The Arctic and IARPC

The Arctic continues to be the most rapidly changing region on Earth, with surface warming at more than twice the global average (IPCC, 2021). Climate change is the primary driver of environmental change and has additional impacts on socioeconomic systems (AMAP, 2021). The rapidly emerging challenges of the Arctic are complex and dynamic with global implications and profound impacts on Arctic communities.[1] As an Arctic nation, by virtue of the state of Alaska, the United States is committed to advancing scientific understanding of the Arctic and the impacts of climate change. This includes understanding of the local to global consequences of Arctic change, defined as rapid climate, environmental, cultural, socioeconomic, and geopolitical changes. The interconnected processes that define the Arctic create important research questions, many of which are best addressed by multiple Federal agencies working together and in collaboration with state, local, and Tribal authorities, research institutions, and nonprofit, private sector, and international organizations.[2] Analyses of complex challenges are based upon integration and application of basic and applied research, which are essential to understand the social, environmental, and ecological systems of the Arctic. The strong interconnections among natural, social, and built systems must be considered. For example, the changing climate in the Arctic impacts energy, water, and food security (Markon et al., 2018) while also implicating community health and resilience, natural resource development, infrastructure, commercial activities, and ecosystem services, and creating hazards for both Arctic and global communities. Through this bold new five-year Arctic Research Plan, IARPC is addressing emerging research questions that require a timely and robust federal interagency response.

Figure 1: The Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984 (15 U.S.C. § 4108) defines the Arctic as all United States and foreign territory north of the Arctic Circle and all United States territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers; all contiguous seas, including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering and Chukchi Seas; and the Aleutian chain. Image: Williams, D.M., and Richmond, C.L, 2021, The Arctic Research and Policy Act region—Circumpolar Perspective, sheet 2 of Williams, D.M., and Richmond, C.L., 2021, Arctic Alaska boundary area maps as defined by the U.S. Arctic Research and Policy Act—Updated with geospatial characteristics of select marine and terrestrial features: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3484, 5 sheets, pamphlet 7 p.,

IARPC was established by the Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984 (ARPA) to "facilitate cooperation between the Federal Government and State and local governments in Arctic research” and “recommend the undertaking of neglected areas of research."[3] Now a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), IARPC enhances scientific monitoring and research on individual components of the Arctic, as well as how the system operates as a whole, through the coordination of Federal agencies and domestic and international collaborators. It consists of representatives from 14 Federal agencies, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).[4]

Every five years, IARPC is required by law (ARPA) to prepare and execute an Arctic research plan in “consultation with the [US Arctic Research] Commission, the Governor of the State of Alaska, the residents of the Arctic, the private sector, and public interest groups.”[5] Through a targeted approach to priority areas set forth in this plan, IARPC will address the most pressing Arctic research needs that can advance understanding of the Arctic, inform policy and planning decisions, and promote the well-being[6] of Arctic and global communities. Priority areas are designed to respond to challenges identified by Arctic communities, Federal agencies with a presence in Alaska or a responsibility to understand the Arctic region, the state of Alaska, and other non-Federal entities. They are structured to be responsive to challenges that may emerge in the next five years. IARPC aligns its work with the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) and the plan’s priority areas complement the targets laid out in the USARC Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research (2019-2020).[7] This plan also responds to Biden Administration priorities on tackling climate change[8] and promoting racial equity[9]. Each of the priority areas identified in this plan defines a broad goal for implementation by IARPC Federal agencies and, where appropriate, in collaboration with non-Federal partners. The role of non-Federal entities are critical to Arctic research now and in the future.

The Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026 is relevant to the needs of all people who live in the U.S. Arctic as well as the larger national and global community who are also impacted by changes to the Arctic climate and environment. The absence of specific acknowledgment or reference to any non-Federal entity is not an omission but to avoid pre-decisional preference or bias that a reference might appear to provide. This plan considers input from as many voices as possible, drawing from documents and reports developed by the state of Alaska and local, regional, national, and international organizations. It recognizes the importance of international collaboration in advancing understanding of transboundary research challenges. It also reflects the considerable interest and input received from Indigenous Peoples and organizations, who are significantly impacted by Arctic change and are also often first to experience these impacts. The rapidity of emerging research questions in the Arctic requires quick and decisive action to better observe, predict, and understand those shifts. IARPC responds to this need by aiming to deliver science and knowledge to decision-makers in the Arctic and beyond.

