A SSRCH and NSERC task force has recognized that “[f]unding cutbacks and government downsizing over the past decade have resulted in a crisis in northern research.” The authors argued that, “there has been a decline in research activity and training at Canadian universities, as well as a severe reduction in the recruitment of university researchers and graduate students with an interest in northern research. As a result, Canada's ability to perform northern research and meet its national and international responsibilities is significantly threatened.” In direct response to this concern, the research conducted in this lab will investigate issues related to land use, culture, and the impacts of public policy on northern communities. The special capabilities of the proposed infrastructure will allow the researchers to bring together the stories of northern communities through audio and visual data. This will significantly enhance our capacity for innovation because we will be drawing together data that is not currently available for analysis through any other means. Cultural data exists in the perceptions and practices of individuals and communities. This infrastructure will allow us to access these communities, gather primary data, analyze the data both in the field and in the lab, and disseminate widely both the results and the primary data.
The infrastructure gives UNBC a unique research capability that is currently not available anywhere else in Canada. UNBC itself is unique, in that it is a small research-intensive university and it is situated in the north. This infrastructure will have an enormous impact on the researchers’ capacity to conduct northern research in the north and to provide northern communities with access to research that that will potentially help to save disappearing communities. Currently there is no social science research lab capable of multi-media, multi-layered comparative research across the circumpolar north. As a result, this equipment will allow UNBC to draw in qualified faculty, researchers, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows interested in northern research.