Support from northerners like you keeps our journalism alive. Sign up here.

Arctic research conference coming north for the first time

Attendees at ArcticNet's annual scientific meeting in Toronto in 2022. Troy Curtis/ArcticNet
Attendees at ArcticNet's annual scientific meeting in Toronto in 2022. Troy Curtis/ArcticNet


An annual Arctic research meeting is set to take place in Iqaluit later this year, marking the first time the event will be held in the North.

The event is put on by ArcticNet, a network that brings together researchers, communities, governments and other partners studying the Canadian North.

The group’s annual scientific meeting – which includes up to 300 presentations given to more than 1,000 attendees – typically takes place in southern locations. Last year, for example, the event was held in Toronto.

“It was always on our mind to host this meeting in the North,” said Christine Barnard, ArcticNet’s executive director since 2019.



“But with constraints in venue size, I think it was difficult for past leadership to come to that decision.”

Though holding the meeting in the North means organizing a smaller event, Barnard said it was about time the decision was made.

“We conduct research in the North so out of respect, the meeting had to happen in the North eventually,” she said.

Christine Barnard speaks at ArcticNet's annual scientific meeting in 2022. Troy Curtis/ArcticNet
Christine Barnard speaks at ArcticNet’s annual scientific meeting in 2022. Troy Curtis/ArcticNet

The decision comes amid a reckoning among the Arctic research community.



Research in the North has long followed a colonial mindset, where scientists from southern institutions travel north, extract knowledge and then return home without engaging northern communities. In recent years, there has been a push to make research more useful locally, community-driven and respectful.

According to Barnard, the decision to hold the annual scientific meeting in Nunavut’s capital falls in line with goals to support self-determined research, empower communities and learn about different systems of knowing. She said it might also increase awareness of and appreciation for the diversity of cultures in the North.

This year’s event is scheduled to take place at Iqaluit’s Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Centre from December 5-7. Similar to past meetings, the event will include presentations, cultural events and a gala dinner.

But because the venue can only host 350 to 400 people, and Iqaluit can host about 250 visitors at a time, in-person attendance will be limited. Barnard said the group is planning for about 60 presentations, with priority given to ArcticNet-funded researchers.

“One thing that’ll be neat in this meeting is that it will all be happening in one room at the venue and everything will be live-streamed,” Barnard said, allowing both virtual and in-person attendees an opportunity to hear about a diversity of research conducted across the North.

Poster presentations will also be held online.

While Barnard said that there is some disappointment about limited in-person attendance, people are generally excited and honoured to have the event hosted in the North.

“I’m super excited,” she said of the upcoming meeting. “I think it’s going to be fantastic.”