Laureate 2024

Professor Oran Young

Professor Oran Young Photo: Used by permission

The Scientific Committee wrote in its recommendation:

We highly recommend Dr. Oran R. Young as the top candidate for the 2024 Mohn Prize for:
his internationally recognized role in bringing global attention to the Arctic as a distinct planetary region; promoting the holistic study of this region through the integration of social and natural sciences, resource management, and social policy research;  leading research on Arctic international governance, cooperation, and resource management regimes; and contributing substantively to the founding of key non-governmental Arctic research and policy organizations. 

The Nominee: Dr. Oran R. Young

Dr. Young is an international leader in studies of international governance and environmental institutions and is the world's foremost expert on these topics in the Arctic. He has been highly instrumental in promoting the criticality of 'the human dimension' in studies of the Arctic, championing the role of Arctic social sciences and social policy research. He combines basic and applied research with practice, and actively promotes this integrative vision of Arctic research at both academic and policy-making fora. Dr. Young has led the creation of many national (USA) and circumpolar Arctic governance and science policy institutions. He has used his knowledge of the Arctic to inform wider studies on the role of policy and governance globally.

Excellence in Research/Development of Ground-breaking New Knowledge

The Committee unanimously views Dr. Young as an esteemed leader in promoting the Arctic as a region to be studied holistically, and for his research on international regimes and institutional dynamics in the Arctic. His outstanding contributions include the human dimensions of Arctic environmental change, the role of the Arctic in a changing global order, Arctic Ocean governance, evaluating the influence of international governance frameworks regulating the use of Arctic resources, and scholarly and socio-political collaboration across the Polar Regions. He has contributed to our thinking on the political economy of resource management globally and on the needed contours of governance in a changing world order.

Dr. Young has published 20 books, 25 edited volumes, and more than 150 articles and book chapters, a highly impressive record in social science. He publishes both as sole author and with co-authors from many countries. His publications appear in top journals such as Science, Nature, Foreign Policy, International Organization, World Politics, and Global Environmental Politics. He is among the most cited scholars in his field. Dr. Young’s work has been recognized by numerous awards, including, in the last decade, the International Arctic Social Sciences Association’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award (2014), the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Vernadsky Medal (2017), the IASC Medal (2018), and Honorary Doctorates from the University of Tromsø (2015) and University of Lapland (2019). His productivity continues: for decades, Dr. Young has annually given many high-profile invited keynote and public lectures and produced multiple publications. He has mentored 25 PhD students and seven post-doctoral scholars, many of whom are now leading Arctic scholars.

Recognized as a Leader in His Field

Dr. Young's seminal article 'Age of the Arctic' (Foreign Policy, 1985) and his book of the same title (co-authored, 1989) initiated research on international relations in the Arctic as a distinct planetary region, and one with high potential for scientific cooperation. He helped launch circumpolar scholarly collaboration in the late 1980s and 1990s. His work has identified lessons from the Arctic to inform international governance regimes globally. Dr. Young underscored the need to consider societal dimensions in Arctic research, including successfully promoting the need for an Arctic Human Development Report to the Arctic Council, and then co-chaired the first report. He has applied his experience in Arctic governance and international collaboration to Antarctica and globally.

Dr. Young has played a major role in building Arctic scholarly institutions, with involvement in many key Arctic non-governmental research organizations since the 1980s. He co-founded the Center for Northern Studies (Vermont, 1982), which provided a generation of students with training in both the natural and social sciences related to northern environments. He helped found and served as director for the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth College (1989), which hosted the first International Conference on Arctic Research Planning (ICARP-I, 1995), which he chaired. Dr. Young was a founding board member of the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS), and helped initiate the University of the Arctic, chairing its initial board. He served as founding chair of the US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change and co-chaired its Committee on Arctic Social Sciences, leading to the creation of the Arctic Social Sciences program within the US National Science Foundation, a major feat. Dr. Young co-founded and co-chaired the Working Group on Arctic International Relations, a predecessor to the Arctic Council. Instrumental in the creation of the International Arctic Science CommiƩee (1990), he was its first US delegate and Vice-President. He continues to support Arctic institutions as a consultant to the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region and a science advisor to the North Pacific Arctic Conferences.

Highlight issues that are of particular relevance to the future development of the Arctic (and put these issues on the national/international agenda)

Dr. Young’s research and leadership has been critical in building a new vision of integrative and collaborative studies of the Arctic since the 1980s. The entire system of international scholarly collaboration and networking would not have been established without his profound personal input. He has played a critical role in creating many new international Arctic institutions dedicated to the peaceful, collaborative governance of the Arctic. He continues to analyse the need for, and make recommendations on, adaptation of Arctic governance systems. The recent initiation of war by one Arctic Council state, albeit outside the Arctic, critically amplifies our need to understand how Arctic governance structures function under changing socio-political conditions and how they might best adapt to such crises. His recent publication, “Can the Arctic survive the impact of the Ukraine Crisis?” (Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 2022), speaks directly to this need. Dr. Young’s research and its practical applications are of particular relevance to the future of the Arctic Regions as our ‘common home’.