In the early 1990s, as IASC became fully operational, three developments converged to highlight the value of planning for the conduct of Arctic science. First, the end of the cold war and the emergence of a spirit of regional cooperation in the Arctic (reflected in the launching of the AEPS as well as the establishment of IASC itself) opened up the prospect of substantive cooperation between western and Russian scientists interested in the circumpolar north. Second, the onset of the era of ‘big science’ with research projects involving collaboration among larger groups of scientists and research institutes placed a premium on the development of effective coordination mechanisms. And third, the realization that the Arctic is a dynamic region subject to rapid and often non-linear changes in both biophysical and socioeconomic terms provided new impetus for conducting coordinated observations in an effort to understand the behavior of Arctic systems. 

IASC took the initiative early on to address this need, beginning with an effort on the part of the Executive Committee to develop a Science Agenda for the organization and moving forward at the 1994 annual meeting to approve an initial agenda focusing on four broad themes: (1) impacts of global change on the Arctic region and its peoples; (2) Arctic processes of relevance to global systems; (3) natural processes within the Arctic; and, (4) sustainable development in the Arctic. This meeting also generated the idea that it would be useful to convene a larger international planning conference to provide a roadmap for all those engaging in or desiring to engage in research on Arctic topics that would contribute to common themes and produce more robust findings. The US NSF, with proactive leadership on the part of Bob Corell and Pat Webber, rose to the occasion and provided generous finan02IASC Initiatives00cial backing for this initiative. Thus was born the idea of organizing the first International Conference on Arctic Research Planning (ICARP) at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA from 5 to 9 December 1995.

IASC proceeded to appoint a Program Steering Committee for this effort, which included representatives from Russia, Europe, and North America, from both Arctic and non-Arctic states, and from the community of indigenous peoples. The committee took charge of preparations for ICARP I, meeting several times in advance of the conference, making organizational decisions, and working actively with those who served as leaders of the working groups that became the major vehicles for fulfilling the goals of the conference. In all, ten working groups emerged, each guided by one or more coordinators. Each working group prepared a draft science agenda in advance of the conference, refined the agenda during a week-long effort at the conference itself, and prepared a revised plan in the aftermath of the conference. An eleventh theme, dealing with rapid cultural change, emerged during the conference, an indication of the growth of interest in the human dimensions of Arctic systems.

More than 250 scientists, including 33 from Russia, attended the week-long conference in Hanover. This group was notable both for its diversity and for the strong sense of community that pervaded the meeting. The working groups focused, for the most part, on substantive themes that provided opportunities for scientists representing different disciplines to join forces to design research activities of common interest. A strong theme within the group centered on the linkages between development in the Arctic and broader concerns about global environmental change then emerging as a prominent topic in the international science community.

The participants in the conference, under the leadership of the Program Steering Committee, produced two documents: an Executive Summary and a Final Report on the work of ICARP I entitled “Arctic Systems: Natural Environments, Human Actions, and Nonlinear Processes.” The Final Report1contains the report of the Conference Chair (Oran Young of the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dart-mouth) as well as reports of the Working Groups on: (1) Effects of Increased Ultraviolet Radiation in the Arctic; (2) Regional Cumulative Impacts—Barents Sea; (3) Regional Cumulative Impacts—Bering Sea; (4) Mass Balance of Arctic Glaciers and Ice Sheets; (5) Terrestrial Ecosystems and Feedbacks on Climate Change; (6) Arctic Marine/Coastal/Riverine Systems; (7) Disturbance and Recovery of Terres-trial Ecosystems; (8) Dynamics of Arctic Populations and Ecosystems; (9) Sustainable Use of Living Re-sources; and, (10) Environmental and Social Impacts of Industrialization on the Arctic.

A few general observations on the work of ICARP I will help to put this effort in perspective. The title of the final report captured several of the major themes running through the ICARP I process. Al-though natural scientists dominated the work of IASC at the time, the conference drew attention both to the role of anthropogenic drivers of large-scale developments in the region and to the im-pacts of biophysical processes on the well-being of humans living in the Arctic. The result was an effort to enhance collaboration between natural and social scientists, an effort that has become an increas-ingly prominent feature of Arctic research with the passage of time. The report also emphasized the importance of nonlinear processes affecting Arctic systems. At the time, concepts that have become influential recently, such as tipping elements and tipping points, planetary boundaries, and the idea of the Anthropocene were not familiar. But there was an awareness of the importance of rapid and often turbulent change in what is now known as coupled socio-ecological systems. In an important sense, ICARP I not only provided an opportunity for groups of scientists to design coordinated research initia-tives, it also helped to move Arctic science onto the cutting edge of the broader effort to increase our understanding of the dynamics of the Earth System.

It is difficult to measure the success or the effectiveness of an event like ICARP I. But there are at least three dimensions by which it is possible to assess the success of the conference. To begin with, ICARP I provided IASC with a programmatic identity. In the wake of the conference, it was much easier to specify where IASC fit in the expanding collection of efforts to foster cooperation in the Arctic. ICARP I also helped strengthen the links between Arctic science and global science. In the intervening years, it has become clear that the Arctic is experiencing large-scale changes (e.g., the recession of sea ice) that are more dramatic than those occurring on other parts of the planet. While clear-cut documentation of this phenomenon would take another decade, ICARP I put Arctic science on track to document key changes as they unfolded. And third, ICARP I played an important role in stimulating a sense of community among scientists working on Arctic issues. What saw its start at the December 1988 Leningrad meeting became a reality in Hanover in December 1995.

Another way of measuring the success of ICARP I would be to compare the “List of IASC Projects” with the ten conference working group reports, which shows that nine of the reports have resulted in an approved IASC project . Some reports have also inspired the initiation of related projects.In the final analysis, the value of ICARP I is reflected in the decision to repeat this exercise on a decadal scale. ICARP II took place in Copenhagen in 2005; it is expected that ICARP III is being organized for 2015.

Source: IASC after 25 Years, A Quarter of a Century of International Arctic Research Cooperation


ICARP I Final Report - Executive Summary - Arctic Systems: Natural Environment, Human Actions, Nonlinear Processes


ICARP I Final Report - Full Report - Arctic Systems: Natural Environment, Human Actions, Nonlinear Processes


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