Raukar på Gotland

What is needed to save the Baltic Sea environment? Do we have enough research, so that if we “only” become better at communicating it and creating a stronger public opinion – and thus get decision makers to take the necessary decisions to reduce emissions? These were some of the questions in focus when Stockholm University´s Baltic Sea Centre organized the seminar "Hav tröst! Delad kunskap kan rädda Östersjön” during Almedalsveckan in Visby (Gotland).

Collaboration with Baltic Sea 2020

The Baltic Sea Centre was inaugurated in February, and will serve as a link between science and society by collecting and communicating useful knowledge to the right place in society.

The ambition to disseminate research results was a key reason for the Foundation Baltics Sea 2020 decision to support the Baltic Sea Centre 100 million kronor. The Centre's Chairman of the Board, Anders Lindberg, who also represents the Baltic Sea 2020 and is one of the founders of the PR firm JKL, said at the seminar that the Baltic Sea Centre has taken on an important and significant challenge.

- It is all about becoming the best at communicating the research available. We will determine what interests journalists and policymakers and serve as a knowledge hub for questions related to the Baltic Sea.

At the seminar Oskar Kihlborg, photographer, adventurer and lecturer, shared with us how his commitment to the Baltic Sea began when he saw a damaged sea bottom in the Stockholm archipelago. It resulted in him rowing from Sweden to Finland in order to draw attention to the fact that Sweden needs a new Baltic Sea research vessel. Oskar Kihlborg contacted researchers at Stockholm University and he now hopes that he set in motion a process that will benefit both research and the dissemination of research results.

Knowledge must become comprehensible

Tina Elfwing, manager of the Baltic Sea Centre, shared with the audience how she recently visited Stora Karlsö, where researchers from Stockholm University conduct research on guillemots. Because the species is at the top of the food chain, it serves as an important indicator of the state of the Baltic Sea. She proceeded to state that the future of the Baltic depends on many decisions.

- These decisions need to be based on knowledge. But it is not enough that knowledge exists, it must be comprehensible.

One must firstly maintain a high scientific standard, and hence collaborate with other universities. Secondly, it's about communicating the research, and finally there must be someone who receives the knowledge produces. These are the three components needed for the Baltic Sea Centre to become successful according to Tina Elfwing.

Christoph Humborg, scientific director of the Baltic Sea Centre, said that it is the decision makers who should decide about emission reductions. Researchers should provide input for necessary decisions and inform about the causes of environmental problems; what is a sustainable situation and what are the risks involved.

- As scientists, we must learn to communicate better. Christoph Humborg also stressed that as scientists, we must also learn from society and decision-makers, which are the most important and urgent questions.

Happy to take part of research

Anita Brodén, environmental spokesman for Folkpartiet liberalerna, said that she, as a politician, is happy to take part of research from the Baltic Sea Centre.

- Knowledge of the marine environment exists, but we need help to communicate this. We need to jointly understand the linkages.

Björn Risinger, Director General of the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SWAM), spoke about the collaboration that SWAM has with researchers at Stockholm University and other universities. The agency's mission includes communication of issues related to marine environmental issues and to provide input to government agencies and decision makers.

See the Baltic Sea as a resource

The panel also included former Minister of Finance, Allan Larsson. As a recurrent summer-visitor to Gotland, he is committed to the Baltic Sea environment. He is the initiator of the Forum Baltic Sea and Baltic Sea Initiative, which work to save the Baltic Sea. According to him, we must see the Baltic Sea as a resource – making it easier to communicate with decision makers.

- What I now hear about the Baltic Sea Centre's ambition is music to my ears. We are very positive about what you do and would like to participate, he concluded.

View the seminar (in Swedish) 

Written by: Per Larsson, Communicator Stockholm University
Translated by: Marmar Nekoro, Communicator BNI and Baltic Sea Centre