Through this plan, IARPC seeks to build and sustain a stronger relationship between the Federally funded research enterprise, the state of Alaska, and Arctic communities. In Alaska, a significant number of Arctic communities and those closest to the impacts of Arctic change are Indigenous. Indigenous Peoples have inhabited the region since time immemorial. Indigenous Knowledge encompasses both cultural and ecological systems and is critical to understanding the Arctic (ICC Alaska, 2015). The history of colonization in the U.S. Arctic involved subjugation of Indigenous Peoples and included such issues as diseases, boarding schools, removal policies, and slavery, which have negatively impacted the health and well-being of Arctic communities, resulting in lasting and ongoing trauma (Jantarasami et al., 2018).[10] This plan acknowledges the history and resulting trauma of colonization. IARPC recognizes that to achieve priority area goals, there is the need for participatory research (David-Chavez and Gavin, 2018), co-production of knowledge, and participation, meaningful involvement, and leadership by Indigenous Peoples in research. Communication by Federal agencies with Indigenous Peoples, communities, and Tribal Nations, as well as with the state of Alaska, Federal resource managers, and other state and local officials has improved over the past decade, but there is room for IARPC to strengthen effective two-way communications and relationships. Recognizing that financial and human resources are limited, both within Federal agencies and in Arctic communities, this plan encourages IARPC to increase this capacity and enhance engagement and participation of those most directly impacted by Arctic change. This plan also aims to elevate principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

In 2018, IARPC updated the Federal Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic. These fundamental principles guide research at all stages and encourage engagement with Indigenous communities throughout the research process.[11] This plan emphasizes the responsibility that IARPC and the Federal research community have to be inclusive of Indigenous Knowledge and cultures and recognizes and respects Tribal sovereignty[12] and the importance of self-determination[13]. IARPC acknowledges that the U.S. government operates under Executive Order 13175,[14] which directs Federal agencies to “establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have tribal implications [and] to strengthen the United States government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes.” Congressional Public Law 108-199 also mandates government-to-corporation consultation with “Alaska Native corporations on the same basis as Indian tribes under Executive Order No. 13175.”[15] IARPC recognizes that many Federal agencies have specific obligations and approaches for Tribal consultation that acknowledge Tribal governments’ unique legal relationship with the U.S. Federal government. Nothing in this plan supersedes the consultative obligations of individual Federal agencies.

Overarching Principles:

Throughout the development of the plan,[16] IARPC has been guided by the following overarching principles:

  1. Sustained Engagement: Advance respectful, responsive, and continuous engagement with Indigenous and Tribal organizations, Arctic communities, Federal agencies, the state of Alaska, and non-Federal partners.
  2. Inclusion and Equity: Encourage diversity and ensure that everyone is treated fairly and respectfully and promote access to the tools needed to succeed.
  3. Transparency and Accessibility: Commit to activities and decisions that are transparent and communicated clearly and in an accessible format.

IARPC Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026 Structure

The Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026 is the third plan developed to coordinate Federal Arctic research since IARPC became a subcommittee of the NSTC in 2010. IARPC, through a five-year planning cycle, seeks to address critical areas for which an interagency approach can accelerate progress. It does not attempt to address all Federally funded research in the Arctic nor does it seek to address all research questions or individual agency priorities in the Arctic. Implementation of previous plans has created strong communities of practice around disciplinary and multidisciplinary research areas. Building on previous efforts and engaging those communities of practice, this plan identifies the most urgent and cross-cutting research needs, resulting in interdisciplinary priority areas. Consideration of the budgets needed to achieve the priority area goals, objectives, and deliverables will take place among participating Federal agencies.

This plan presents a research framework with thematic goals. Specific objectives and deliverables will be described in biennial implementation plans. These implementation plans, the first of which will be released in mid-2022, will also identify how the plan’s foundational activities will support these priority area goals. This transition to biennial implementation plans will help IARPC respond more swiftly to emerging or immediate needs while it continues to support U.S. Arctic policy.

Policy Drivers

As with the Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021, this plan adheres to four critical policy drivers[17] that reflect critical areas where the U.S. Arctic research enterprise supports U.S. policy from community to global scales. They illustrate the collective priorities of IARPC Federal agencies. These policy drivers are derived from the major U.S. policy documents of the past 50 years, including the 2009 Arctic Policy Directive[18] and the 2013 National Strategy for Arctic Region[19], and are still relevant today.

Policy drivers include:

  1. Well-Being: Enhance the wellness of Arctic residents with an emphasis on the themes of cultural vibrancy, food security, economic development, and mental and physiological health.
  2. Stewardship: Advance responsible and sustainable management of the Arctic environment with an emphasis on maintaining healthy ecosystems and addressing globally driven changes.
  3. Security: Strengthen regional, national, and international safety, as well as enhance risk management and emergency preparedness.
  4. Arctic-Global Systems: Improve understanding of the Arctic as a component of planet Earth.

Priority Areas

This plan identifies four priority areas which represent areas of broad, crosscutting research focus. They support one or more policy drivers, meet the mission and interests of more than one Federal agency, and engage multiple existing collaboration teams[20] and non-Federal partners. The priority areas of this plan exemplify complex socio-environmental interactions. Recognizing this, each of the priority areas identifies a broad goal which expresses the intended outcomes that will be realized from convergent research investments. Convergence research is investigation driven by a specific and compelling research problem that requires deep integration across disciplines. In this plan, it focuses on complex and interconnected challenges that are rooted in societal needs. Convergence research grows from fundamental research questions; brings together knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines and world views; and advances new frameworks to produce usable outcomes and advance understanding.[21] The priority areas and goals include:

  1. Community Resilience and Health

Goal: Improve community resilience and well-being by strengthening research and developing tools to increase understanding of interdependent social, natural, and built systems in the Arctic.

