Narratives of Science and Industry in the Struggle for the Arctic and its natural resources

Dag Avango, Arctic Centre

What is the relation between scientific research, technological change and industrial development? This is a question widely discussed within the field of science and technology studies. It is also a question brought to the forefront by the scientific efforts during the IPY 2007-2009. Expeditions were sent to the Arctic with multiple agendas – scientific, but also with an eye towards natural resources, shipping routes and territorial claims.
Similar interactions between scientific, economic and political interests have taken place in the Polar Regions in the past. During the 19th century, especially in its second half, there was an intensive scientific activity on the Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen, followed by the rapid development of a mining industry. This industrialization has often been explained as a result of the previous accumulation of scientific knowledge. In this paper I will question the validity of that explanation. What was the role of science in the development of the Spitsbergen coal mining industry? Why did some actors explain it as a result of scientific research? What can we learn from this process, in relation to the current development in the Arctic?

Willem Barentsz Poolinstituut

Bundeling van kennis, onderzoek en onderwijs over de Noord- en de Zuidpool

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