FRAM – High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment
Updated scientific programme 2016 – 2020 for Hazardous substances – effects on ecosystem and health
Eldbjørg S. Heimstad, Kjetil Sagerup, Anita Evenset, Jon Øyvind Odland, Torkjel Sandanger, Geir W. Gabrielsen, Jan Ove Bustnes, Ingeborg Hallanger, Heli Routti, Justin Gwynn, Alena Bartonova, Marit Aure, Eirik Mikkelsen, Anne Katrine Normann, Lionel Camus, Jasmine Nahrgang, Louise Kiel Jensen
Institutions in the Fram Centre:
ApN: Akvaplan-niva Inc.; CICERO: Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo; IMR: Institute of Marine Research; NCA: Norwegian Coastal Administration; MET: The Norwegian Meteorological Institute; NGU: Geological Survey of Norway; NINA: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research; NIKU: The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research; NMBU: Norwegian University of Life Sciences; NIBIO: Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy research; NILU: Norwegian Institute for Air Research; NIVA: Norwegian Institute for Water Research; Nofima: The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research; NMA: Norwegian Mapping Authority; NORUT: Northern Research Institute; NPI: Norwegian Polar Institute; NRPA: Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority; SINTEF: The Company for Industrial and Technological Research; UiT: University of Tromsø; UNIS: The University Centre in Svalbard; NVI: Norwegian Veterinary Institute
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution environmental contaminants have been transported from more temperate latitudes to the Arctic via the atmosphere, ocean currents and river systems. All three main classes of contaminants (i.e. persistent organic pollutants (POPs), heavy metals and radionuclides) are detected in Arctic ecosystems. Research and monitoring in the Arctic have revealed how pesticides, industrial chemicals, toxic metals, and also radionuclides, have found their way into animals and human bodies, and that levels for POPs in some animals are high enough to cause negative effects (reviewed by Letcher et al. 2010). Even though levels of some conventional POPs are decreasing due to international regulations, many new contaminants that may have similar effects, are developed and released into the environment. The true consequence of the total contaminant load on organisms and ecosystems is still largely unknown, especially the effect of long term exposure to low levels of contaminant mixtures combined with other stressors such as climate change, microplastics, nanomaterials and other emerging pseudo-persistent chemicals. Due to the recent climate changes, the Arctic has become more accessible and human activities in the region have increased. In August 2011 the first super tanker escorted by two nuclear icebreakers successfully passed through the Northern sea route. The cruise ship traffic to Arctic destinations has increased, fishing vessels follow fish stocks further north, and the petroleum and mining industry are seeking to initiate activities in new regions in Northern areas. These developments may increase the risk for local pollution in the Arctic region and pose new challenges for environmental and resource management and policies in local municipalities in the different Arctic nations and internationally (AMAP 2009).
Climate changes may alter transport, deposition and effects of contaminants in the Arctic (UNEP/AMAP 2011, Armitage et al. 2011). In addition, climate changes might cause physiological stress, changes in food availability and food web structure (predator-prey relationships) and increase the risk for introduction of diseases. Due to the inherent harsh and unpredictable physical conditions of the Arctic, organisms may exist at the limit of their physiological capability, which may impair their ability to cope with stress from environmental contaminants (Boonstra 2004, Letcher et al. 2010). Additional stress on Arctic biota may give rise to increased sensitivity to lower levels of environmental contaminants (Noyes et al. 2009).
Human sources of exposure are even more complex, as humans are not only exposed to contaminants through the food (Van Oostdam et al. 2005, Donaldson et al. 2010) but also the surrounding environment, like indoor air, dust and consumer/personal care products (Sandanger et al. 2011). Elevated concentrations of contaminants in traditional food have resulted in dietary advices for a number of food items across the Arctic. Due to the complexity of the mixtures and lack of knowledge about the mechanisms of action, the long terms effects are challenging to study. Thus, long data series and large sample sets are necessary in studies on human health effects. Industrial developments and urbanization play a central role in the development of Arctic economies and societies, politics, and social and international security, and imply a risk for pollution and other changes that may influence health and well-being of humans in the Arctic (AMAP 2009). Such industrial developments thus represent challenges for local politicians and bureaucrats as well as industry leaders, and involve issues of ethics and corporate social responsibility (Des Jardins 2006). There is little knowledge on how policy makers reason to balance these concerns.
