The Age of the Arctic

Last month, ARCUS held its annual membership meeting in Washington DC, along with a face-to-face Board meeting and retreat, all in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Science Policy Conference 2012. AGU very generously encouraged us to include the Arctic Forum in that venue, with an emphasis on emerging arctic policy. Our interest and involvement in policy recognizes the changing Arctic, which produces multiple needs and challenges. Since our members for the most part are academic institutions, our focus is primarily on the scientific information needed to inform strategy and policy.

Increasing activity, plans for oil and mineral extraction, increased marine transportation, and the emergence of an ever-growing international arena are all factors raising multiple issues of safety, sovereignty, and impacts on coastal communities. Only one aspect, military presence in the support of U.S. arctic research, has decreased since I started looking at arctic policy in the 1980s. In the present environment it is critical that policy decisions be made using the best possible scientific information; this creates an expanded need for research and effective communication of the results. Furthermore, this information must be available freely with no restrictions. This is not only needed for decisions on various issues, but is needed for the scientific work itself. Science is an iterative process. It builds on the existing state of knowledge and increases and refines it as new information emerges. Therefore, access and discussion is absolutely essential to scientific progress. ARCUS, as an academic research-based organization, has a large role and responsibility in this regard.

— Vera Alexander
     President, ARCUS Board of Directors