News Release

Oran Young awarded the Mohn Prize 2024

Professor emeritus at the University of California Santa Barbara, Oran Young, is the Mohn Prize laureate 2024 for his leading research and geopolitical work on the Arctic.

Grant and Award Announcement

UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Oran Young


Professor Oran Young.

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During his long career, Oran Young has been a strong promoter of geopolitical attention to the Arctic. He is a leader in studies of international governance and environmental institutions, and the world's foremost expert on these themes in the Arctic. As a political scientist and environmental researcher, he is recognized for his interdisciplinary research on international institution building, resource management and the human dimension of climate change in the Arctic.

– Being selected to receive the 2024 Mohn Prize is an exceptional honour. For me, it’s the capstone of 50 years of active engagement in Arctic affairs, Oran Young says.

The Rector of UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Dag Rune Olsen, is the chair of the steering committee for the Mohn Prize. He considers Young as an exceptionally worthy laureate:

– What Oran Young has done for interdisciplinary, geopolitical cooperation and research is unsurpassed. His work has left, and will continue to leave, a decisive imprint on how we talk about and understand the Arctic, he says.

Over several decades, Young has had a central role in founding and development   of a number of research institutions and collaborative forums for the Arctic. This had played important political and scientific roles to ensure peaceful international cooperation and sustainable management in the Arctic. Young has also contributed to establishing a knowledge-based public discourse about management in the Arctic and an informed dialogue with political decision-makers.

Oran Young holds a PhD and a master's degree from Yale University and a bachelor's degree from Harvard University. He has been an Adjunct Professor at UiT, and  has spent most of his career at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, which is part of the University of California Santa Barbara.

The Scientific Committee of The Mohn Prize writes in its justification that Young's research and leadership over several decades have been decisive for the development of integrated and collaboratively focused research in the Arctic.

– We stand at a critical juncture regarding international cooperation in the Arctic, and we need to reinvent   our institutions, so they are well suited for the next decades. We are in need of creative engagement between the policy and scientific communities to come up with solutions to the new challenges in the Arctic, Young says.

Young is one of the most cited researchers in his field, including authorship of 20 books, and 150 professional articles and book chapters. He was appointed honorary doctorate at UiT The  Arctic University of Norway in 2015.

– I have developed a strong bond with Tromsø as a major arctic capital. I am thrilled at the prospect of returning to Tromsø next January to receive the award of the Mohn Prize, Young says.

Oran Young will receive the Mohn Prize during the Arctic Frontiers conference in 2024. He will give a speech at the award ceremony and contribute with several lectures during the conference.

About the Mohn Prize

The International Mohn Prize for Outstanding Research Related to the Arctic (The Mohn Prize) has been established in collaboration by Academia Borealis The Academy of Sciences and Letters of Northern Norway (NNVA), Tromsø Research Foundation (TFS), and UiT The Arctic University of Norway (UiT). The prize amounts to 2 million NOK, and is awarded biennially.

The Mohn Prize recognizes outstanding research related to the Arctic. The award also aims at setting issues that are central to the further development of the Arctic on the national and international agenda. 

The Mohn Prize is named after Henrik Mohn, who in addition to being considered the founder of Norwegian meteorology, provided a number of Norwegian Polar expeditions (among them Fridtjof Nansen's expedition on the Fram from 1893 to 1896) with meteorological equipment. Henrik Mohn was also the first director general of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, and he was the great uncle of Trond Mohn's father. Given the family connection, and the fact that Henrik Mohn was a pioneer in a field of research that is central to our understanding of Arctic processes, NNVA, TFS and UiT, when establishing a prize to recognise excellence in Arctic research, deemed it very fitting to name it The Mohn Prize.

Why an Arctic prize?

Arctic research and monitoring has been taking place in, and based out of Tromsø for more than 100 years. Following the decision of the Norwegian Parliament in 1968 to establish the University of Tromsø, Tromsø has built world leading competence in Arctic natural and social sciences. 

Being host city for UiT The Arctic University of Norway, the Norwegian Polar Institute (since 1993), the permanent secretariat for the Arctic Council (since 2011), and a number of other institutions and organisations with an Arctic agenda, Tromsø is undoubtedly one of the world's main hubs for Arctic research, education and management. 

Arctic issues are high on the international agenda for a number of reasons – climate change and access to natural resources (renewable and non-renewable) foremost among them. 

Both of these issues have global implications, but are also of great concern to indigenous and non-indigenous people living in the circumpolar North. 

Reindeer husbandry, agriculture, fisheries and hunting are still important both economically and culturally in many indigenous communities in the Arctic. The increased international interest in the region – particularly when driven by resource extraction – could potentially come at odds with traditional interest, culture and ways of life. Balancing these, sometimes, different interests and priorities is challenging, and must be based on the best available knowledge, combining novel technological advances, an updated theoretical framework, and local, traditional skills and expertise.

Even though the establishment of a university in Northern Norway was controversial at the time, Arctic research carried out by institutions in the region far pre-dates the university. Tromsø Museum, established in 1872, and the Northern Lights Observatory, established on the mountain Haldde near Alta in 1899, and relocated to Tromsø in 1928, are both parts of UiT today. Since its inception, Tromsø Museum has had a particular responsibility for documenting Sami culture and Sami traditions. As a continuation of this work, UiT has been given a national responsibility for research, education and dissemination in the fields of Sami language and culture.

Another central academic institution in Northern Norway – The Norwegian Meteorological Institute's Division for Forecasting in Tromsø – was established in Tromsø in 1920, thus contributing to making Tromsø an academic focal point in Northern Norway.

Building on this academic tradition, the Norwegian Parliament in 1968 decided to establish the University of Tromsø as a comprehensive university. Given the geographical location – at 69°N – Polar research was a priority for the university from the onset. The successful expansion in the field of Polar research was an important consideration when the Norwegian Parliament in 1993 decided to relocate the Norwegian Polar Institute from Oslo to Tromsø. This decision, in turn, paved the way for the decision in 2011 by the Arctic Council to make Tromsø the permanent location for its secretariat.

Academia Borealis, The Academy of Sciences and Letters of Northern Norway (NNVA) was established in 2001 with the purpose of promoting scientific activities in the North, as well as fostering understanding for the importance of research to societal development. The Academy has in excess of 170 members.

Tromsø Research Foundation (TFS) was established by Trond Mohn in 2007. The Foundation supports research and research related activities at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, giving particular priority to funding for young, excellent researchers, and relevant research infrastructure.

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