IASSA Council Statement
on COVID-19 Pandemic’s
Impacts and Responses


April 15, 2020

TO: IASSA members
      Arctic researchers
      Arctic residents
      Funding agencies
      Academic institutions
      Government and non-government organizations 
Dear Arctic community,
The International Arctic Social Sciences Association Council (IASSA) expresses its support to researchers, students and Arctic community members as we all deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents of Arctic communities, where there are limited public health, financial and community resources, are particularly vulnerable in this crisis. This includes the Indigenous, traditional and local knowledge holders so many of us work with and count as our close friends and colleagues. At the time of the writing, more than 3,505 Arctic residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 33 have died (https://arctic.uni.edu/arctic-covid-19).
Impacts on social science research
Arctic social and health scientists are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as we often travel to and stay in communities, engage in face-to-face communication and need access to local archives and data to conduct our research. Community-driven work is not possible without regular communications between community members and researchers, meetings and collaborative activities. Although some of the communication can and has moved online, the connectivity issues in the Arctic create formidable obstacles for advancing our collaborative work. Many, if not most projects in the social sciences, health and humanities, are experiencing postponements or delays and still face great uncertainties. The COVID-19 pandemic also has revealed considerable knowledge gaps in health and social domains around the issues of epidemiology, public health, social support networks, food security, housing availability, social infrastructure development and many others, all of which require immediate research efforts to be commenced and funded. 
IASSA recommended COVID-19 pandemic response principles 
Under these unprecedented circumstances, the IASSA Council recommends the following principles to be used by the research community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: 
I. We call for a coordinated, comprehensive and flexible response by researchers, institutions, and funders that is also balanced and equitable in respect to disciplines, areas of research, and Arctic communities. 
II. We emphasize the importance of adhering to the IASSA Research Principles by all scholars, institutions and funding agencies. In particular this means:
  1. Avoiding travel to Arctic communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until all risks are eliminated. In some cases this may constitute a travel delay of up to or exceeding 12 months. 
  2. Engaging local residents remotely to conduct research, including providing equipment, fair pay and funding for improved connectivity, whenever possible.  
  3. Investing in local capacity building and expanding local engagement in research, including co-producing research processes, training community members to conduct joint research locally and transferring funding directly to the community researchers and knowledge holders.
  4. Prioritizing emergency relief and long-term support for local researchers, knowledge holders and project participants, including local/community logistics operators, collaborators and other partners. Research institutions and funding agencies could institute coordinated and flexible responses to delays and changes in research activities, assist in negotiating with and relieving the losses of community-based logistics and infrastructure providers. 
  5. If cuts or reallocations in funding are needed, prioritize community-based, student and early career funding.
III. Capitalizing on Western, Indigenous, and local science and knowledge systems is key in knowledge co-production for understanding COVID-19 pandemic and addressing its consequences. Thus, we call on funding agencies and institutions to encourage the rapid release of funding for social and health research targeting these.
IV. In the long term, to minimize the future loss of vital data and research infrastructure an action is needed to rethink the role of Indigenous communities, Indigenous Peoples, specifically youth, in research priorities and activities. A network of Arctic indigenous communities/project leaders and formal engagement mechanisms could be developed as the first steps.
V. Finally, we ask IASSA members to make your and your community partners’ COVID-19 needs and concerns known to your institutions and funding agencies, propose solutions and cooperate with all parties to address possible issues.   

IASSA Council:
Dr. Andrey N. Petrov, University of Northern Iowa, USA (IASSA President)
Dr. Dmitry Funk, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RAS, Russia 
Dr. Diane Hirshberg, University of Alaska Anchorage, USA
Dr. Michał Łuszczuk, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Poland 
Dr. Gertrude Saxinger, University of Vienna, Austria
Dr. Peter Sköld, Umeå University, Sweden (Past President)
Dr. Tatiana Vlasova, Institute of Geography, RAS, Russia 
Dr. Gary Wilson, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada
Ms. Alona Yefimenko, Indigenous Peoples Secretariat, Norway

Contact Information

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Nord University
Universitetsalleen 11
P.o. Box 1490
8049 BODØ

Phone:  +47 75 51 79 91

Contact information


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Information on previous IASSA Secretariats can be found at the IASSA history page.


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