Conference looks to strengthen scientific ties between North America, Norway

Scientists, businesspeople, dignitaries, gather to discuss world problems and research from Norway, Canada, and the U.S.

Jill Jensen

Some of the worldâÄôs brightest minds will be discussing the worldâÄôs biggest problems at the University of Minnesota during Transatlantic Science Week 2009, a conference on world issues surrounding sustainability. Put on by Norway and hosted at the University of Minnesota, the conference will take place Sept. 27 to Sept. 30 at McNamara Alumni Center, with events taking place primarily Monday and Tuesday. This yearâÄôs theme âÄúDiscover, Innovate, CollaborateâÄù seeks to find sustainable solutions to issues revolving around energy, ecology and health. Speakers include the UniversityâÄôs David Tilman, CanadaâÄôs David Schindler, and NorwayâÄôs Nils Stenseth, three of the worldâÄôs foremost ecologists. Top scientists from Canada, Norway and the U.S. are coming together to share their ideas and their research. But conference attendees will not only include scientists, there will also be business-people and policy-makers. âÄúA large number of Norwegians are coming over from Norway to attend this conference, high-level people, too,âÄù said Ellen Ewald, director of education and research at the Honorary Norwegian Consulate General in Minneapolis . âÄúTheyâÄôre looking for ways to get connected to the Midwest again.âÄù The conference is, in part, meant to put Norway on the map as a modern society in the area of research, science and education, said Judson Sheridan, a professor at the University and the Norwegian Centennial Interdisciplinary Chair. The conference also aims to foster relationships between Norway and North America. âÄúItâÄôs one of the mechanisms they used to bring together people from those three countries,âÄù Sheridan said. Transatlantic Science Week was thought up by University alumnus Jostein Mykletun while he was working at the Norwegian embassy in Washington D.C. The first conference was held by the Norwegian government in Washington D.C. in 2001. âÄúThere are generations of [U.S. and Norwegian] bonds, the idea came up at the embassy to try to revitalize this and we did that on a number of scores but in particular working with a number of universities where there would be good traditions that could be revitalized,âÄù Mykletun said. âÄúMinnesota came up very early as an obvious institution to focus on.âÄù The decision to hold the conference in Minneapolis was a high-level decision, involving the Minister of Research and Higher Education, Tora Aasland, Ewald said. Two years ago controversy flared over the closing of the Norwegian Royal General Consulate in Minneapolis, Ewald said. The consulate was converted to âÄúhonoraryâÄù status, allowing Norway to reallocate resources to open consulates in Spain and China. The move to âÄúhonoraryâÄù status lead to staff cuts at the consulate, something many described as a âÄúdowngrade.âÄù Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, became MinneapolisâÄô honorary consulate general on August 1, 2008, according to the consulateâÄôs website. Now Mondale is playing an important role in organizing the science week. âÄúAs North Atlantic neighbors, Norway, Canada and the United States of America must continue to work in close cooperation for the mutual benefit of our scientific communities,âÄù Mondale wrote in an address to conference attendees.