04 Oct 2023

Welcome to the inaugural edition of our EuroMarine Researchers in the Spotlight series, where we engage in captivating conversations with prominent researchers within our network.

Today, we're privileged to speak with Maiken Bjorkan, a distinguished Research Professor at the NRI. Maiken's journey into marine research has been nothing short of inspiring, with her unique interdisciplinary background and commitment to addressing complex societal questions within marine sciences.


Maiken Bjørkan has an interdisciplinary background with a PhD from the Norwegian College of Fishery Science (NCFS) and a Master of Science in Social Anthropology and a Master of Science in International Fisheries Management.

Her research interests cover a variety of issues including the Sustainable Development Goals and “blue growth” in the context of fisheries and coastal zone management. Her research is typically done using a co-production of knowledge approaches and socio-technical theory (STS) to enlighten the increasing number of dilemmas at the science-policy interface. Bjørkan is also the coordinator of the HEU project EmpowerUs.

EuroMarine: Can you briefly introduce yourself and your current position within your research organization? What initially sparked your interest in marine research, and how did you embark on this career path?

I am currently serving as a Research Professor at The NRI. My journey into marine research is a tale of practicality meeting passion.

While my academic background began with anthropology, my involvement with the Zapatist movement in the La Candona jungle ignited my passion for practical solutions related to food security and livelihoods.

Growing up in a coastal community further reinforced my fascination with marine ecosystems. This led me to embark on a unique career trajectory, combining anthropology, international fisheries management, and eventually earning a Ph.D. in fisheries from the Norwegian College of Fisheries Science.

EuroMarine: What are your primary research interests and areas of focus within marine sciences?

I find myself drawn to the complexity of societal questions with no definitive answers. I am intrigued by the areas that demand co-creation processes due to high uncertainty.

My focus encompasses diverse domains, from providing advice in fish stock assessment to contributing to spatial planning and beyond.

EuroMarine: Could you highlight any major findings or breakthroughs that you have achieved in your research? How has your research contributed to advancing knowledge and understanding in your specific field of study?

One of my major contributions has been to take part in the integration of experience-based knowledge into marine science.

I've dedicated myself to exploring how participatory processes can be effectively implemented. These endeavours not only enrich our understanding of marine ecosystems but also promote collaborative problem-solving.

EuroMarine: What are the priority areas for marine research that could have a significant impact on policy development and sustainable marine management? How can EuroMarine engage with policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that scientific findings are effectively communicated and utilized in decision-making processes?

I see immense potential in embracing more social science and transdisciplinary approaches. By weaving these perspectives into our research, we can provide comprehensive insights into marine challenges.

EuroMarine can act as a vital bridge, facilitating dialogue between researchers and policymakers. Effective communication channels and targeted initiatives can translate scientific insights into actionable policies.

EuroMarine: What are some of the main challenges or obstacles you have encountered in your research, and how have you addressed them?

Navigating interdisciplinary work, while rewarding, does come with its challenges. The process demands effective collaboration across disciplines, which requires open-mindedness and understanding.

Additionally, being a woman in a male-dominated sector presents its own set of obstacles. I've tackled these challenges by fostering strong collaborative relationships and demonstrating that determination knows no boundaries.

EuroMarine: What are your future research plans and directions? Are there any specific goals or projects you are currently working on or planning to pursue?

I envision continuing my exploration of coastal and marine challenges. Mentoring younger researchers is another passion of mine. By nurturing the next generation, I hope to contribute to a sustainable future for marine research.

EuroMarine: How has being a member of EuroMarine network supported your research and career development? Overall, what would you say is the most significant impact or benefit you have experienced as a result of being a member of EuroMarine?

EuroMarine offers a vibrant platform to interact with fellow researchers across diverse marine contexts. The network nurtures a learning environment, enabling me to both share insights from social sciences and gain valuable knowledge from others.

The connections formed within EuroMarine have been instrumental in my research journey, even aiding in grant applications. I must mention the impactful experience of the Ph.D. summer school in Cadiz, where I really enjoyed interacting with PhD students from all over the world.

EuroMarine: What advice would you give to early-career researchers who are aspiring to make an impact in marine sciences?

My advice is simple—follow your interests passionately. Seek captivating fieldwork opportunities that align with your curiosity. Stay endlessly curious, and let your enthusiasm drive you forward.

EuroMarine: Are there any individuals or experiences that have particularly inspired or influenced your research journey?

Svein Jentoft and Thor Heyerdahl stand out as inspirations in my research journey. Their contributions have left an indelible mark on my academic path.