The main focus of the flagship “Hazardous substances – effects on ecosystems and health” is the impact of contaminants (hazardous substances) on ecosystem and human health, but since Arctic in the coming years will be exposed to many different stressors, it is important to integrate knowledge from other research disciplines and flagships in the Fram Centre. Moreover, humans living in the Arctic region will experience changes that may have implications for health, economy or general well-being, and therefore a multi-disciplinary approach must also be the goal in studies of northern societies.
The work in the flagship has been divided into 4 different themes (see Fig 1), and the background and scientific rationale for each of these are described in the following sections.
Figure 1: Schematic illustration of the prioritized scientific topics in the flagship “Hazardous substances- effects on ecosystem and health”.
The overall objective of this Flagship is to investigate and understand the impact of contaminants (POPs, PAHs, heavy metals, radionuclides, mixtures) on Arctic ecosystems and human health and populations. An important aim is to build knowledge for local and national environmental management and international agreements on pollution control.
Through targeted interdisciplinary collaboration, the flagship will:
· Detect emerging contaminants in Arctic abiota and biota as an early messenger for global pollution.
· Explore cause-effect relationships of contaminant mixtures to Arctic ecosystems and humans through integrated effect studies across the different levels of biological organization (molecular to population).
· Determine how multiple contaminant exposures, in conjunction with other anthropogenic and natural stressors, affect the Arctic ecosystems and human health.
· Determine the impacts of climate change on the contaminant transport (to and within the Arctic), remobilization, and uptake in food-chains.
· Understand and predict quantitative relationships between emissions and environmental exposure to contaminants (animals and humans).
· Develop modelling tools that can be used in contaminant risk assessments and for predictions of contaminant flow in an era of climate change and other anthropogenic pressures.
· Determine the fate and impact of contaminants from increased industrial activities and urbanization in the North
· Evaluate how important findings such as detection of new contaminants are interpreted and used by national authorities and international conventions to improve the interaction between research and stakeholders.
The projects within the flagship are expected to focus on scientific questions related to the effects of contaminants on ecosystems and human health that are important and recognized as relevant to the goals of both the Fram Centre and the flagship. This includes the lack of knowledge on the effects of exposure to a mixture of contaminants, the effects of climate change to the spread of contaminants and the consequences of multiple stressors. Results from the research will be published in peer-reviewed international journals. The flagship will also participate in other outreach activities that are in line with the Fram Centre’s strategy (develop exhibitions for Polaria, publish in newspapers and on internet (e.g. forskning.no, sciencenordic.com) etc.). Most of the pollution in the Arctic is caused by long-range transport from sources at lower latitudes; therefore international collaboration and agreements are imperative to eliminate the threats of contaminants. Existing international regulations, such as the environmental program of UNEP, the Stockholm convention, the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, the UNECE Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, the Minamata convention and the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic are important platforms for international work to reduce the spread and impact of contaminants. The flagship will produce results that are highly relevant for these conventions/programs. In order to improve communication between research and national and international pollution authorities and programs, Theme 4 addresses risk communication, risk perception, and information flow.
4 Priority of research
Theme1. Human health & society
The effects of contaminants on human health and Arctic communities.
Theme 1.1. Human health effects
To establish a causal link between human exposures to effect of specific or even groups of contaminants is a considerable challenge. The complexity of the mixtures and the long time between exposure and the occurrence of health effects all contribute to this, and in addition the measurable consequences may have large normal variability (e.g. birth weight) or are complex diseases (e.g. cancer), making the causal relationship difficult to evaluate. A number of health effects have been linked to contaminant exposure, where some of the most sensitive endpoints are indicated to be adverse reproductive effects, disturbed neurodevelopment, immune system effects and possibly cancer. In a recent review, it is suggested that the cumulative effects of individual (non-carcinogenic) chemicals acting on different pathways, and a variety of related systems, organs, tissues and cells could plausibly conspire to produce carcinogenic synergies (Goodson et al. 2015). The literature linking contaminant exposure to metabolic syndrome and diabetes is also increasing (Grandjean et al. 2011, Everett et al. 2011), at the same time methodological challenges stresses the need for improved study designs and specifically more prospective cohort studies (Rylander et al. 2015). The use of epigenetic and transcriptomic markers has also been indicated as a promising tool for enhanced understanding of mechanisms linking exposure and disease. In the most recent AMAP human health report it was concluded that POPs, mercury and lead can affect the health of people, and especially children, at lower levels of exposure than previously reported and that the most sensitive time window for exposure is during the first trimester of pregnancy (AMAP 2009). Although effects of contaminants on human health are subtle (and often claimed to be within the normal variation) there is need for in depth research in order to understand mechanisms and causality. Thus, there is a clear need for larger epidemiological studies linking total contaminant loads (POPs, heavy metals and radionuclides) to possible human health effects.
