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Polar Conference Opens With Inspiring Prize

• April 23, 2012 • 12:39 PM

A new prize for research in the Canadian Arctic offers a conduit for researchers to put their findings into action.

Some rare good news for Arctic researchers and the region they study: an annual $1 million prize to be awarded to up to five research teams in Canada so they can move the knowledge they’ve produced into action.

In announcing the Arctic Inspiration Prize at the International Polar Year conference in Montreal, founder Arnold Witzig explained that he and his partner Sima Sharifi were inspired by the concept “From Knowledge to Action.”

That’s also the theme of the conference, which opened today and marks five years of research in the Arctic and Antarctic since the opening of the International Polar Year in 2007. The 3,000 attendees represent 60 countries and 228 international networks featuring participation of more than 50,000 scientists, indigenous people and local residents of the Arctic region.

Witzig, from Switzerland, and Sharifi, from Iran, are both immigrants to Canada and wanted to use their S. and A. Inspiration Foundation to contribute to their adopted country. Their decision to focus on the Canadian Arctic is due to “the major challenges to its rapidly changing environment, culture, technology and economy,” Witzig explained. “In all my life I’ve seen so much knowledge lying around but it’s not being put into action. Or there is a lot of action but it’s not based on knowledge, so the idea is to bridge the knowledge to action.”

As one conference participant noted, “wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a similar prize for the U.S. Arctic.”

Teams may not apply directly for the prize, but need to be nominated. Forms for nominating teams will be available on the Arctic Inspiration Prize website May 31.

Gail Osherenko
Gail Osherenko is a writer, filmmaker, educator and environmental activist. She holds a law degree from the University of California, Davis, has worked as a lawyer in the three branches of the federal government, and taught environmental law and policy courses at the university level (focusing on the Arctic, wildlife, coasts and oceans) at UCSB, Dartmouth College, Vermont Law School, and the Center for Northern Studies. She is currently a project scientist at UCSB's Marine Science Institute and serves on the board of the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara.

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