A Visit from the Minister of Education: CGB present and future
One of the seven points in Norway’s new government platform for Research and Higher Education is to develop internationally leading research centres. CGB was demonstrated as a prime example of this goal when Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen visited UiB.
Norway’s Minister of Education and Research, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, had a short visit to the University of Bergen (UiB) on the 24th of January. As there was only time for the Minister to visit one research centre on campus, the Centre of Geobiology (CGB) was selected - perhaps because it exemplifies many of the positive spin-offs that can result from the Research Council of Norway’s (RCN’s) Centres of Excellence initiative.
CGB was established in 2007, and its 10-year period ends in 2017. While the CoE (Centre of Excellence) funding is primarily meant to support high-quality basic research and researcher training on an international level, the results CGB has produced thus far are leading its researchers in promising directions in applied research, productive collaborations with industry and government, as well as a broad externally-funded project portfolio including 2 “tenure-track”, “promising young researcher” grants to CGB researchers from the Bergen Research Foundation (BFS).
During Isaksen’s tour, centre leader Professor Rolf Birger Pedersen stressed that one of the important training arenas for geobiologists is the annual CGB research cruise. These cruises visit various locations in the Norwegian economic zone, where deep sea environments from mud volcanoes, rift zones, undersea volcanoes and hydrothermal vents are some of the seafloor highlights. The findings from the cruise of 2013 resulted in a visit from the prior Minster of the Environment, Bård Vegard Solhjell, with discussions of the possible establishment of Norway’s first Underwater National Park. The park would preserve the unique geological and biological treasures CGB has discovered along a piece of Norwegian volcanic landscape that stretches over 1500 km from Jan Mayen to the Fram Strait between Svalbard and Greenland. The area includes spreading zones, volcanoes, hydrothermal vents, rifts as well as the unique life forms adapted to such challenging settings.
Pedersen explained that research into the microbes that have adapted to the conditions found around hydrothermal vents reveals that they share many “primordial” properties and can be placed close to the roots of the tree of life. Understanding more about them will help us to learn more, not only about life’s origin on Earth, but also about possibilities for life on other planets.
The research cruises have also kept CGB researchers at the bleeding edge of deep sea research technology. Their enormous efforts and contributions resulted in CGB’s new collaboration with CMR and IMR which received funding for the Norwegian Marine Robotics Facility, which will be responsible for supervising the building and management of a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) that is projected to be capable of diving to 6000 meters.
Both Rector Dag Rune Olsen and Pedersen spoke of the necessity for an “exit strategy” for CGB – something the RCN is now prioritising for centres of excellence - how the centres and their research will be re-integrated and supported following the 10-year CoE period. Olsen and Pedersen agree on the necessity for UiB’s continued support for Geobiology as a discipline, but also for the ground-breaking work CGB researchers are undertaking in the deep sea. Plans are now being laid for a Centre for Deep Sea Research at UiB to spearhead the continued development of this field, and to ensure Norwegian leadership in the internationally important area of deep sea research.
Read more about the Minister of Education and Research, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen’s visit:
From BT (in Norwegian)