OceanStates at Bergen Summer Research School

Over the last couple of weeks, the University of Bergen has hosted the Bergen Summer Research School, bringing together PhD students and junior researchers from a wide range of disciplines and countries. The focus for this year’s summer school was how scientists and academics can make their research have an impact on policy making relating to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030. This year, one of the six courses offered was firmly rooted in OceanStates. The name of the course was Ocean, Climate, Society: Instabilities and Mobilities on the Climate Change Frontline and it narrowed in on the interconnections between SDG 13: Climate Action and SDG 14: Life Below Water. It also shed light on the challenges that scientists and academics are faced with when trying to contribute to meeting the targets of these goals. The course was led by Professor Edvard Hviding, project leader of the OceanStates project, and featured lectures by several key participants of OceanStates.

As scientific director of this year’s summer school, Edvard has worn quite a few hats these past few weeks; he has been director, lecturer, panelist, moderator and Chair, as well as course leader.






To kick off the week, Marianne Loe, Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN spoke about the inner workings of the United Nations, and the long work hours that led to the final agreement on the 17 SDGs. Marianne went from one course to the next for the first few days of the summer school to listen to participants and lecturers and share thoughts, questions and advice.


From the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Faculty of Law, students had the pleasure of having our OceanStates associate, Professor Maxine Burkett as both lecturer and keynote speaker. Maxine spoke about the threats to statehood posed by climate change for low-lying atoll nations and current possibilities for legal action in response to climate- related loss and damage. She also highlighted the likely growth in migration rates that will follow the effects of climate change on Small Island Developing States. Students were given insights into how we can re-think the legal and cultural boundaries of statehood and national identity, in order to secure the futures of countries whose populations will have to relocate due to climate change.

Course leader, Professor Edvard Hviding, introduced the students to OceanStates, and how climate change affects economies, nationstates and communities in the Pacific Islands.


Peter Haugan, Chair of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC of UNESCO), highlighted the potential for impact in the coming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). When it comes to getting the attention of diplomats and policy makers as a scientist, Peter insists that you should “never underestimate a good slogan”.


Kikki Kleiven, Associate Professor at UiB’s Department of Earth Science, focused her lecture on the interrelation between ocean currents and declining sea ice in the Arctic, and the effect that climate change has on both. Kikki also held a keynote, titled “How to present your research”. Based on her own experiences of communicating with journalists, policy makers, teachers and students, she offered advice on how to achieve effective, meaningful outreach and how to communicate your research in a clear way.




Leader of our OceanStates Law group, Professor Ernst Nordtveit, lectured on maritime sovereignty and potential conflicts over access and control in the Arctic region once the polar ice caps have completely and permanently melted.





Professor Noel Keenlyside, leader of OceanStates’ Oceanography group in Bergen, gave a keynote about oceans and climate change, and how the advancements made towards reliable near-term projections of climate change can lead to more present-minded policy making in the future.




Rounding off the first week of the summer school for the course, Camilla Borrevik presented her ethnographic research from the Pacific and the UN. Camilla shed some light on the ways in which Pacific peoples are creating their own space in UN proceedings. Camilla is an anthropologist and researcher from the University of Bergen, and is also a member of the Bergen Pacific Studies research group.







After her lecture, Camilla gathered the course participants for a Talanoa session- a Pacific Islands tradition introduced to UN proceedings by Fiji when it hosted COP23 to bring about more inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogues between representatives of different countries. The Talanoa allowed participants of the course to reflect, comment and pose questions on what they had learnt from their first week of courses and keynote lectures. Being the generous man that he is, Edvard brought some of his personal stash of fine Fijian kava* for the session, to be served in his very own tanoa* throughout the dialogue. Tables facing the harbor, the great number of shipping containers and visiting cruiseships provided a fitting backdrop to the ongoing discussion of human impacts on climate change and oceans, and how we can work together to address these issues.









Midway through the summer school, the participants went on an all-day excursion by boat, bus and foot to Rosendal to learn about glaciers, fjords, water and climate change. The large group visited the Hordaland Aqua Centre, a salmon farm in the Hardanger fjords, to learn about Norwegian aquaculture. They travelled on to the Folgefonna glacier in Jondal, and from there to the Steinstø Fruit Farm to share a locally sourced meal before their journey back to Bergen.




*The ‘Ocean, Climate, Society: Instabilities and Mobilities on the Climate Change Frontline’ group.


Nearly 80 people from 34 countries participated in this year’s summer school. Photo credit: Bergen Summer Research School





Also an OceanStates associate, Jennifer Telesca – anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Environmental Justice at the Pratt Institute- participated as lecturer for the course and as keynote speaker. Jennifer spoke about the Age of the Anthropocene and problematized the commodification of the ocean and life below water. Jen has extensive research experience from global and regional treaty negotiations, including the international management of Bluefin Tuna in the Atlantic. Offering up some insights from her own research and delving into the issue of equal representation in UN proceedings, Jennifer’s keynote posed the question, ‘does diplomacy have a gender’?



Science diplomacy

During the last three days of the summerschool, in between breakfast seminars and keynotes, the participants of the various courses all got up on stage one by one to deliver “science diplomacy” presentations. Each presenter had 2 minutes exactly to give a prepared statement that in a precise and clear way would communicate how one’s own research might contribute to the support and implementation of one or several of the SDGs. Each presenter was given feedback from a panel, consisting in sum of May-Elin Stener (Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway), Jennifer Telesca, Svein Bæra (Policy Advisor for Research in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway) and Edvard Hviding.




Week 2 was rounded off with course presentations and a diploma ceremony before everyone went back to their own universities; hopefully with some useful new tools and a few good stories.

*Photo credit: Bergen Summer Research School



*Kava is a plant based drink common in the Pacific Islands, made and served during formal gatherings and ceremonies as well as in informal social get-togethers. 

*A tanoa is a ceremonial bowl that is used to serve kava. This tanoa was gifted to Edvard by the Oceania Dance Theatre group and the Pasifika Voices from the University of the South Pacific in Fiji after they finished their tour of Europe in 2015.



-Written by Miriam Ladstein