Winter is now (finally) on its way out here in the North of Norway above the Arctic Circle and, while there have been a few local outbreaks of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, we have been fortunate not to experience any significant second or third wave and thus have avoided any more extensive lockdowns. Norway is quietly hopeful that its relative geographical isolation on the fringe of Europe and the rolling-out of an extensive vaccination programme will help spare the country from further and protracted assault by the pandemic.
In terms of how things have affected our work on the project, there is actually very little change. The main frustration is that Ingrid and I are not able to travel to each other’s campuses to meet in person as we had initially thought. Being a multi-campus university with nine locations spread over the North of Norway and even a satellite campus on the islands of Svalbard we are already very versed in using digital technology in our everyday work. We therefore (like everyone else!) continue our work using video meetings and online work platforms such as MS Teams and have regular weekly or fortnightly meetings.
One unique aspect of our location is that, being located North of the Arctic circle, we have periods of the year when the sun is either shining continuously or it does not rise at all! Right now we have just entered the period of continuous sunshine referred to as the midnight sun. Tromsø effectively lost any night from late April and we officially cancel night from the 18th May to the 25th July; Harstad is a little further south so has the midnight sun from 22nd May to the 21st July. This is an amazing time of year to live here and can be considered the antidote to the months of darkness and gloom we have tolerated over the winter. We thus become energized again and can work extra hard on our various projects and activities.
Current project work within DesignMyFuture features preparing to gather the data with the various questionnaires. We have finally gained ethical approval for the project from the Norwegian national ethics body, NSD – Norwegian Centre for Research Data (https://www.nsd.no/en/) as this is a formal requirement for all research involving humans. We are now thus poised to launch the teachers’ questionnaire and will soon be able to deliver the young persons’ and parents’ versions once they are finalised.
We’re also hoping that the vaccinations rolling out over the whole of Europe and further afield mean there is some chance that we can not only finally get together but also have some kind of summer holidays in the sun. We’ll see.
Gregor Maxwell, Tromsø, and Ingrid Nilsen Lie, Harstad.