From 1 January 2015, the Governor will require that all applications for research in Svalbard, and research reports, are sent through the application module in RIS.

For more information concerning the database, please contact Svalbard Science Forum, SSF.

This is a checklist for research planning in Svalbard. Many research activities need permission from the Governor and this checklist will help you to find out what you have to do before fieldwork, what kind of permissions you may need and where to send an application. We do not guarantee that this list is complete.

Each researcher are responsible to make sure that all permits are obtained prior to fieldwork. If you are in doubt whether you need a permit, do not hesitate to contact us. Start your planning process early, you should anticipate one month for application processing by the Governor of Svalbard.

This guide can help you to:

  • define what is to be included in the planning before field season.
  • find out which permissions from the Governor you might need. Note that all general regulations with respect to eg. camping on Svalbard, also apply to research activities. Some regulations differ between visitors and residents.
  • register the science project and participants in Svalbard Science Forums “RiS”-database.

We are thankful for response that might improve the content of this guide.

Guide for scientists on Svalbard

Table of contents

1. RIS-database

2. Location

3. Field work participants            

4. Field period

5. Camping

6. Transport

7. Fauna

8. Flora

9. Geology

10. Cultural heritage

11. Other sampling

12. Installations

13. Fuel depot

14. Dangerous goods

15. Safety

16. Duty of care

17. Map

18. Commitment to visa

19. Other

20. Research report


1. Research in Svalbard- RiS-database

Register your planned project in the RiS-database, this is mandatory. You will need the RiS-ID for correspondence with the Governor of Svalbard. The Svalbard Science Forum will help you with registration.

2. Location

Indicate the location of your field work in the RiS database. If you plan to conduct field work in several locations make sure you register all of them. There are different regulations depending on whether fieldwork is located within Management area 10 or not.

If you want to conduct fieldwork in a national park or nature reserve you have to follow the rules valid in these areas. There are different regulations for national parks and nature reserves, and the rules in new and old national parks differ. You can apply for exemption from certain regulations from the Governor. Legislation in national parks and nature reserves require that plants and fossils cannot be removed. Science is only allowed when not in conflict with the purpose of protection.

In some protected areas no entrance is allowed:

Areas with access restrictions in Svalbard

3. Field work participants

Due to safety aspects, make sure you register all participants during your project registration in the RiS database

4. Field period

Due to safety aspects, the Governor needs to know when you are in the field. Make sure to register the period(s) of your field work in the application.

5. Camping

According to the regulations relating to camping activities in Svalbard the following rules apply:

  • § 6: Tents and equipment are whenever possible to be placed on ground that is free of vegetation.
  • § 7: Camping is not permitted within a 100 meter security zone that extends in all directions from the visible or known perimeter of a cultural heritage site.
  • § 8: All stones, stakes or other objects used to build a camp are to be cleared away and replaced where they were found.
  • § 9: No fires are to be built on vegetation covered ground or soil covered ground. Remains of camp fires shall be removed and the sites cleaned up.

6. Transport

Depending on transport means in the field you may need several permits. Note that landing permits are required for all helicopter landings and cargo drops, also on sea ice or vessels.

Visitors need to apply to the Governor to use snowmobiles outside Management Area 10. To travel outside this area, visitors need to fill out the Notification of travel plans in Svalbard for individual travellers. Within Management Area 10 no further action needed.

If you plan to travel by boat you have to consider the restrictions for bird sanctuaries (including a 300 m protected zone). For dispensation, you need to apply to the Governor. Outside Management area 10 visitors need to fill out the Notification of travel plans in Svalbard for individual travellers.

- Regulations about motorized traffic

7. Fauna

There are strict regulations regarding disturbance of fauna, as well as fauna handling and sampling. Note that it is forbidden to move dead animals found in the field. The same applies to animal parts (bones, teeth, etc), with the exception of naturally shed reindeer antlers. You should inform the Governor in the case of exceptional finds. All kind of disturbance is prohibited, any planned disturbance of fauna demands permission from the Governor.

Handling and marking of animals require approval from the Norwegian Animal Research Authority. This permission needs to be attached to the application to the Governor. Note that application processing at the Norwegian Animal Research Authority might be long

- Norwegian Animal Research Authority (Forsøksdyrutvalget) - FOTS-Database.

8. Flora

In general you are not allowed to damage or remove plants throughout Svalbard. However, outside protected areas, collection of flora for research or teaching purposes is permitted where this does not significantly affect the local population of flora. There are also certain restrictions in relation to vegetation when camping, see the Governors Camping regulations. All collection of flora that might do substantial interference with the local population requires the Governors permission.

Concerning export of plant material from Svalbard to Norway: for native plants from Svalbard no permit is needed. For further transport to other countries contact the respective custom authorities.

9. Geology

You do not need a permission to collect loose stones and fossils (outside protected areas). However, you need to check the regulations for protected areas. For all other activities you need a permit from the Governor.

