Evolution of the Arctic Forum in Times of Change
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"Times they are a-changing" would make a good theme song for the Arctic during the mid-twenty-first century. Changes, driven by global physical processes, have enormous political, social, and economic consequences within the arctic region. Until quite recently there was little interest in the Arctic. It was out there, perhaps exotic, perhaps worth studying for its own sake, but apart from strategic cold war considerations, not too important. One example of attitudes towards Alaskan studies was a review comment on a proposal submitted under NSF's Research for National Needs program approximately four decades ago. The proposal, a multidisciplinary study, would develop baseline information on Prince William Sound. Topics to be studied included: watershed, human populations, economics, biology, oceanography, etc. The proposal was not reviewed favorably—as one reviewer put it, "no one can be interested in this remote unimportant sea." A few years later the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred and there was no baseline information available for the Prince William Sound.
ARCUS was formed in response to this lack of concern. At first the mission was primarily advocacy and information and the organization had successes in these areas. There was also emphasis on creating an arctic research community. Today, we don't really need to push for arctic research, although we can and do help to steer it. Yet the need for education and information has never been greater.
The Annual Meetings of the corporation have always been held in Washington D.C. For several years the occasion was used for member representatives and Board members to pay visits to congressional offices and also to visit agencies. The Arctic Forum was developed in conjunction with the Annual Meeting to bring together researchers, officials of NSF and other agencies, and educators. The first forum in conjunction with the Annual Meeting was held in 1994 and over the next few years the Forum was held during a portion of the meeting and preceded by a lunch speaker. An abstract volume was produced for the first time in 1998 and within a few years, the Forum had grown such that a larger venue was needed. Each year the Arctic Forum has attracted outstanding experts for the program, resulting in timely, state-of-the-art presentations.
This presence in D.C. became an important facet of ARCUS activities. The Forums had a packed hall and a lot of interest. Now, the Forum is undergoing a change once again. No Forum was held in 2009, 2010 or 2011, due to limited funds, although the State of the Arctic Conference held in Miami in the spring of 2010 fulfilled this function well. In 2012, however, ARCUS was able to join with the American Geophysical Union in hosting an Arctic Forum in conjunction with their Science Policy Conference in Washington D.C. This will happen once again 24-26 June 2013, with the Arctic Forum convening Tuesday, 25 June. This new partnership is allowing ARCUS to address scientific needs in support of policy, an ever-increasing need as the arctic physical and societal landscape changes. In this way, among others, ARCUS has evolved with the times.
— Vera Alexander
President, ARCUS Board of Directors