A glimpse on: Polish Polar Research

– given by Maja Lisowska, Executive Director of Secretariat at the Polish Polar Consortium

Roots and milestones of Polish polar research

The tradition of polar research in Poland goes back to the 19th century, when Polish scientists - political prisoners (Jan Czerski, Aleksander Czekanowski, Benedykt Dybowski and others) explored the Far East and North of the Russian empire.

Some of the most important dates in Polish polar research are the following:

Motivation - why do Poles study polar regions?

Certainly, there are more than one answer to this crucial question. The top list includes:  

  • scientific curiosity;
  • searching for better understanding of processes that formed the Polish landscape in recent geological past and are still active in the High North;
  • monitoring of contemporary trends in climate and environmental changes in high latitudes which affect other parts of the globe, including the territory of Poland;
  • Advising policy-makers to take responsible, knowledge-based decisions in relation to the polar issues discussed in international fora.

Polish scientists contribute to the worldwide network of research and monitoring of land and marine environments in polar zones. The results of these studies are crucial for understanding the dynamics of environmental and social changes all over the globe.

How is the polar community in Poland set up?

The current number of researchers conducting polar-connected research in Poland oscillates around 400, affiliated to about 25 academic and research institutions. Additionally, some Polish researchers located abroad collaborate with their colleagues in Poland on regular basis. That makes quite a big and diverse community. The scope of research covers a vast range of disciplines, including: geology, meteorology, climatology and paleoclimatology, glaciology, geography, oceanography, marine and terrestrial ecology, botany and zoology, social sciences and humanities. Polish polar scientists and research institutions actively cooperate at an international level, being involved in research and monitoring programs.

Polar research under the Polish flag is coordinated by the Committee on Polar Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, established in 1975. This panel of experts - experienced researchers representing a variety of scientific disciplines and the most of the scientific institutions in Poland, appoints national delegates to international organizations, e.g. IASC or SCAR, approves leaders of annual expeditions to the two national polar stations, assists in development of Polish research infrastructure in the Arctic and Antarctic, and reviews various scientific, management and outreach initiatives.

The Committee is also a patron of the Polar Symposia, organized in Poland since the 1970s. Since 1980, the Committee issues Polish Polar Research, an international open-access journal publishing original research articles presenting the results of studies carried out in the polar regions. Currently Polish Polar Research has the Impact Factor of 1.275 (2014) and is indexed in several major research journal databases.

Since 2012, polar research initiatives in Poland are also facilitated and supported by the Polish Polar Consortium, which closely cooperates with the Committee of Polar Research, PAS. Originally established to organize the Arctic Science Summit Week 2013 in Kraków, after the success of the event the Consortium broadened the range of its activities. Currently it consists of 18 academic and research institutions. The mission of the Polish Polar Consortium is to build a framework for an effective cooperation of the Polish polar research community, in the fields of:

  • fundraising for research activities;
  • planning and carrying out high-quality scientific projects;
  • fieldwork logistics and research expeditions;
  • supporting activities of the Polish polar stations.

Activities of the Consortium also facilitate collaboration in research and science management at an international level. Special emphasis is put on education and support of Polish polar early career scientists.

A unique role in education of prospective polar scientists is played by the Centre for Polar Studies, established in 2014 by the Faculty of Earth Sciences, University of Silesia; Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences and Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, received a status of a Leading National Research Centre in the field of Earth sciences for the years 2014-2018. The Centre offers young researchers from Poland and abroad a high quality PhD program in the field of Earth sciences called Interdisciplinary Polar Studies (IPS). The ambition of the IPS program is to qualify a new generation of internationally competitive young scientists in the field of Earth sciences who will be prepared for future careers in academia, as well as consulting, management and policy. The activities of the Centre combine high level research with teaching and training of PhD students through joint seminars, lectures, practical workshops and participation in scientific projects.

To facilitate interdisciplinary and international cooperation, Poland has been actively involved in research planning and organization. Our country is a party with a voting status to the Antarctic Treaty, an Observer in the Arctic Council, and a member of several major international organizations, such as the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Program (COMNAP)

Workplace or a second home? - Research stations and vessels

Polish polar research activities are concentrated in, though not limited to, two areas with Polish permanent research infrastructure: the Svalbard archipelago in the Norwegian Arctic and the South Shetland Islands in the Southern Ocean.

Research infrastructure in Svalbard

Research infrastructure in South Shetlands, Antarctica

  • all-year H. Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station, King George Island, operated by Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, PAS (long-term observations in: oceanography, geology, geomorphology, glaciology, meteorology, seismology, biology, ecology; short-term research projects in various disciplines)

All research stations are involved in numerous international research and monitoring programs.

What are the current initiatives in Polish polar research

In recent years, major effort was put to strengthen cooperation between research institutions, and beyond the polar community - with industry and policy makers. Establishing of the Polish Polar Consortium was one of the outcomes of this effort. Currently, three projects are running under the umbrella of the Consortium and in cooperation with the Committee on Polar Research, PAS:

  • Polish Snow Program and  initiative of cooperation in Svalbard - based on advanced activity with long-term research and databases of Polish research groups in Svalbard, aiming at developing standarized measurement protocols, filling up knowledge gaps in snow science, and contributing to international monitoring.

  • Polish Polar Database - creating an integrated multidisciplinary  meta-database, digitalization of historical datasets.

  • National Polar Research Program for the next decade. The work on the Program, started in early 2014 and should be finished till the end of the 2016. The Program will serve as a roadmap in planning research projects, and will be vastly used when collaborating between the scientific community, industry and policy-makers.