ARCUS is composed of Institutional Members—including global universities, research institutes, government-affiliated organizations, indigenous groups, and corporations—with interests in Arctic research, along with non-voting Individual Members. The organization's mission is to serve as a "catalyst for interdisciplinary thinking, acting, and education leading to the development of highly collaborative partnerships." A 14-member Board oversees the affairs of the corporation. The Members' Council elects 12 Board members to three-year terms. Four seats are open for reelection each year. Board members may be reelected for additional terms. The Board elects its chair, who also serves as President of the Corporation, for a two-year term. The Executive Director of ARCUS also sits on the Board as an ex-officio member.
ARCUS receives its income from members' dues, other organizations, and several federal agencies. ARCUS has undertaken a variety of projects through a cooperative agreement with, and grants from, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and contracts with the National Park Service, the Alaska Federation of Natives, and the National Fish and Wildlife Service.
In its governance of the corporation, the ARCUS Board has addressed a number of issues key to its members' interests. ARCUS' efforts to improve the national recognition and support of Arctic research include formal and informal education, liaison with other national polar research entities, working with government agencies, providing a central point of contact for inquiries, facilitating community science planning efforts, and disseminating information through reports, a newsletter, and the ARCUS website.
ARCUS does not have Board seats designated for particular disciplines or areas. The primary qualification is an interest in and commitment to Arctic research and education and a willingness to commit time and effort to developing and promoting ARCUS' programs. The Council does try to maintain a broad disciplinary, geographic, and international mix. Board membership is not restricted to people from member institutions; non-members can hold up to three Board seats.
Board members are instrumental in identifying, evaluating, and promoting new initiatives that significantly advance our scientific understanding of the Arctic. Individual Arctic researchers or institutions may put these initiatives forward, but the Board is also pivotal in seeking out such initiatives from ARCUS members. In so doing, Board members play a major role in fulfilling ARCUS' bridging function of translating broad scientific goals into implementation.
The primary job responsibilities of the Board are to:
- Hold fiduciary responsibility for the corporation;
- Create and serve on committees of the Board;
- Actively work to develop broader program, membership, and funding support for ARCUS activities;
- Promote the interests of its member institutions and the larger Arctic research community by taking positions on and promulgating position statements about important issues related to Arctic science;
- Identify opportunities for new initiatives and collaborations in the Arctic community in research, dissemination, and education;
- Advocate for funding to support community initiatives;
- Assist the research community in liaison with indigenous communities in the North; and
- Promote, articulate, and advocate a vision of Arctic research and its contribution to society.
A formal description of the Board powers, drawn from the Bylaws, follows:
Article IV, Section 1. Powers. The Board of Directors is charged with governance and oversight of the affairs, powers, funds and property of the Corporation, except as otherwise provided by law or by these Bylaws. To this end and without limitation of the foregoing or of the Board's powers expressly conferred by these Bylaws, the Board shall have power to authorize others to act on behalf of the Corporation, to make rules and regulations for the Corporation's management, to create such additional offices or committees as it deems appropriate, and to select, employ or remove such of its agents or employees as it shall deem best.