Johanna Ikävalko by Santeri Happonen_web.jpg

Johanna Ikävalko: ”The field of expertise of the Arctic Centre is very broad”

12.2.2021 13:22

Docent Johanna Ikävalko started as Director of the Arctic Centre at the beginning of February. What are her first impressions of the new job and her goals as a director?

Ikävalko is a polar biologist who has held leading positions in the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Academy of Finland. In recent years, she has worked alongside the Finnish Meteorological Institute as a consultant for the Arctic Monitoring Assessment Program Secretariat in the Arctic Council.

Why did you apply for the position of Director of the Arctic Centre?

– I feel strongly that I am an Arctic expert. My expertise is extensive rather than deep, and I have strong networks in almost all research areas of the Arctic Centre. In the national administration, I have been involved in every sphere connected with Arctic matters. In the Arctic Centre, I will be able to use my expertise and networks and bring benefits to the entire field of Arctic activities.

At the time of the interview, Ikävalko had completed her first week as the director. She had met members of the research groups, administrative staff and employees of the Science Centre and Science Communications.

What is your first impression of the Arctic Centre?

– I have encountered diversity, dynamism and warmth, a sense of community. The things people are working on here in the Arctic Centre are diverse, and the work community is international and colourful. The field of expertise is very broad.

What are your goals as the director?

– I want to raise the external profile of the Arctic Centre. We are the hub of Arctic expertise and information regarding sustainable development, health, and prosperity in the Arctic region, but we are not yet sufficiently well organised as one.

The new director Ikävalko is only starting to explore concrete measures. However, she has an idea of creating a Database of Arctic Experts. It would help show Arctic Centre as a repository of knowledge and demonstrate the researchers’ expertise to different target groups.

– Research in the Arctic Centre is truly diverse, but at the moment we do not have any distinct crown jewels – on the outside, the centre may seem somewhat dull. We need to refine the existing knowledge for different purposes, and for that we need experts in science communication and we also need to train the researchers.

What is the meaning of Arctic for the new director of the Arctic Centre?

– The Arctic means not only uniqueness but also being at the centre. The Arctic region is not geographically central, but it is crucial on a global scale as it regulates global climate change processes. The uniqueness is related to people and nature and also to these processes. It is an honour to work for the Arctic region.

Ikävalko’s new and still quite empty office is located in Arctic Centre premises in the Arktikum building near Rovaniemi city centre. Are we now in the Arctic region?

– Yes, we are. In Rovaniemi, the Arctic has a strong impact on everything that takes place: everyday life, economy, traffic, the state of mind. Here, the Arctic is a natural part of everything, not just a tourist attraction.

Ikävalko will move to Rovaniemi during the spring. Her mother lives in Kerava and her son in Lahti, so the road will still lead to Southern Finland, but Rovaniemi will be home.

– In the job interview, I already said that I would not become a commuting director. The director must be present and committed to the work community.

Text: Marjo Laukkanen
Photo: Santeri Happonen
Translation: Maija Myllylä