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Four top grants from the EU to Norway

Four researchers affiliated with Norwegian universities have won ERC Advanced Grants for 2012. Two are researchers in science and technology while two are in fields in the social sciences and humanities.

The researchers can look forward to receiving between NOK 15–20 million in EU funding for their projects over a five-year period.

Studying changes in glacier mass

Photo: UiO Andreas Kääb from the University of Oslo is documenting and analysing changes in glacier mass using laser and satellite-radar measurements. (Photo: UiO) Andreas Kääb from the University of Oslo is documenting and analysing changes in glacier mass using laser and satellite-radar measurements. The results will be combined with digital terrain models in order to establish a global glacier mass continuity – the difference between the accumulation and reduction in volume of glacial ice and snow.

The research is an important contribution to mapping climate change and determining the effect of melting ice from glaciers on sea level. The project will also make it possible to quantify the amount of glacial meltwater flowing into rivers and to improve models for isostatic adjustment.

New economic models for inequality and development

Increasing inequality and the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few individuals is an important topic in the political arena. But what are the economic mechanisms behind this trend? And what are the ramifications of the great upheavals in China’s economy and rising inequality emerging in many countries?

Kjetil Storesletten from the University of Oslo is developing economic models capable of describing these key macro-economic trends. His macro-economic analysis will not be limited to macro-data such as GDP, but will also make use of data and theory at the level of the individual in order to shed more light on these questions. The objective is to understand the impacts of increasing inequality and facilitate the development of policies designed to respond to the challenges posed by rising inequality and greater global imbalances.

Discovering the secret behind the plagues of Europe

It has recently been confirmed that two variants of the bacterium Yersinia pestis were the cause of the Plague, the disease behind the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the mid-1300s. The bacterium was behind many outbreaks of the plague from the late Middle Ages to around 1750. But where did the bacterium come from? Did it recirculate and reappear during the many outbreaks in Europe or was it reintroduced from other places prior to each new outbreak? And why did the plague disappear in Europe 250 years ago?

Photo: Privat Barbara Bramanti from the University of Oslo seeks to establish a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms behind devastating epidemics in Europe. (Photo: Privat) Barbara Bramanti from the University of Oslo will seek answers to these complex questions using DNA samples and methods adopted from climatology, ecology science and history. Her objective is to end a centuries-old debate on the plagues of Europe, and to establish a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms behind devastating epidemics in Europe – past, present and future.

Hunting down gamma-ray flashes in thunderclouds

Nikolai Østgaard’s research group at the University of Bergen is hunting down terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs). TGFs are bursts of x-rays and gamma rays arising during thunderstorms when electrically charged particles fly about at the speed of light. Both relativistic electrons and antimatter have been detected during this phenomenon.

Dr Østgaard’s group is building a large x-ray instrument to be sent to an international space station to participate in a balloon campaign over Central America. He is also planning to carry out studies from planes overflying thunderclouds.

Dr Østgaard heads the Birkeland Center for Space Science, one of 13 new Norwegian Centres of Excellence (SFF) to be launched in 2013.

Increasing number of Norwegian applicants

Four of the twelve Norwegian applicants who made it to the final round of the European Research Council’s prestigious funding scheme for established researchers in 2012 were awarded grants. Norwegian research institutions submitted a total of 36 grant applications.

“We are pleased that the number of Norwegian grant applications for Advanced Grants is rising – from 25 in 2011 to 36 in 2012. Still, we would like to see even more research leaders take advantage of the opportunity to apply for European funding of their research projects,” says Anders Hanneborg, Executive Director of the Research Council's Division for Science.

Written by:
Christian Lund/Else Lie. Translation: Glenn Wells/Carol B. Eckmann
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