Approach: The access to unique biobanks and prospective cohorts, the unique personal identification numbers available in Norway and the possible link to national disease registries forms an integrated research platform enabling larger epidemiological studies linking contaminant exposures (mixtures or individually) to human health effects. Furthermore, the increasing amount of new data from different omics platforms like epigenomics and trancriptomics provide valuable information on potential mechanisms. The combination of systems epidemiology with in-vitro and in-vivo studies opens up new possibilities to explore the effects of contaminants linked to different exposure routes like for e.g. air, dust and diet.
Theme 1.2 Predicting the exposures of coming generations – applying models and present and historical data
Despite the large amount of data available for a number of POPs, human exposure and changes with time, period and age is not well understood. However, assessment of uptake, distribution, accumulation, metabolism and excretion of contaminants, combined with the information about past and present emissions, has made human exposure modeling possible for selected contaminants (Alcock et al. 2000, Verner et al. 2008, Ritter et al. 2009, Breivik et al. 2010, Quinn et al. 2011). Recent attempts to validate the CoZMoMAN model using Tromsø samples has been promising (Nøst et al. 2015). The use of models also show great potential in estimating lifetime exposure to POPs and exposure at sensitive time windows as opposed to relying only on single blood measurements (Rylander et al 2015, Nøst et al 2016). However, a more thorough model validation and inclusion of more compounds will enable safer estimates of future exposures for a larger number of compounds and early life exposure. At the same time there is a need for more data on emerging contaminants that might help develop new models or predictions for these. There is also a need for improved spatial resolution in these models.
Approach: Models can be refined and evaluated through the analyses of historical blood samples, within-individual and between-individual variations over time and more detailed dietary assessments (Breivik et al. 2010). Furthermore exposure at different life stages can be estimated and linked to different health endpoints.
Theme 1.3 Contaminants and food safety
In some areas with industrial developments local sources can be important contributors to contaminant load. This raises concerns from the local population, regarding product quality, food safety and potential risks to health through consumption of local food. Contamination of local food could also have economic implications affecting exports and local food sales because of concerns of food quality. Thus, there is a need to study relevant contaminants in food and to investigate how increasing economical and industrial development may affect health issues. Essential considerations here are guidelines for concentrations in food and tolerable intake values for humans. Thus detailed knowledge of intake and use is needed as well as knowledge of concentrations in food. For some species guidelines are missing and might be needed. One important aspect here is the potential nutrient contaminant interactions especially when it comes to traditional food that often have a high nutritional density.
Approach: A synthesis of existing data on contaminant levels in key species (food products) used for local consumption and of commercial value (i.e., reindeer and fish) will be prepared. Exposure trends of relevant contaminants in residents within the region from both historical and newly collected samples will be evaluated in addition to human health consequences based on contaminant levels in commercially and dietary important species. A combination of both existing and future human health studies will be used to assess current food safety guidelines and possibly the need for extended guidelines. These assessments should include the nutritional aspect of food security as well.
Theme 2. Animal health and ecosystem
The fate and effects of contaminants in Northern ecosystem in combination with climate change, natural and anthropogenic stressors.