  1. Arctic Systems Interactions

Goal: Enhance our ability to observe, understand, predict, and project the Arctic’s dynamic interconnected systems and their links to the Earth system.

  1. Sustainable Economies and Livelihoods

Goal: Observe and understand the Arctic’s natural, social, and built systems to promote sustainable economies and livelihoods.

  1. Risk Management and Hazard Mitigation

Goal: Secure and improve quality of life through research that promotes an understanding of disaster risk exposure, sensitivity to hazard, and adaptive capacity.

Priority Area 2 reflects where Federal research agency efforts have previously been centered. Research generated from Priority Area 2 will inform priority areas 1, 3, and 4.

Continuing to strengthen relationships among Federal agencies, as well as with Indigenous organizations and Indigenous Knowledge holders, Tribal governments, Alaska Native corporations, academia and non-Federal researchers, the state of Alaska, nonprofits, the private sector, and international entities and programs will be key to IARPC’s success in advancing the priority areas identified in this plan. Sustained engagement with partners is essential in ensuring that research is usable for resource management and decision making. Success will also require recognizing and addressing barriers to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in Arctic research.

Foundational Activities

In addition to identifying four priority areas, this plan builds upon five foundational activities. While many of the foundational activities are already supported by existing IARPC collaboration teams, they will now be formalized in the plan framework to better identify and link these activities to supporting, informing, and advancing each of the priority areas. They are critical to achieving the priority area goals identified in this plan and will remain foundational to Arctic research beyond the five-year duration of this plan.

Foundational activities include:

  1. Data Management
  2. Education, Training, and Capacity Building
  3. Monitoring, Observing, Modeling, and Prediction
  4. Participatory Research and Indigenous Leadership in Research
  5. Technology Innovation and Application

Figure 2: Framework for the Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026


This plan is developed to guide Federal research investments and collaboration but recognizes the importance of working with non-Federal entities across all sectors in achieving the plan's goals. This plan will be implemented through biennial implementation plans which will aim to align Federal resources and build collaborations with state, local, and Tribal authorities, research institutions, and nonprofit, private sector, and international organizations. The plan provides high-level implementation guidance to IARPC and measures of success. As with its predecessor, this plan will be implemented by collaboration teams that are open to anyone wishing to advance knowledge about the Arctic. Teams currently include members from Federal, state, academic, nonprofit, private sector, Indigenous, and international organizations. In addition to existing collaboration teams, four new priority area collaboration teams will be established with identified lead agencies.[22] The priority area teams will direct and coordinate activities to reach the plan goals and ensure coordination and collaboration across agencies and engage non-Federal partners.

[1] Indigenous, local, and/or other Arctic residents comprising a social unit with shared attributes including but not limited to customs, (cultural) identity, values, and a sense of place situated in a given geographical area. Communities may comprise a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action in specific geographical locations or settings (Green and Mercer, 2001).

[2] This list of entities is from the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, 2013. Throughout this document use of non-Federal partners refers to this list.

[3] Arctic Research and Policy Act Section 104:

[4] For more information, see the IARPC About Page: and IARPC Overview Document:

[5] Arctic Research and Policy Act Section 109:

[6] Well-being includes mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, cultural, and social health which fulfill needs of identity, purpose, and belonging (Tagalik, 2010). It is a concern for the individual, the collective community, and culture as well (Tagalik, 2015). Individual, tribal, and community wellbeing are inseparable in the Native worldview (Tagalik, 2010; Tagalik, 2015).

[7] Appendix A: Alignment of Priority Areas with USARC Goals Report

[8] Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad:

[9] Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.

[10] Emotional and psychological trauma from a history of colonization, assimilation, and political subjugation that is passed down generationally (Brave Heart et al., 2011).

U.S. Arctic Research Commission. Arctic Mental Health Working Group (AMHWG). 2017.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Understanding Historical Trauma when Responding to an Event in Indian Country. 2014.

[11] Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic:

[12] Executive Order 13647. Establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs. 2013.

[13] United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 2007.

[14] Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships. Reaffirmed in January 2021.

[15]108th Congress Public Law 199 [DOCID: f:publ199.108] [Page 118 STAT. 452], 2004.

[16] Appendix B: Overview of Engagement Process

[17] Appendix C: Policy Drivers Background Document

[18] National Security Presidential Directive 66: Arctic Region Policy 2009:

[19] National Strategy for the Arctic Region 2013:

[20] IARPC Collaboration Teams:

[21] National Science Foundation Definition of Convergence:

[22] Lead agencies are responsible for (1) identifying and defining objectives and helping develop the priority area chapter within the biennial implementation plans, (2) leading priority area teams during the implementation period and reporting on progress towards objectives and deliverables, (3) facilitating coordination between the priority area team and the relevant collaboration teams, (4) facilitating coordination and collaboration across agencies to meet goals and objectives, and (5) recommending updates to the biennial implementation plan as needed to address new or emerging concerns.