ARCSS October 1999 ARCSS Committee Meeting

Sunday, 24 October 1999 to Monday, 25 October 1999
Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Committee (AC) met in Virginia Beach, VA, on 24-25 October 1999, following the Ocean-Air-Ice Interactions (OAII) All-Hands Meeting. A listing of participants at the AC Meeting follows this summary of the meeting.


The AC provides guidance to the ARCSS Program and acts as a liaison between the program and the arctic research community. At their 1999 meeting, the AC assessed progress on two evolving research agendas in ARCSS:

  1. Interactions between global and arctic systems; and,
  2. Assessments of the effects of global changes on Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.

The following people briefed the AC:

  1. Jamie Morison on Study of the Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH).
  2. Lou Codispoti on Western Arctic Shelf-Basin Interactions (SBI),
  3. Fae Korsmo on NSF Education Programs,
  4. Mike Ledbetter on ARCSS, Biocomplexity, Long-term Observatories, and Human Dimensions of the Arctic System (HARC).
  5. Mark Serreze on the role of SEARCH and SBI in contributing to the goals of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Arctic Climate System Study (ACSYS) and Cryosphere and Climate (CLIC) initiatives.

In light of these briefings, the AC discussed ideas for improving extrapolation, integration, and prediction in the ARCSS program, developed action items to advance the evolving research agenda, particularly in light of relevant programs now developing, such as SEARCH, and outlined follow-up action items on the initiatives developed at the 1998 meeting:

  1. PARCS/LAII integration,
  2. Hydrology;
  3. Post-doctoral support for integrative modeling.

ARCSS Committee Meeting Summary and Action Items


Study of the Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) is a broad new initiative that offers excellent opportunities for integration across components of ARCSS. For SEARCH to have an effective integrating role, it is essential to identify hypothesized connections between the observed pattern of ocean and atmospheric conditions that form the core of SEARCH and the physical, natural, and social components of systems under study in the other ARCSS initiatives. The AC developed a consensus on the relationship of SEARCH to the existing ARCSS Program and its components, as follows:

  • SEARCH is best seen as an ARCSS-wide initiative rather than an OAII initiative (Lou Codispoti, chair of the OAII Science Steering Committee (SSC) agrees).
  • The AC should be involved in the development and implementation of SEARCH.
  • The AC should coordinate the involvement of ARCSS component SSCs in SEARCH. The first step is to ask SSCs to identify hypothesized connections between the core pattern of ocean-atmospheric conditions under study in SEARCH and physical, natural, and social systems under study in each other initiative (e.g. within SBI, ATLAS, PARCS, HARC, SHEBA, RAISE)
  • SEARCH and SBI are now discussed as contributing programs in the ACSYS Implementation Plan and the CLIC Science and Coordination plan (see The goal of this effort is to foster better international coordination with SEARCH activities.
  1. ACTION: The AC will alert all SSCs to opportunities presented by SEARCH, ask them to review the draft science plan, and to provide a set of hypotheses to be incorporated in the SEARCH science plan.
  2. ACTION: Ask Jamie to notify community via Arctic Info announcement when the draft plan science plan is ready for the entire arctic community to review.


Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE) is a new NSF initiative, which includes both ongoing programs and focused initiatives designed to foster research and education on the complex interdependencies among the elements of specific environmental systems and interactions of different types of systems. For example, the ARCSS Program, as part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is described as an ongoing program under Biocomplexity in the Environment. Three overlapping and interactive categories of research activity describe NSF¹s ongoing efforts related to environmental sciences:

  • Global and Environmental Change,
  • Environment and the Human Dimension, and
  • Biodiversity and Ecosystems Dynamics.

In addition to the ongoing Biocomplexity programs, the Director of NSF is spearheading new initiatives in Biocomplexity (note that this is new money, not a reallocation of money). In FY 99, the Biocomplexity initiative (total $11 million) focused on the role of microorganisms in complex systems. In FY 2000, NSF is expected to develop a focused Biocomplexity initiative to improve understanding of the complex interdependencies among living organisms and the environments that affect, sustain, and are modified by them. The multidisciplinary biocomplexity initiative will emphasize enhancing analytical and predictive capabilities in the study of environmental systems. $50 million for the Biocomplexity initiative was included in the FY2000 Congressional appropriation for NSF. For more information on Biocomplexity in the Environment, see the NSF web site

Many ARCSS questions lend themselves to the biocomplexity theme. To highlight two at widely different scales:

  • Under what conditions do changes in Arctic freshwater significantly alter climates of sub-Arctic sea regions, thereby affecting world fisheries and other key components of natural and social systems?
  • What are the contributions of climate change and contaminants to pathologies in animals harvested by Native subsistence hunters?