Theme 2.1 The impact of climate change on environmental fate of contaminants
Global climate change has the potential to alter the transport pathways, fate and routes of exposure of environmental contaminants to Arctic organisms (MacDonald et al. 2005, UNEP/AMAP 2011, Armitage et al. 2011). The Arctic is particularly sensitive to climate change and already exhibits clear impacts (Ma et al. 2011, Wassmann et al. 2011). A major challenge in studying the effects of climate change on contaminant behavior in the Arctic is the lack of good baseline data on food-web structure and interactions (Wassmann et al. 2011) as well as contaminant levels and bioaccumulation processes (UNEP/AMAP 2011). Without knowledge on natural ranges in contaminant levels it will be impossible to predict how climate change will affect contaminant concentrations and fluxes in Arctic food webs. Changes in exposure from primary or secondary sources, changes in primary production, food-web characteristics or life-history strategies may increase or decrease contaminant bioaccumulation in different organisms (Dowdall 2005, UNEP/AMAP 2011, Bustnes et al. 2010). Effects of climate change on contaminant transport, accumulation and effects in the Arctic are therefore identified as a major knowledge gaps. A better understanding of which processes (increased primary emissions, remobilization from melting ice and thawing soil or food web changes) that are most significant for the exposure to wildlife and humans is crucial in order to evaluate effects of mitigating measures and to carry out risk assessments.
Approach: Impacts of climate change on environmental contaminants in Arctic ecosystems will be investigated through field studies assessing the importance of primary (long range transport, air samples) and secondary sources (soil, snow, glaciers). In addition, food-chain studies will be performed in order to investigate bioaccumulation processes (uptake kinetics, metabolism) and effects under different climate scenarios. Field data will be used to develop and refine modelling tools (Eckhardt et al. 2007, Borga et al. 2010) developed by the different institutes within the flagship. Key to the refinement of these models will be the improvement of our current understanding of contaminant behaviour and the identification of process-critical parameters through field and experimental studies.
Theme 2.2 Environmental contaminants in a multi-stress perspective
Environmental contaminants may impact biological systems from the molecular to the ecosystem level. However, contaminants are only one of many types of stressors (chemical, physical and biological) that may influence organisms and adverse effects of contaminants may increase as environmental conditions become more stressful (e.g. Letcher et al. 2010). Additive or synergistic effects of multiple contaminant exposures including emerging compounds and other stressors may push biological systems beyond the threshold at which individuals or populations are affected. To understand how organisms respond when faced with multiple stressors, it is necessary to study physiological trade-offs; i.e. when different processes within an individual compete for the same resources (Stearns 1992). There is a need to understand the consequences of physiological trade-offs between important life processes and protection against the damaging effects of environmental contaminants and further to link these costs to changes in individual and population fitness. Since Arctic animals experience seasonal emaciation of body fat reserves, they are less able to mount both responses to natural stressors and combating effects of toxicants (e.g. Jørgensen et al. 2002, Bustnes et al. 2006, 2015). There are also metabolic costs associated with different pathways of toxicant impact removal, although they might be small (Walker et al. 2001), and in stressful environments this might be more critical than in benign ones. For example, chronic stress (e.g. crowding onto poor quality habitat, food reductions, or climate stress) and environmental contaminants may affect the immune system and cause increased vulnerability to pathogens (e.g. Arkoosh & Collier 2002, Coors et al. 2008). Moreover, numerous man-made chemicals have been identified as endocrine disruptors, causing deviations from normal homeostatic control or reproduction, and a central question is how contaminants affect the “stress-axis”; i.e. the hormonal basis for adequate stress responses to environmental challenges (Hontela 1998, Wingfield & Sapolsky 2003). A consequence of multiple stressors may be that even if the levels of environmental contaminants are generally decreasing, this is not necessarily the case for their effects (Bustnes et al. 2015). Increased fitness costs associated with multiple stressors may significantly alter genetic diversity and species survival over time.
Approach: This theme includes studies of different Arctic and subarctic populations. The studies have different approaches to understand the pathways through which contaminants and other stressors exert their effects (endocrine disruption, immunosuppressive effects, effects of contaminant mixtures on energy homeostasis, life-history traits, etc.). Moreover, a long-term task is to identify the temporal dynamics between contaminants and other stressors in sentinel species (i.e. how is climate and feeding conditions related to contaminant levels and effects). The flagship builds upon existing- and new studies. The work will be conducted at Svalbard, including Bear Island and in Northern Norway.
