Research Directors Report 2013

August 2013

As a research project ReSDA has a simple and straightforward objective – to find ways to ensure that more benefits from resource development flow to northern communities and that negative impacts are eliminated, or, at the very least, mitigated. To achieve this task with the relatively limited resources the Steering Committee decided it was wise to undertake the program in phases. Building on the work done for the initial ReSDA proposal, during Phase 1 we looked at previous research and the needs of northern partners to determine the critical gaps and issues that ReSDA should address first. This gap analysis, involved over 20 ReSDA researchers and feedback from northern partners at our Whitehorse Workshop and elsewhere. Together we produced a list of potential research questions that we think can move us forward towards more sustainable resource development in the Arctic.

A common thread in most of the gap analyses was the need to provide information to northerners on how resource development conditions, impacts, and benefits vary across the Circumpolar North and elsewhere in the world. In other words, there is a need make available to communities a range of information and data concerning resource development that would allow them to understand their particular situation and how it might be similar and different to others in the circumpolar world.   It was clear in our Whitehorse workshop that there is a lot of valuable “lessons learned” that need to be better shared with those who are at the frontlines of coping with resource development and its social, economic and cultural effects.

Strengthened by the hard work and participation of the researchers and community partners involved in ReSDA, we are undertaking a second phase of our research in 2013/2014 (Phase 2) which will involve funding new research projects each with a strong emphasis on knowledge sharing with communities, governments and organizations.

The ReSDA Atlas of Arctic Resource Development

There are many ways to communicate research in northern communities. Although workshops with face-to-face communication are a strong focus in ReSDA, we also need to find ways to share information more quickly and cost effectively. One effective way is to use the internet and develop and information sharing page, often referred to as an “atlas”. The objective of the “Atlas of Arctic Resource Development” would be to gather and analyze information on conditions, impacts, and benefits and make that information publically available through our website. The ReSDA Atlas of Arctic Resource Development would be a virtual “one-stop” place for access to information on how resource development conditions vary across the North. Using an interactive map as a base we are hoping to include stories from communities, videos and audio clips from partners and participants, raw data for use by other researchers and guidebooks for communities, organizations and governments seeking more “how to” information. More information on the proposed content of the Atlas can be found on the ReSDA website.

New Research Projects (Subprojects)

While much of the work for the next year will be focused on the above mentioned work, ReSDA also wants to start a series of subprojects that address the major questions identified in both the initial proposal and the gap analyses. There are a series of research questions that are repeatedly mentioned as key ways of meeting the primary objectives of ReSDA . It is hoped that these would become the initial research questions dealt with by ReSDA researchers and their partners. These include such questions as:

  • how can we come to a better understanding of the socio-economic and cultural impacts of resource development on northern communities and what are the best case examples of how to deal with negative impacts;
  • how can we develop better, community controlled, indicators of change linked to resource development;
  • what are the different forms of socio-economic impact assessment used in the north and what is the extent of community involvement in these assessments;
  • how does long distance commuting impact communities and what forms work best for northern communities;
  • where does the money from resource development go and how can it be redirected for use by communities;
  • what are the best measures of well-being for northern communities and what how are these impacted by resource development;
  • what are the best examples of employment, training, and education programs associated with resource development in the north;
  • how can we improve upon current Impact Benefit Agreements;
  • what are the best examples of the use of traditional knowledge in the planning and monitoring of resource development;
  • what can be done to ensure that resource development does not negatively impact the subsistence economy of northern communities.

Discussions are currently being held on ways to develop research subprojects on these questions but if you have any interest in these questions, or on helping to provide data for the ReSDA Atlas, please do not hesitate to contact either myself or one of the other theme coordinators.