This major new initiative complements the already ongoing ARCSS system science approach and offers another good opportunity for integration and filling in research gaps in the ARCSS program; for example, understanding of basic biological processes at multiple levels (biocomplexity) may be important to problems of global change and societal impacts.

  1. ACTION: The AC will provide the ARCSS community with a "heads-up" in addition to the forthcoming formal announcement expected early in the new year. The AC will encourage communication with investigators not in ARCSS who might be potential biocomplexity collaborators.
  2. ACTION: The AC will ask SSCs (HARC, LAII, OAII, PARCS, RAISE, SBI, SHEBA) for two pages each that link their active research projects with the biocomplexity theme and identify ways in which the biocomplexity approach can complement their work. Jack will ask Tom Weingartner to write up example of SBI that he gave during the AC meeting to help communicate what we mean.


The proposals submitted in response to the February 1999 HARC Announcement of Opportunity (AO) were relatively few, and most lacked sufficient integration across disciplines. The AC agreed that a substantial investment was often needed early in the development of HARC proposals to enable productive collaborations among natural and social scientists focused on appropriate questions related to ARCSS/global change issues:

  1. This investment includes time and resources needed for potential collaborators to identify key questions and to learn about unfamiliar bodies of literature, research approaches, etc.; and
  2. Effective interdisciplinary integration requires focused and iterative discussions among collaborators and communities on each facet of a single project idea.

The need for this "up front" commitment of resources makes the development of effective HARC proposals especially challenging.

  1. ACTION: The AC recommends the formation of a HARC science steering committee. The HARC SSC would work with NSF to find workable strategies for improving the development of proposals. Recognizing that there are special problems in matching natural scientists and social scientists for specific HARC research questions, the AC would like the HARC SSC to consider ways to:
  • Facilitate identification of scientists with expertise relevant to specific questions,
  • Support interaction on specific questions. Natural scientists have "tools" potentially relevant to social problems/questions (and vice versa). Perhaps use workshop approach to match these, and
  • Support an appropriate phased proposal process to first identify relevant questions, methods, and potential collaborators, and then allow for longer-term planning, technical and methods development, and team building prior to submission of full proposals.


Science education, research-education partnerships, and public outreach are seen as increasingly important at NSF. Education and outreach efforts will now be part of the metric used to evaluate NSF programs and PIs. Many resources are available for assistance with the development and implementation of science education programs and outreach activities, but are not well-known to the ARCSS community.

  1. ACTION: The AC will highlight this issue and ask ARCSS investigators to include all information on education and outreach efforts in their annual progress reports.
  2. ACTION: The AC recommends further development of the education resource bank maintained by ARCUS, including:
  • Contact information for potential collaborators for research-education projects,
  • Teachers Experiencing the Arctic (TEA) alumni,
  • Existing networks/resources,
  • Information on examples of outreach/ education activities
  1. ACTION: The AC recommends that science management offices reserve some funds to do public outreach--e.g., press conferences in Washington, D.C., when important publications come out.
  2. ACTION: The AC recommends that NSF-ARCSS sponsor a workshop, under AC and ARCUS leadership, to develop a focus, strategy, and collaborations for an ARCSS-wide science education initiative to be proposed to NSF's Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate. This initiative would be designed to foster scientific integration across ARCSS and inclusion of ARCSS research at the K-12, undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral, and community education levels.

Data management

Some AC members have encountered problems with current data management services. The AC has no basis for knowing if these are isolated or widespread problems.

  1. ACTION: Jack Kruse will ask Roger Barry, Director of NSIDC, if he thinks a survey of the community on use of ARCSS data management services would be useful. If so, Jack will offer the AC's assistance.


The SIMS program seeks to link ARCSS research components through synthesis, integration, and modeling. The development of effective SIMS proposals involves difficulties much like those discussed for HARC. Effective integration and collaboration takes time and communication to be thoroughly realized.

Examples of this process are underway: since the 1998 AC meeting, LAII, PARCS, and RAISE investigators have made progress in addressing hemispheric to regional-scale climate dynamics (1 proposal in progress) and continental-scale arctic hydrology (1 funded proposal).