Geological work that involves terrain alteration needs permission from the Governor.

10. Cultural heritage

There are very strict regulations concerning cultural heritage in Svalbard. Everything older than 1946 is automatically protected. This includes traces of human activity such as buildings, constructions and human made items. Traces of human graves of all kinds are protected independent of age. So are traces of whale and walrus hunting and skeleton remains of polar bear at self-firing traps. When camping or making a fire you have to keep a 100 meter distance too all cultural heritage artefacts and you are not allowed to move items that are protected, even if you find them at the beach or other vulnerable areas.

11. Other samples

Some examples of other sampling activities are listed below. If you are in doubt as to whether you need a permit do not hesitate to contact us.

  • Taking ice cores from glaciers or soil samples do not require a permission.
  • Water samples (salt- and freshwater) or snow samples do not require any permission.

12. Installations

If you want to set out installations you may need to contact several authorities, depending on the location. Note that you need to apply if you want a permit to put up any installation irrespective of size. Report the planned geographical position of the installation in your application to the Governor.

There are also current area plans for the four largest settlements på Svalbard: Longyearbyen, Ny-Ålesund, Svea mines and Barentsburg. Installations within these plan areas have to correspond with the approved plan, and might need a permission from the plan authority. Check if your installation corresponds with the plan and send an application to the plan authority. If you are in doubt contact the Local authority of Longyearbyen in Longyearbyen, Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani in Svea or Kings Bay AS in Ny-Ålesund, and the Governor for planned installations in Barenstburg. Except for the Local authority of Longyearbyen, the Governor is plan authority in the other plan areas. The plan authorities can also help with other practical questions.

13. Fuel depots

If you plan to establish a fuel depot anywhere in Svalbard, you need a permit from the Governor. Note that you need a permit to set out any fuel depot (e.g. jerry cans).

- Application for fuel depot

14. Freight of dangerous goods

Dangerous goods can be transported safely by air transport provided certain principles are strictly followed. They must be labelled with a United Nations (UN) number to identify their hazard classification and composition and they need a declaration.

- Information from Kings Bay AS

15. Safety

It is strongly recommended that you make yourself familiar with the potential dangers in Svalbard and safety measures that should be followed. Make sure you are acquainted with the use of firearms and pyrotechnics. We highly recommend attending a safety course. Safe handling of firearms is your personal responsibility at all times! You should also know how to prevent and what to do in case of accidents. Read more in our safety section and in the brochure "Safety in Svalbard".

Individual travellers must have sufficient insurance, or as the case may be put up equivalent guarantee, to cover any expenses incurred by the authorities or others in connection with search and rescue operations or the conveyance of patients (SAR) which have to be carried out in connection with their travel in Svalbard. It is expected that researchers/ employees are covered for SAR through their research institution, and the Governor is therefore not asking for specific SAR-insurance for researchers doing field work outside management area 10.

Students doing fieldwork must expect to be imposed to have a SAR insurance if they don’t have confirmation from the research institution that they cover a possible SAR operation.

- Equipment and Safety

- Planning a trip

- Brochure: Safety in Svalbard

16. Duty of care and duty to provide information

The Svalbard Environmental Protection Act § 5 claims:

Any person who is staying in or operates an undertaking in Svalbard shall show due consideration and exercise the caution required to avoid unnecessary damage or disturbance to the natural environment or cultural heritage.

A head of undertaking shall ensure that every person who carries out work or takes part in the activities for which an undertaking is responsible, is aware of the provisions set out in or pursuant to this Act regarding the protection of Svalbard’s flora, fauna, cultural heritage and the natural environment otherwise.

17. Map

Topo Svalbard - The Norwegian Polar Institute

18. Duty of Visa

Persons that need to have a Visa to arrive Schengen have to apply for such in good time before the planned travel. Arriving Svalbard you leave the Schengen territory, and it is therefore crucial to apply permission to arrive twice into Schengen – once on your way up to Svalbard and once on your way home. More information is found on the web sites of Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, or by addressing their information office .

- Norwegian Directorate of Immigration

- Frequently Asked Questions about Schengen Visa

19. Other

Make sure to book accommodation, equipment, helicopters etc. in due time!.

Allow sufficient time for shipping equipment. Peak seasons (aircraft) or poor ice condition (ship) might be time consuming.

If you need professional help to organise your fieldwork, you can buy logistical support from NPI or UNIS. Remember to contact them in good time! Local travel operators might also be of help.

Learn more about the environmental legislation with the brochures "When visiting Svalbard" and "Experience Svalbard"

- Logistics, Svalbard Science Forum

- The Norwegian Polar Institute

- The University Centre in Svalbard

- Brochure: When visiting Svalbard 

- Brochure: Experience Svalbard

 20. Research report

Make sure you submit a research report at the end of the field work, usually by November each year.

Deliver all garbage separated at the garbage plant in Longyearbyen. Dangerous waste must be delivered separately and be clearly labeled.