Joan Nymand Larsen

The Arctic Portal staff is pleased to post news of the twentieth anniversary of the International Social Sciences Association (IASSA) and wishes to extend it's congratulation to the organization and it's members. May the future of IASSA be as fruitful as it's past and may it continue to contribute to our understanding of our surroundings, the Arctic.

The text below is the announcement from president of IASSA, Joan Nymand Larsen

From the President

On the Occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of IASSA – August 23, 2010
Please join me and our membership in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of IASSA. On behalf of IASSA, I wish to extend to the membership and the Arctic social science community my warmest greetings on this important occasion of the Association´s Twentieth Anniversary.
The International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA) had its early beginnings in 1990 – twenty years ago today. IASSA was founded in 1990 in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a meeting held in conjunction with the 7th Inuit Studies Conference on August 23, 1990. The creation of IASSA follows the suggestion, made at the Conference on Coordination of Research in the Arctic held in Leningrad in 1988, to establish an international association to represent Arctic social scientists. On this special occasion, I would like to salute our founders, our true visionaries – who were the pioneers of this undertaking. Among the early founders of IASSA who were instrumental in the IASSA creation and who did the important preparatory work are Ludger Müller-Wille, our first IASSA president, Noel Broadbent who worked on the by-laws and founding documents, and Igor Krupnik who served on the first IASSA council, and others.

On this occasion of the 20th anniversary of IASSA, I also wish to extend my congratulations and respect to our members, both past and present, whose dedication and continuous efforts have led to the present profile, growth and recognition of the Association that we now enjoy. On this occasion, it is a time to reflect, remember the achievements, take stock, and to look to the future. This reflection cannot be done in this relatively brief message from me today. Rather, you will learn more about our early beginnings in a special anniversary issue of Northern Notes which we are now preparing for publication early this fall.
Our past presidents, our many IASSA council members over the past two decades, and our numerous dedicated members have done an invaluable job for our association, working to raise the reputation, recognition and visibility of IASSA and the Arctic social sciences in the North and beyond. Much effort has been put into promoting and stimulating national and international cooperation, to increase the participation of social scientists in national and international arctic research, and to furthering our communication and coordination with other related organizations.

From our relatively short history, we can, I think, derive confidence. This is a memorable day, when we should not only look to the past, but also and above all re-commit our strength to the growth of the Arctic social sciences and to international and multi-disciplinary scientific cooperation. The growth and visibility of our association bears witness to its success. Our membership has grown to between 500-600 members, residing in more than 20 countries. The Association has reached a phase of critical reflection, the object of which is to ensure its continued growth, the increased recognition of Arctic social sciences and a growing participation in social science research in the Arctic. The past twenty years have seen great advances towards the continued growth of the Arctic social sciences and humanities, and in this IASSA has played a notable part thanks to the dedication of our membership.
In celebrating the 20th anniversary, it is my sincere hope that our Association may continue to grow and realize its objectives to stimulate and promote our science, to increase public awareness of circumpolar issues and research results, and to promote mutual respect, communication, and collaboration between social scientists and peoples of the north. On this day of reflection, the important and in many respects pivotal role played by the 2007-2008 IPY cannot be ignored – but must be reiterated and celebrated. As we assess the outcome and achievements of the IPY it is clear that the Arctic social sciences have moved far to gain recognition and equal partner status in international forums and research policy circles. Looking back, it is evident that the collaborative work of IASSA and its membership has been an important contributing factor in facilitating the broader inclusion of the Arctic social sciences, and the improved access to funding and research opportunities.

Indeed, in the course of the past years, IASSA has played a vital role through a variety of exchanges, international committee work and science collaborations, which has helped accelerate the growth and profile of our science. The Association, I believe, has therefore good reason to feel confident. It knows better what it wants and has a better idea of what it can do. The triannual ICASS events – and now the 7th ICASS coming up in June 2011 – bear witness to our growing and vibrant science community.

As we celebrate this day, this is a good time to look back at some of our accomplishments and activities. It has been a busy past two decades for the Arctic social sciences and IASSA. No
doubt, social science participation in the IPY was instrumental in making the IPY more inclusive and cross-disciplinary. The IPY created the momentum to advance collaborative international research in social/human sciences to a new level. It also advanced the participation of Arctic residents, and particularly indigenous people – in science, research planning, data collection, and data management. On this note, I would like to acknowledge also the invaluable work of our social science representatives on the IPY Joint Committee; Igor Krupnik and Grete K. Hovelsrud. Since the onset of planning for IPY we have witnessed a remarkable turn-around in the standing of social and human research in Arctic science. The contribution made by indigenous peoples represents a major IPY legacy. Advances in the inclusion of indigenous people and local communities in research has also meant that many of the IPY projects and research since the IPY are relevant to indigenous people and local communities and that they address issues of importance to them.
But even as we remember and reflect, IASSA must review its present and meditate on its future. The official closure to the IPY has not meant a slowdown for the Arctic social science community; on the contrary, this continues to be a busy time for the Arctic social sciences and our association. In light of the scale and importance of the IPY and the large volume of Arctic social science research coming out of the IPY, the 2011 ICASS will provide once more an important forum for presenting and sharing our social science research including the extensive research produced during the IPY.

The Seventh Congress of the International Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS VII), entitled Circumpolar Perspectives in Global Dialogue: Social Sciences beyond the IPY will be held in Akureyri, Iceland, on June 22-26, 2011 ( On this Anniversary Day, please think about how you might contribute to this upcoming ICASS event. IASSA invites ideas and thoughts about themes of special interest for sessions and workshops at ICASS VII. Please submit your session proposals by September 15, 2010 to IASSA secretary Lára Olafsdottir at . The ICASS is a key venue for celebrating and advancing our science. As in the past, the Congress will offer various venues to share Arctic social science research and to analyse the outcome of IPY in social, human, and related fields. This includes special project sessions, discussion panels, plenary presentations, and invited talks. This will be the second IASSA Congress to celebrate the large volume of research produced during the IPY and beyond. The success of ICASS VII will be a significant testimony to the wealth of research that went on or was initiated during the IPY process.
The IASSA secretariat is putting together a special Anniversary Issue of Northern Notes which will be ready for distribution this early fall. To help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of IASSA, please consider sharing any thoughts, reflections, or accounts of interesting moments in our association´s history (including photos) by sending your written contribution to the IASSA secretariat at for consideration in the upcoming special issue of IASSA´s Northern Notes.

Once again, my best wishes on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of IASSA as well as the hope that its future may be marked by further great achievements to the benefit of our science and growing research collaboration in the North. In welcoming with confidence IASSA´s entry into its third decade, we can look forward to working together to continue the tasks that our early pioneers began long ago and to continue the work to strengthen Arctic social sciences.

Joan Nymand Larsen
IASSA President
Stefansson Arctic Institute
Akureyri, Iceland, August 23, 2010