For researchers


The Nansen Legacy is a novel and holistic Arctic research project that provides integrated scien­tific knowledge base required for future sustainable management through the 21st century of the environment and marine resources of the Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Basin

As an ice-free Arctic is gradually emerging. Wintertime sea-ice retreat is to date most pronounced in the Barents Sea, the Atlantic gateway to the Arctic. The knowledge basis for sustainable management of this changing environment and the associated resources is an urgent scientific challenge. As sea-ice retreats and technology and infrastructure improve, it is imperative for the Norwegian research community to rise to the scientific and exploratory legacy of Fridtjof Nansen and move poleward through the Barents Sea.

The Barents Sea (Photo: Rudi Caeyers/BFE-UiT)

The Nansen Legacy will pursue its vision by addressing the following overarching objectives:

  1. Improve the scientific basis for sustainable management of natural resources beyond the present ice edge
  2. Characterize the main human impacts, physical drivers, and intrinsic operation of the changing Barents Sea ecosystems – past, present, and future
  3. Explore and exploit the prognostic mechanisms governing weather, climate and ecosystem, including predictive capabilities and constraining uncertainties
  4. Optimize the use of emerging technologies, logistic capabilities, research recruitment and stakeholder interaction to explore and manage the emerging Arctic Ocean.
  5. Enhance the national cooperation and better use of knowledge, and resources for education and research, including communication with the public and recruitment of the next generation of polar researchers.

WHY? A changing Arctic ecosystem, climate and environment, is placing the region into the arena for economic growth

Fridtjof Nansen overcame scientific and physical boundaries by challenging conventions, being unconstrained in his approach to science and to exploring nature in the field, and making full use of available human and logistical resources. The Nansen Legacy is the Norwegian Arctic research community’s joint, concrete, and am­bitious plan to follow Nansen’s example and fundamentally contribute to future marine resource management at Norway’s gateway to the Arctic.

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Nansen and his team ready for departure towards the North Pole, 14th of March 1895

The Nansen Legacy constitutes an integrated Arctic perspective on climate and ecosystem change—from physical processes to living resources and from understanding the past to predicting the future. The Nansen Legacy will result in an unprecedented scientific basis for long-term, holistic, and sustainable management of marine ecosystems and human presence in the emerging oceans of the high Arctic.plan

In the spirit of Nansen, the Nansen Legacy will collaborate with relevant national and international research projects and initia­tives to utilize complementary knowledge, share infrastructure, increase the scientific outcome and strengthen science networks.  The scientific investigation of a rapidly changing northern environment leads to research questions of such intellectual, empirical and logistical complexity—and of such importance to the management of national re­sources and associated international obligations—that they can only be addressed properly through national and prioritized cooperation, with the highest scientific standards.

These ten research institutions represents a combination of interdisciplinary and complementary research competence that makes them uniquely suited to understand what is happening in the Arctic as a result of natural and human influences.


It has resources in the form of ships, observational data and time series, models, scientific expertise and experience. The new ice-class research vessel will also enable us to do research further north in the Arctic and during winter. The new structure  and resulting synergy will enable building the necessary integrated knowledge base for a future adaptive and sustainable management.

It is accordingly now both timely and possible to move north

The Nansen Legacy will produce the following scientific, societal, and end-user impacts and legacy: establish a holistic “ground truth” for the environment and ecosystem in the northern Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Ocean; provide a 2020–2100 outlook for the expected state of climate, sea ice, and ecosystem, including near-term pre­dictions; to evaluate sensitivity and functionality of early-warning indicators used to detect change in marine resources and their vulnerability to exploitation; allow reliable polar weather forecasts for the safety of people and commercial operations. Another core legacy will be the recruitment and training of the next generation of trained cross-disciplinary researchers, with a unique national and international network. The Nansen Legacy will improve, secure and operationalize national data archives and ensure open data availability in accordance with national and international standards. Overall, the legacy and societal impact will be the scientific knowledge base needed for sustainable resource management in the transitional Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Basin.

The Nansen Legacy will investigate how physics and humans impact the living present and future Barents Sea

New methods for mapping and monitoring in marine environments often demand coordinated operations in efforts to understand ecosystems and improve management. This includes using multiple platforms and sensors in parallel, so data can be shared across disciplinary boundaries. Shrewd design of observation systems is also crucial: systems deployed throughout the water column make it possible to understand, identify, characterize and monitor the climate system and biogeochemical processes. Sea surface characteristics are monitored continuously by satellite and radar; but methodical collection of data concerning properties within the sea (such as currents and waves) is still lacking. The observations that already exist are almost entirely from the summer season. With Kronprins Haakon, Norway will have a fleet of research vessels that make it possible to carry out vital but logistically challenging fieldwork: simultaneous collection of data related to climate and ecosystems throughout the Barents Sea – in both summer and winter.


International cooperation is an absolute requirement for holistic research and management in the High North. This entails free exchange of knowledge and observational data between institutions and across national borders, as well as active collaboration both to compile historic data and to carry out fieldwork

This national joint effort will provide a knowledge base that is urgently needed before a sustainable management of the northern Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean can be carried out. Through the initiative, Norway will contribute to international research in the North and to more comprehensive pan-Arctic understanding. Likewise, we encourage researchers to engage and envolve in our research -enhancing a co-production of multidisciplinary research.

For an introduction of the Research Forci (work packages) click HERE.