Gunnar Knapp named director of ISER

Mike Dunham

Gunnar Knapp, a professor of economics, is the new director of the University of Alaska Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research, the institute announced Thursday.

Knapp has been on the faculty of ISER, which is part of the UAA College of Business and Public Policy, since 1981. He had been serving as interim director since the previous director, Heather Hudson, stepped down in January.

Asked to explain ISER's mission, Knapp said, "The simplest description is that we study Alaska, Alaska's economy and society. We have extremely experienced scientists here, economists, anthropologists, political scientists, public policy analysts, who know a tremendous amount about Alaska."

ISER issues reports on issues ranging from fiscal matters and education to fisheries, that last being Knapp's specialty. ISER faculty members also teach university courses and work with other university faculty and public and private research groups.

Knapp said he expects to stress developing new skills and technology to "keep evolving" with the needs of the state. "We've been studying Alaska almost as long as Alaska's been a state, 52 years," he said. "There have been tremendous changes over that period."

He noted that the key issues of 30 years ago -- Native land claims, limited entry for fisheries, the establishment of the Permanent Fund -- have given way to more recent priorities like climate change, health care and broadband internet connectivity.

"The whole way in which we communicate research is changing and we need to adapt to that," Knapp said. "We need to figure out how to get information to people in ways they can assimilate it and learn about it. We need to bring in younger researchers and more diverse researchers. I'm interested in having ISER be a place where the people who work here understand the variety of backgrounds that people in Alaska come from."

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.