Arctic organisations

International Arctic Science Committee (IASC)

IASC is a non-governmental organisation which encourages, facilitates and promotes cooperation in all aspects of Arctic research in all countries engaged in Arctic research and in all areas of the Arctic region. Founded in 1990 by representatives of the eight Arctic countries, there are now 24 members, including the United Kingdom (1996).

IASC’s responsibilities include:

  • initiating new scientific activities, especially large-scale, multi-year programmes, such as MOSAiC
  • providing rigorous and independent scientific advice
  • promoting the best and most open access to data and research
  • supporting the development of international cooperation

Decisions are taken by the IASC Council which meets annually, usually in conjunction with the Arctic Science Summit Week. The UK is represented at Council meetings by the Head of the NERC Arctic Office, Henry Burgess, who was elected to the IASC presidency in 2022 for a four year term.

There are five Working Groups which encourage and support science-led international programmes by offering opportunities for planning and coordination, and by facilitating communication and access to infrastructure. UK membership is determined by the NERC Arctic Office after open competition.

The UK’s representatives in the Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Marine, Social and Human and Terrestrial Working Groups have produced short summaries of the discussions and decisions at this year’s Arctic Science Summit Week in Vienna. The reports are now available here.

The UK representatives are:

Atmosphere Working Group

  • Stephen Arnold, University of Leeds
  • Jo Browse, University of Exeter

Cryosphere Working Group

  • Richard Essery, University of Edinburgh
  • Kelly Hogan, British Antarctic Survey

Marine Working Group

  • Andrew Brierley, University of St Andrews
  • Mark Inall, Scottish Association for Marine Science

Social and Human Development Working Group

  • Ingrid Medby, Newcastle University
  • James Ford, Priestly International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds

Terrestrial Working Group

  • Mary Edwards, University of Southampton
  • Bob Baxter, Durham University


I Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is the intergovernmental forum responsible for cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. The Members are: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States. In addition, six organisations representing Arctic indigenous peoples have status as Permanent Participants.

The United Kingdom is one of the original (1998) four Observers to the Council, which has now grown to 13. Observer engagement is mostly through participation by specialists in the Working Groups: Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP); Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP); Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF);  Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR); Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME); and Sustainable Development (SDWG)

There are also two Task Forces operating during the Chairmanship of Finland (2017-2019): Arctic Marine Cooperation (TFAMC) and Improved Connectivity in the Arctic (TFICA), in addition to one Expert Group: in support of implementation of the Framework for Action on Black Carbon and Methane (EGBCM)

In addition to regular assessments and recommendations as a result of the analysis by the Working Groups, the Council has also been a forum for the negotiation of three legally binding Agreements among the eight Arctic States: Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic (2011); Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (2013) and Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation (2017).

The United Kingdom is represented at the high-level meetings of the Council by FCO officials. Engagement at the working level is supported by the NERC Arctic Office wherever possible. There is significant attention and cooperation to ensure that UK-based researchers are able to benefit from the actions that are expected to follow from the most recent Agreement on scientific cooperation.

Forum of Arctic Research Operators (FARO)

The role of FARO is to facilitate and optimise logistics and operational support for scientific research in the Arctic. The forum encourages international collaboration for all those involved in Arctic research. It acts as a forum for information exchange, establishment of cooperation and development of new ideas among the national logistics operators in countries with Arctic research activities. The FARO website contains useful details of operators, stations, vessels and other Arctic infrastructure. There is an annual meeting and the UK’s national representative has so far come from the British Antarctic Survey in recognition of their role in providing polar logistics.