Theme 3. Industry and urbanization
Impact from industrial development and urbanization in the North – Fate and effects of pollutants on Arctic ecosystems
The Arctic is developing from a remote, extremely sparsely populated area to an area with increasing urbanization and industrial development. Technological development facilitates for increased extraction of resources from the Arctic and along with subsequent urbanization, industrial expansions may arise. The growing presence of human activities and urbanization in the Arctic introduces multiply local sources of pollutants to the area. One of the larger driving forces behind the prospected development in the Arctic is the extraction of petroleum resources. One of the world’s largest offshore gas reserve, Shtokman, has been discovered in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea, and the large oil field Prirazlomnoye in Pechora Sea started production in 2013. In Norwegian part of the Barents Sea the Snøhvit gas field (Beyer et al. 2013) have produced since 2007 and the Goliat field will start production in 2016. The Johan Castberg field is planned and the Barents Sea South East area was opened for exploration in 2015. Extraction of other natural resources such as coal and minerals potentially influences the area of operation due to discharges. These new activities may also increase urbanization or establishment of new settlements. During recent years, retreating ice has rendered larger areas open for ship traffic and both increased cargo transport and tourism in Arctic are expected. This increases the risk for accidents, with concomitant releases of fuel oil or potentially environmental hazardous cargo, such as crude oil, spent nuclear fuel or industrial chemicals.
Along with the effects of industrial development, the mere presence of human beings may also act as a local source of contamination and changes to the environment. This includes how settlements bring new substances to the area, some of which are released via sewage and as run off from landfilling. In addition, waste water treatment is often not adequate or even lacking in Arctic regions (Gunnarsdottir et al. 2013) and may have the potential to affect sensitive species (Arnold et al. 2014). Further, releases of burned fossil fuels to the air from energy production and/or transportation may also contribute extensively to the local load of contaminants. Many studies on effects of contaminants have been performed in temperate regions, but there is a general lack of toxicity data for Arctic organisms. In order to make reasonable predictions regarding impacts on Arctic ecosystems, and to develop effective mitigation or remediation techniques, there is clearly a need to investigate how different contaminants from developing industries in the high North affect Arctic species (Dussauze et al. 2014). Understanding fate of contaminants and effects on individuals and ecosystems will be a prioritised goal of this theme and risk assessment models for the Arctic region (Camus et al. 2015, Olsen et al. 2011, 2013).
Approach: The studies will have different approaches to investigate how discharges from extraction industry, shipping, tourism or urbanization affect Arctic animals and ecosystems, both as single pressures, but also the impact of combined effects of contaminant mixtures. Both field- and laboratory studies will be important to achieve the goals for the theme. Understanding the natural variations in baseline levels of biomarkers in different life-stages of sentinel species is essential to assess effects of anthropogenic discharges (Nahrgang et al. 2013), and this will be an important part of this theme. Studies of environmental fate and toxicity of various contaminants on different life-stages of key species will be performed in order to establish threshold levels for effects and possibly dose-response relationships. Emphasis on biological functions and life-history strategies that are critical for individual fitness and population health
Theme 4. Risk governance – Communicating and applying research results
Hazardous substances pose several risks to the environment and to personal health, risks that must be managed through environmental and industrial policies at different geographical levels. Research results must be converted to public information, and communicated from researchers to both affected communities and local population, as well as to policy– and decision makers at national and international levels. In order to better contribute to good management of the Arctic region, it is essential that the communication between the researchers and stakeholders is as clear and unequivocal as possible. Consequently, research on risk perceptions and risk communication strategies is essential to be able to reach target groups with relevant information – or warnings – that are adapted to specific areas and vulnerable groups. Also, environmental and industrial policies’ relevance for risk management and risk communication must be considered.
Attention towards international collaboration and agreements are of crux importance, since the majority of Arctic pollution is caused by long-range transport from sources at lower latitudes. Hence, research should connect to, for instance, national guidelines, national institutions and their division of responsibility, cooperation and coordination between local / regional and national authorities, the role of EU-legislation and relevant international agreements and conventions. As an example, the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) was instrumental to the development of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, globally banning the production, use and trade of 21 POPs.
At local / regional level, documentation of people’s perception from their acquirement and reaction to information about contaminants and impact on the environment (both animal health and personal health), will further give input to processes of targeted risk communication and risk management (Bickerstaff & Walker 2001, MacKerron & Mourato 2009).
