NSF Thoughts on International Arctic Collaboration: Challenges and Opportunities

Friday, February 12, 2016: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Marriott Balcony A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Kelly Falkner, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA
The rapid pace of environmental, ecologic and human system changes in the Arctic demand acceleration of research efforts to understand and address them.  International collaboration is needed since the magnitude of this challenge exceeds the resources of any one nation.  Fortunately, intensified research efforts of the International Polar Year and other recent activities provide numerous viable models of successful international collaboration in the Arctic to build upon. 

For Polar Programs at NSF, the International Polar Year of 2008-08 lead to more than a more than doubling of the percentage of our award investments having international engagement.  That engagement takes a wide variety of forms and has been sustained at over 50% since 2010.  We are committed to continuing and enhancing international engagement when and where it makes sense going forward. 

US agencies have redoubled efforts over recent years to coordinate US Arctic research through activities of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) that the NSF Director chairs and of the Arctic Research Commission. This includes public release of documents capturing research priorities. 

NSFs Arctic international engagement entails a variety of bi-lateral and multi-lateral arrangements for sharing logistics costs and access to facilities as well as intellectual partnerships. Such arrangements increasingly include collaboration with other US agencies as well. We recognize that international and interagency engagement can expand human resources of the small research community and often results in career-long collaborations and highly productive science outcomes.

A few recent examples that illustrate challenges and opportunities will be discussed. It is clear for that up front work to clarify expectations in the form of explicit agreements for complex projects is critical.  Data sharing remains one of the most significant challenges.  The Forum for Arctic Research Operators offers the promise of better melding international science and logistics planning in the future.

The Arctic Council has recognized the benefits of international science coordination since its inception.  At the Kiruna meeting in 2013, the Ministers declared that an Ad Hoc Task Force be convened to examine possibilities for enhancing science cooperation in the Arctic.  I have had the pleasure of heading up the US Delegation for that effort and will conclude my remarks with a summary of the status of that effort.