The Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS) represents Canada's northern and polar researchers working at member universities and colleges. Founded in 1977, in Churchill, Manitoba, as a nonprofit organization, the Association is a charitable organization with six important functions: (1) to represent interests of members by promoting policies and practices that support northern scholarship, (2) to establish mechanisms through which resources can be allocated to members so as to increase knowledge of the north and ensure northern training, (3) to enhance opportunities for northern people to become leaders and promoters of excellence in education and research important to the north, (4) to facilitate the understanding and resolutions of northern issues, (5) to initiate programs that will increase public awareness of northern sciences and research, and (6) to cooperate with other organizations, public, private, and international, concerned with northern studies.
ACUNS is organized as a Council consisting of a single representative from each of the 35 member institutions. The representatives provide a liaison between ACUNS and its individual institutional members. Once a year, the Council meets in an Annual General Meeting to determine the policy and practices of the Association. Every second year, the Council elects a Board of Directors for a two-year term, which ensures that the six mandated functions are fulfilled. The Board consists of a President, Vice-President, and Secretary-Treasurer, who are the executive officers, and a set of Directors-at-large. A salaried Executive Officer oversees the operation of the Ottawa office, including supervision of a small support staff and occasional contract positions
To promote northern scholarship, ACUNS established the Canadian Northern Studies Trust (CNST) in 1982 as an arms-length committee of ACUNS charged with the administration of a set of special awards, bursaries, and studentships from endowed funds and annual donations. Members of the Committee are appointed by ACUNS for three-year terms and represent a cross section of disciplines and regions.
ACUNS also organizes the National Student Conference every three years. This conference contributes to the development of new northern researchers by offering students a forum to discuss their work. There have been six conferences to date, with the most recent being at the University of Laval (2000) and Simon Fraser University (1997), and the seventh at the University of Alberta in 2003.
ACUNS promotes the concept that research should be a positive component of the northern social and physical environment and should respect and involve, where practical, northern residents in appropriate and ethical ways. Guidelines for doing so were developed in the Association's statement of Ethical Principles for the Conduct of Research in the North. Since the first edition in 1982, the Ethical Principles has become one of the most widely disseminated and reproduced documents for ethical research that is consulted in Canada. Revised in 1997 to take into account changing political and economic realities in the north, the 20 principles promote the new spirit of partnership between northerners and researchers that is emerging in northern research.
Information about northern studies is disseminated by ACUNS through such mechanisms as the ACUNS web site, the NorthSci list serve, the Annual General Meeting, the Directory of Northern Studies Courses by University/College, and a variety of meetings and liaison functions. These functions include counseling government and granting agencies on policy related to northern affairs.
The work of ACUNS is sponsored by annual fees from its members, the federal government's department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, as well as special contracts and other minor sources of funds.
James Andrew McDonald
Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies website: http://www.cyberus.ca/~acuns/
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