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Trends in marine climate change research in the Nordic region since the first IPCC report

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Oceans are exposed to anthropogenic climate change shifting marine systems toward potential instabilities. The physical, biological and social implications of such shifts can be assessed within individual scientific disciplines, but can only be fully understood by combining knowledge and expertise across disciplines. For climate change related problems these research directions have been well-established since the publication of the first IPCC report in 1990, however it is not well-documented to what extent these directions are reflected in published research. Focusing on the Nordic region, we evaluated the development of climate change related marine science by quantifying trends in number of publications, disciplinarity, and scientific focus of 1362 research articles published between 1990 and 2011. Our analysis showed a faster increase in publications within climate change related marine science than in general marine science indicating a growing prioritisation of research with a climate change focus. The composition of scientific disciplines producing climate change related publications, which initially was dominated by physical sciences, shifted toward a distribution with almost even representation of physical and biological sciences with social sciences constituting a minor constant proportion. These trends suggest that the predominantly model-based directions of the IPCC have favoured the more quantitatively oriented natural sciences rather than the qualitative traditions of social sciences. In addition, despite being an often declared prerequisite to successful climate science, we found surprisingly limited progress in implementing interdisciplinary research indicating that further initiatives nurturing scientific interactions are required.

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We would like to thank two reviewers for insightful comments and suggestions to an earlier version of this paper. This work is a deliverable of the Nordic Centre for Research on Marine Ecosystems and Resources under Climate Change (NorMER), which is funded by the Norden Top-level Research Initiative sub-programme “Effect Studies and Adaptation to Climate Change”. This paper is a result of two workshops and discussions among NorMER early-career scientists.

Author contributions

A.S.A.F. conceived the initial idea for the study. M.W.P., A.K. and A.S.A.F. wrote the first draft of the manuscript. P.W.,W.E.B. and H.B. edited the manuscript. M.W.P. and A.K. ran statistical analyses and produced figures and tables. All authors contributed equally to discussion of ideas, study design, extraction of data from publications, and commented on the manuscript.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to M. W. Pedersen.

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Pedersen, M.W., Kokkalis, A., Bardarson, H. et al. Trends in marine climate change research in the Nordic region since the first IPCC report. Climatic Change 134, 147–161 (2016).

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