of participants. Please let us know if you would be able to attend both days. 

IPCC. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/ [Accessed 10 November 2019]. 

Larsen, J., Fondahl, G., Krupnik, I., Peng, J., Sakhuja, V. “Introduction.” In: Arctic human development report: Regional processes and global linkages. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2014, pp. 49-52. Available at: http://norden.diva- portal.org/smash/get/diva2:788965/FULLTEXT03.pdf [Accessed 12 November 2019]. 

Petrov, A., Silver, S., Chapin, F., Fondahl, G., Graybill, J., Keil, K., Nilsson, A., Riedlsperger, R., and Schweitzer, P. (2016). “Arctic sustainability research: Toward a new agenda.“ Polar Geography 39(3): 165-178. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1088937X.2016.1217095. 

Schneidewind, U., Brodowski-Singer, M., Augenstein, K., and Stelzer, F. (2016). “Pledge for a transformative science: A conceptual framework.“ Wuppertal Papers 191. Available at: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/144815/1 /864828942.pdf [Accessed 12 November 2019]. 

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. (2018). National Inuit Strategy on Research. Available at: https://www.itk.ca/wp- content/uploads/2018/04/ITK_NISR- Report_English_low_res.pdf [Accessed 5 November 2019]. 

Todd, Z. (2016). “An Indigenous feminist’s take on the ontological turn: ‘Ontology’ is just another word for colonialism.” Journal of Historical Sociology 29(1): 4- 22. DOI: 10.1111/johs.12124. 

Pfeifer, P. (2018). “From the credibility gap to capacity building: An Inuit critique of Canadian Arctic research.” Northern Public Affairs. Available at: http://www.northernpublicaffairs.ca/index/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/NP… [Accessed 2 August 2020].

Von Unger, H., Dilger, H., and Schönhuth, M. “Ethics reviews and the social and cultural sciences? A sociological and anthropological contribution to the debate.” Forum: Qualitative Sozialforschung/ Forum: Qualitative Social Research 17(3), Art. 20. Available at: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1603203 (Accessed 12 November 2019). 

Andersen, A., Heide-Jørgensen, P., Flora, J. (2018). “Is sustainable resource utilisation a relevant concept in Avanersuaq? The walrus case.”Ambio 47(2): 26-280. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1032-0