PARCS/LAII: Following a recommendation made at the 1998 AC meeting, members of the LAII and PARCS community met in March 1998 to discuss opportunities for integrating studies of current processes and paleoenvironmental research. This meeting led to a draft proposal for a workshop to bring the two communities together to further define key questions and research priorities.

  1. ACTION: The AC recommends that Terry Chapin (LAII SSC chair) and Mary Edwards (PARCS SSC co-chair) take the lead in revising and submitting the draft workshop proposal as a SIMS proposal.
  2. ACTION: The AC recommends that NSF-ARCSS sponsor the proposed workshop to involve a broader community of PARCS/LAII investigators to develop synthesis and integration approaches between paleoenvironmental and contemporary process studies.

Hydrology: At its 1998 meeting the AC recommended that ARCSS sponsor a workshop to identify research gaps in understanding the relationship of changes in the Arctic hydrologic system, particularly freshwater budgets, to changes in global thermohaline and climate systems. The products of this workshop are likely to contribute to the development of the SEARCH initiative as well as new SIMS proposals. Investigators contacted in 1998 to assist with this effort are still interested.

  1. ACTION: The AC recommends that Charles Vörösmarty, in collaboration with the SEARCH SSC, proceed with development of a proposal for a community workshop on arctic hydrology, with an emphasis on identifying contemporary arctic hydrological changes that will contribute to the arctic system understanding that SEARCH is aiming for.
  2. ACTION: The AC recommends that NSF-ARCSS sponsor the proposed workshop to involve investigators from several disciplines to evaluate current understanding of the relationships between arctic freshwater cycles and the global climate system, highlight uncertainties and important linkages, and identify priority research areas.

Achieving ARCSS Integration Goals: At its 1998 meeting, the AC agreed that improving the community's expertise in integrated modeling will help to achieve better integration in ARCSS. The development of an improved modeling capability will require communication among ARCSS investigators to define appropriate modeling problems and inclusion of a new cohort of investigators in the ARCSS community. Targeted post-doctoral support in modeling was discussed as one mechanism to develop a cohort of well-trained interdisciplinary modelers. The implementation of a specific post-doctoral fellowship program is difficult, however. This type of post-doctoral support would be unusual at NSF, and the program needs investments in time for discussion, collaboration, and integration by the arctic research community to identify appropriate questions and approaches, as discussed above for HARC and SIMS.

Developing a successful integrative modeling effort through post-doctoral support remains an important ARCSS goal. PIs should be encouraged to submit SIMS proposals that include post-doc support as well as a component to facilitate integrative involvement of the post-docs across ARCSS projects and components (for example, by co-sponsoring the post-doc with an ARCSS PI from another component). As an example, the SIMS project on the PanArctic Water Balance included postdoc and grad student training. These postdocs and students were exposed to interdisciplinary thinking, mathematical modeling, and problem solving as the different research groups met to link the big picture together. Such student and postdoc involvement in ARCSS research is contributing to the development of young Earth and Arctic System Scientists.

  1. ACTION: The AC will encourage the ARCSS community to include post-doctoral support in SIMS proposals.

To stimulate development of SIMS proposals in the longer term, a concise statement of integrative issues not being addressed should be available to the community. As a mechanism toward:

  1. Improving integration across ARCSS components
  2. Defining appropriate questions for interdisciplinary modelers to address, and
  3. Including young investigators in the ARCSS community,

the AC at its 1999 meeting recommended that we plan an ARCSS All-Hands workshop to take place in 2001. The purpose of the All-Hands meeting would be to develop strategies for bridging identified gaps in the integration of ARCSS research.

  1. ACTION: AC members agreed to make a systematic effort to identify gaps in ARCSS research aimed at integration across components (i.e., compare work recommended in science plans to work proposed or funded, looking specifically for questions appropriate for an interdisciplinary modeling approach).
  2. ACTION: The AC will ask SSCs to review and comment on the AC's draft of gaps in integrating ARCSS research in the context of existing science plans and the development of proposed and funded projects and with the perspective of the projects or components in which they are involved.
  3. ACTION: The AC will take a lead role in organizing the next All-Hands workshop around these identified gaps in integration of ARCSS research. The AC recommends substantial provisions for the involvement of grad students and post-docs in the meeting by providing funding for travel and special sessions (both scientific and program planning) for the contributions of young investigators.

Other issues:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change draft assessment may benefit from a broader review by arctic community.

  1. ACTION: The AC will encourage the community to review the current document using an Arctic Info announcement.