BACKGROUND FOR THE
WESTERN SOLOMONS RESEARCH DATABASE
Few scholars were active in research in western Solomon Islands during the 1970s and 1980s but during the 1990s their numbers grew – particularly in anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, and marine studies. For some their initial research was to lead to long-term research partnerships with western Solomons people, and a greater focus on reporting their work in ways that are meaningful for Solomon Islanders and could contribute to their concern to achieve social and economic development suited to their circumstances. There is now a growing number of Solomon Islander researchers embarking on careers in academic studies, policy-making and development work. This gives added importance to the contribution this database can make.
It was the destructive earthquake and tsunami that hit western Solomons in April 2007 that was the trigger for this database, the outcome of consultations by the head of the Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group and one of its associates. Professor Edvard Hviding had been privileged to carry out research in the Western Province continuously since 1986, while Dr. Graham Baines had been a key person in the development of policy and research in Western Province during the 1980s. They discussed with Western Province leaders how accumulated research information and expertise could be brought to bear on the post-disaster challenges and on the longer-term needs of the people of Western Province. This engagement built on earlier discussions that prominent “Westerner” the Hon. Job D. Tausinga had with Edvard Hviding on how scholars and their expertise on different facets of life and livelihoods in Western Province might be brought into closer dialogue with development planners and decision-makers at local, provincial and national levels.
Under the designation "The Bergen Initiative: Connecting scholarship to practical needs in the Western Solomons", these ideas were developed into concrete plans during visits to Honiara and Gizo by Graham Baines in July 2007, and by Edvard Hviding in August-September 2007. Discussions were held with several Members of Parliament, with the Western Province Premier and Provincial Secretary, and with other western Solomons leaders in government and civil society. Connections were also made nationally to the research policy focus of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development. In a letter dated 16th July 2007 from Western Province’s then Premier Lokopio, Edvard Hviding was requested to arrange for "a review of all the research done in Western Province in recent years so that we have a better idea of its value for us in the west, and so that we can explain the results of this research to our public".
In the course of a meeting on 3rd September 2007 with the Premier in Gizo, mindful of the rapid spread of internet access to many parts of western Province, it was agreed that this review should include the development of an online research database. Dr. Cato Berg, another University of Bergen anthropologist with long term commitment to practical research in Western Province, handled the correspondence with a large network of some 75 scholars who had worked in western Solomons since about 1980, and compiled the information from which he established this online database.