Approach: The main objective is to investigate whether, and how, communication from the research community is received, interpreted and applied by the stakeholders, including how the results are used by national authorities taking part in international pollution controls and negotiations. This gives input to strategies for how communication can be improved for decision making on environmental and industrial policies at different geographical levels. Furthermore, surveys and interviews will strengthen our knowledge on how new information of hazardous substances is received by the local community, industry actors, politicians, government and stakeholders.
5 Competence within Flagship
Scientists from the Fram Centre (previously the Polar Environmental Centre (POMI)) have for many years studied the dynamics of environmental contaminants in northern environments and their effects on wildlife and humans. Projects have been carried out in the Arctic, in North-Norway and in the Antarctic, with a large extent of national and international cooperation and extensive scientific publishing. The FRAM/POMI network has so far resulted in more than 50 master theses, 15 PhDs and more than 400 peer reviewed scientific papers on various aspects of environmental pollution. Hence, the Fram Centre has emerged as a leading institution in ecotoxicological research both at a national and international level.
6 Organisation of the flagship
The flagship is organized with NILU (Norwegian Institute for Air Research) as head and with Akvaplan-niva/NIVA as vice-head. The four themes are organized with Theme leaders from the participating institutions. CV’s of Flagship and Theme leaders are given in Appendix 1 and institutional CV’s are given in Appendix 2.
All participating institutions have collaboration with several national and international partners through ongoing projects. A natural aim of the flagship is to develop a larger network of international collaboration through network building and regular meetings in the various Themes. An important objective is joint proposals to EU, the Research Council of Norway and other relevant financing platforms. An important long term goal is to increase the collaboration between social and natural sciences through multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research projects. CICERO, NORUT and the University of Tromsø with expertise in the field of social sciences will be imperative partners for evaluating the socioeconomic impacts of contaminants and climate change as well as health security and risk perception in communities. The impact of multiple stressors (i.e chemical, physical and biological) on ecosystems and health is a topic that touches upon areas of research across all five flagships of the Fram Centre. It will be important for the hazardous substances flagship to foster the necessary contacts across the different flagships in order to make use of the available knowledge and expertise to tackle these issues.
7 Education: Contributions from the flagship
It is a clear goal for this flagship to involve as many PhD students and master students as possible in the different research projects. Several collaboration projects exist with Master and PhD students formally enrolled at the University of Tromsø and other universities in Norway. Several institutions have been involved in the development of PhD schools (e.g. EPINOR and ARCTOS) and are involved in teaching in various courses given at UiT/UNIS/NTNU. The basis for the research and education are state of the art analytical and experimental facilities that attract researchers and students from international research communities. The link to the research schools will be strengthened by developing common workshops and possible Summer schools in collaboration with the other flagships at the Fram Centre. Efforts are made to secure financing for at least one PhD scholarship at the EPINOR and the ARCTOS research school. There is a strong link between several institutions in the Fram Centre and Russian research institutions, especially in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. This link will be important to increase the student exchange across the Norwegian/Russian border.
8 Publication and outreach
The results from the different flagship projects will be published in international peer-reviewed journals. Many projects will produce results that are highly relevant for the development of nature management plans, protection plans, monitoring and international conventions aiming at protecting the environment. Thus, communication of results to authorities and the general public will also be prioritised.
Polaria is an important exhibition window for researchers in the Fram Centre, and researchers within the flagship will be encouraged to communicate with Polaria. To facilitate this, contact personnel from Polaria will be invited to Flagship meetings.
Strategies for publication of results in popular science magazines (e.g. Ottar, Labyrint, Fram Forum or Klima), web-pages (e.g. forskning.no), institutional and Fram Centre web pages, as well as through newspapers and national and international broadcasting will be developed together with the Centres communication officer.
9 Budget and financing
Funding to the Fram Centre will not be sufficient to meet the ambitious research goals of the Flagship. Therefore, development of research proposals that can achieve external funding will be of high priority. Financial support from Fram Centre will be used to support pilot-projects that aim at developing larger projects that can be funded through national or international funding agencies (e.g. Norwegian Research Council, EU, Nordic Council of Ministres etc.), high-quality ongoing projects that are only partially funded from external sources, or to support research on new topics that deserve to be investigated.
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