Comment Period Now Open for Draft Arctic Policies from NSF's Division of Polar Programs

September 15, 2015
By Jessica Rohde

Mustang survival gear is mandatory for all work on the back deck of the ship. It is vital for survival if anyone falls overboard. Aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer icebreaker.

Photo by Jillian Worssam (PolarTREC 2014), Courtesy of ARCUS

Dear Colleagues,

The National Science Foundation, Division of Polar Programs is preparing to release three new policies applicable to people conducting fieldwork in the Arctic supported by the Division of Polar Programs.

The draft policies are posted on the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) collaboration portal for public comment. The draft policies are posted on the collaboration portal of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) because this collaboration portal invites the public to be informed about and contribute to federal government efforts in arctic research.

The comment period is September 15 – October 2. Please submit comments to Renee Crain

These policies codify expectations of NSF’s Division of Polar Programs on subjects that are covered by policies at most institutions and clarify the circumstances under which NSF requires physically qualifying for fieldwork. NSF is exploring changes to the current PQ policy but has not adopted the changes presented in the draft dated 09/15/2015. 

  • Code of Conduct: Guiding principles and expectations for behavior
  • Field Safety Risk Management: Reinforces the individual and institutions’ roles in identifying, avoiding, or mitigating risk
  • Physical Qualification for Fieldwork: States the NSF policy on requiring physical qualification (PQ) for fieldwork in the Arctic

Comments that improve the simplicity or clarity of the policies are most helpful. Input from the arctic research community will help ensure the policies are comprehensible and effective across the broad range of disciplines and locations supported by the Division of Polar Programs, Arctic Sciences Section. Although grantee institutions are responsible for the work performed under the auspices of NSF awards, NSF supports fieldwork through several contracts, grants and cooperative agreements in service to grantees.

A companion rationale document explains the purpose of the policies. These are the first NSF policies covering the Arctic, although similar policies exist for the U.S. Antarctic Program. These policies are an outcome of the Arctic Field Safety Risk Management workshop ( and are also being circulated through the Community of Practice established at that workshop. You can join the CoP for Arctic Field Safety Risk Management by emailing Renee Crain,

The policies do not supersede the terms and conditions defined in the NSF Award and Administration Guide, which clearly states that the grantee institution has full responsibility for the conduct of the project or activity supported under an NSF grant. The policies are intended to apply to Program Participants sponsored by the Division of Polar Programs. Program Participants include but are not limited to:

  • NSF employees and hosted distinguished visitors
  • Persons affiliated with or employed by an NSF grantee institution engaged in science activities as a consequence of an NSF grant, or other persons who work or visit the Arctic or facilities under NSF sponsorship
  • Persons affiliated with or employed by other U.S. Government entities, except Department of Defense (DoD) military personnel when subject to equivalent or more stringent DoD or component safety policy and risk management systems
  • Contractors, subcontractors, and consultants engaged in supporting NSF arctic program activities

I encourage you to read the policies and provide comments. Input from arctic researchers and others involved in the arctic research enterprise is welcome, including all disciplines, stages of career, and geographic regions of the Arctic. Comments will be incorporated to the extent possible into the final versions that go through NSF’s approval process. Once the policies are approved, final versions will be disseminated through email listservs, posted on websites, and distributed via email by NSF and its contractors. Suggestions for other mechanisms of distribution are welcome.

Renee Crain

Arctic Research Support & Logistics Program Manager
Geosciences Directorate, Division of Polar Programs
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington VA 22230

Download the Documents

  1. Arctic Sciences Section Policies Intro and Rationale
  2. Arctic Code of Conduct
  3. Arctic Field Safety Risk Management
  4. Physical Qualification for Arctic Fieldwork

Posted by Jessica Rohde on behalf of Renee Crain, NSF

Request an account

Join scientists from Federal, State, academic, NGO, and industry organizations working to accelerate the progress of Arctic research.

Membership in IARPC Collaborations is subject to approval and adherence to the codes of conduct.


Sara Bowden, IARPC Executive Secretary
(703) 447-7828

Please direct website questions to Jessica Rohde, Web Manager, at