Study in Progress
Emerging Research Questions in the ArcticPolar Research Board
MeetingsEmerging Research Questions in the Arctic - 11/05/13
Statement of Task
This activity is designed to provide guidance on future research questions in the Arctic over the next 10-20 years, identifying the key scientific questions that are emerging in different realms of Arctic science and exploring both disciplinary realms (e.g., marine, terrestrial, atmosphere, cryosphere, social sciences, and health) and cross cutting realms (e.g., integrated systems science and sustainability science). Based on the emerging research questions, the study will also help identify research infrastructure needs (e.g., observation networks, computing and data management, ship requirements, shore facilities, etc.) and collaboration opportunities. Attention will be given to assessing needs where there may be a mismatch between rates of change and the pace of scientific research. Although it is understood that there is no one answer, the committee is asked to explore how agency decision makers might achieve balance in their research portfolios and associated investments (e.g., what are some of the challenges of trying to do both problem-driven research and curiosity-driven research?). The goal is to guide future directions in U.S. Arctic research so that research is targeted on critical scientific and societal questions and conducted as effectively as possible. The study committee will:
- Briefly summarize the rationale for continued U.S. research in the Arctic, including how climate change, together with other stressors, stands to affect the region in the coming decades and how changes in the Arctic region will affect other parts of the world.
- Identify, incorporating community input, the key scientific questions that are emerging in different realms of Arctic science, with attention to both disciplinary realms (e.g., marine, terrestrial, atmosphere, cryosphere, social sciences, health) and cross cutting realms (e.g., integrated systems science and sustainability science). As possible, discuss or indicate a general sense of priority within the primary areas.
- Identify the types of research infrastructure, data management, technological developments, and logistical support needed to facilitate the research and monitoring efforts that are needed to address the key scientific questions, including discussion of possible approaches to sustain long-term observations in the Arctic.
- Identify needs and opportunities for improved coordination in Arctic research among the different U.S. federal and state agencies and for improved international collaboration in Arctic research.
- Explore how agency decision makers might balance their research programs and associated investments (e.g., balancing work done to respond to urgent global change concerns versus work to advance fundamental knowledge and discovery,). In other words, what are some of the challenges of trying to do both problem-driven research and curiosity-driven research? Does this balance differ among agencies? Between federal and state agencies?
 To provide some boundary on the committee?s discussion of emerging research questions related to health, the committee will focus its consideration on potential health issues related to environmental or climate change.
 The concept of priorities varies based on audience. That is, different factors are important to different audiences (importance to Arctic residents, to global population, to the science community attempting to understand the global climate system, or to decision makers working on economic development). In this study, the committee will consider the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) to be the primary audience for its report. The intent is not to provide a literal ranking of research priorities but to provide some scale by which recipients of the report can better judge importance or time-relevance among the identified questions.