All the Arctic Rim nations and a growing number of non-Arctic nations (e.g. UK, Germany, Italy, France, China, Japan) operate regular Arctic research programmes. In the United States various agencies funding polar research (e.g. National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) have combined to develop large scale programmes such as the pan-Arctic scale SEARCH (Study of Environmental Arctic Change) whilst Europe has funded shorter term but substantial Arctic projects such as DAMOCLES (Developing Arctic Modelling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term Environmental Studies).
A large number of international science initiatives in the Arctic have emerged in recent decades and these include coordinating organisations such as:
- the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC),
- the Arctic Ocean Science Board (AOSB),
- the International Permafrost Association (IPA),
- the Pacific Arctic Group (PAG) and
- the Forum of Arctic Research Operators (FARO) which addresses logistical issues.
There have also been various international research programmes such as the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) and the International Study of Arctic Change (IARC) as well as observing programmes such as the International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP) which feed into the global scale World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), part of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Other recently funded EU coordination projects include ICE-ARC and EU-PolarNet
The International Polar Year 2007-2008 brought a significant momentum to polar science, highlighting the rapid rate of change in the Arctic and its substantial impact both regionally and globally. The IPY illustrated the value of international scale activities to address large scale Arctic issues and demonstrated that more international approaches to funding research were possible. The legacies of IPY includes the perceived need for better international coordination of long term Arctic research which has been manifested in a restructured IASC organisation. IASC and the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) are recognised by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) as the two leading coordination bodies for the Polar Regions.
A further legacy is seen as the development of observing platforms to develop a Pan-Arctic view of a rapidly changing region. This has been manifested in major observational platforms such the US funded Arctic Observing Network (AON), the Canadian Arctic-Net programme and European contributions such as:
- ACCESS (Arctic Climate Change, Economy and Society)
- SIOS (Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System)
- INTERACT (International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic).
- ICE-ARC (Ice,Climate, Economics – Arctic Research on Change)
These various initiatives are now proposed to be nested beneath a “network of networks” initiative, created by the Arctic Council as the Sustained Arctic Observing Network (SAON), which is intended to bring a fully international pan-Arctic level of coordination to the region.
To view a list of current UK and EU projects with UK involvement, please go to: http://www.arctic.ac.uk/research/uk-arctic-projects/