FAQ Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021

What is the Arctic Research Plan?

The Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984, as amended (15 U.S.C. §1401 et seq., the “Act”) requires the President to establish the Arctic Research Commission (“Commission”) and the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (“IARPC”), chaired by the Director of the National Science Foundation. The Commission and IARPC are directed by the Act to cooperate in developing a national Arctic research policy that will guide Federal agencies in developing and implementing their research programs in the Arctic. IARPC, “in consultation with the Commission, the Governor of the State of Alaska, the residents of the Arctic, the private sector, and public interests groups” is required to prepare a comprehensive 5-year program plan for the overall Federal effort in Arctic research (“Plan”).

What is the structure of Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021?

The structure includes 4 tiers of organization: Policy Drivers, Research Goals, Research Objectives and Performance Elements. We also note that the order of the Policy Drivers, Research Goals and Guiding Principles does not reflect a priority or ranking.

Policy Drivers:

  1. Enhance the well-being of Arctic residents. Knowledge will inform local, state, and national policies to address a range of goals including health, economic opportunity, and the cultural vibrancy of native and other Arctic residents.
  2. Advance stewardship of the Arctic environment. Results will provide the necessary knowledge to understand the functioning of the terrestrial and marine environments, and anticipate globally-driven changes as well as the potential response to local actions.
  3. Strengthen national and regional security. Efforts will include work to improve shorter-term environmental prediction capability and longer-term projections of the future state of the Arctic region to ensure defense and emergency response agencies have skillful forecasts of operational environments, and the tools necessary to operate safely and effectively in the Arctic over the long term.
  4. Improve understanding of the Arctic as a component of planet Earth. Information will recognize the important role of the Arctic in the global system, such as the ways the changing cryosphere impacts sea-level, the global carbon and radiation budgets, and weather systems.

Research Goals:

  1. Enhance understanding of health determinants and improve the well-being of Arctic resident;
  2. Advance process and system understanding of the changing Arctic atmospheric composition and dynamics and the resulting changes to surface energy budgets;
  3. Enhance understanding and improve predictions of the changing sea ice cover;
  4. Increase understanding of the structure and function of Arctic marine ecosystems and their role in the climate system and advance predictive capabilities;
  5. Understand and project the mass balance of mountain glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet and their consequences for sea level rise;
  6. Advance understanding of processes controlling permafrost dynamics and the impacts on ecosystems, infrastructure, and climate feedbacks;
  7. Advance an integrated, landscape-scale understanding of Arctic terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and the potential for future change;
  8. Strengthen coastal community resilience and advance stewardship of coastal natural and cultural resources by engaging in research related to the interconnections of people, and natural and built environments
  9. Enhance environmental intelligence gathering, interpretation and application toward decision support.

How does policy drive the Plan?

How are Research Objectives related to Research Goals?

What is new in the 2017-2021 Plan?

  • With its policy emphasis on well-being, as well as the inclusion of sustainability research and community-based observing in the Guiding Principles, this plan aims to increase the visibility of research that addresses socio-economic factors of import to human well-being as well as the integration of research from across the spectrum of basic to use-inspired research.
  • The “Coastal” topic is new to this plan and IARPC hopes it will draw together a rich array of existing activities into greater coordination;
  • “Permafrost” was not emphasized in the previous plan. With this new goal IARPC aims to draw together basic geophysical research, relevant resilience and adaptation research (such as that related to infrastructure planning), and improve inclusion of permafrost processes into predictive models.
  • The concept of “Environmental Intelligence” is a new addition to the Plan, but it is drawing on some familiar territory: observations, models and data management. The hope is that the framework will increase attention to those aspects of these three highly cross-cutting topics that can be advanced in the 5-year Plan.
  • While we aim to retain many collaboration teams, some may be combined with other teams and new teams may be created. All current team members, and new members, will be welcome to contribute to the implementation of the new plan.
  • The plan is simpler, with fewer performance elements (milestones) than the previous 5-year plan.

When was the Plan released?

IARPC announced the release of Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021 on December 15, 2016 during a Town Hall at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California. Martin Jeffries (OSTP), Simon Stephenson (NSF), Bill Brown (BOEM), Allison McComiskey (NOAA) provided an opportunity for the research community to learn about the Research Plan and how they can engage in its implementation. This 2-page brochure, distributed at the Town Hall, provides and overview of the Plan and its implementation.

How will the Plan be implemented?

IARPC Collaborations is the primary structure for implementing the Plan. Membership is open to anyone who can contribute to efforts to implement the Plan, and thus it serves as a mechanism for bringing together Federal government program managers, the research community, and other stakeholders to accelerate the pace of Arctic research.

To implement the Plan, IARPC Collaborations will be organized into nine thematic Collaboration Teams, each corresponding to one of the nine Research Goals in the Plan. Each team will be co-chaired by a Federal program manager and a co-chair from a different Federal agency or a non-federal partner. Collaboration teams will meet virtually on a regular basis to discuss updates to Performance Elements and share information relevant to accomplishing research objectives.

More details are available in the Implementation Guidelines.

What has been the impact of Arctic Research Plan 2013-2017?

The implementation progress of the last 5-year Arctic Research Plan was tracked on the IARPC collaborations website. IARPC teams have been working to implement over 160 milestones. Additionally, each year, IARPC submits an annual report as its contribution to the implementation of the National Strategy on the Arctic Region (NSAR). You can find this report on the IARPC collaborations website. Finally, in December 2015, IARPC published its Biennial Report which is a high-level report required by the IARPC enabling legislations.