Second Phase of SAON Underway

The Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) initiative has now begun a second phase, and the Arctic Council (AC) together with the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the World Meteorological Organization have formed a steering group (SAON SG) to lead its development.
Formed in response to the AC's 2006 Salekhard Declaration, SAON is aimed at advancing multinational engagement in developing sustained and coordinated pan-arctic observing and data sharing systems that serve societal needs, particularly related to environmental, social, economic, and cultural issues.
In the first phase of the initiative, a SAON Initiating Group (IG) composed of representatives of international organizations and agencies and northern residents involved in research and observing was formed to solicit information and advice contributing to recommendations on achieving SAON goals. In 2007 and 2008, the SAON IG held a series of workshops to develop the recommendations and provide an opportunity for the arctic observing community to meet and contribute experience and expertise to the process. Participants addressed five key questions:

  • What arctic observing sites, systems, and networks (activities) currently exist?
  • What spatial, temporal, and disciplinary gaps exist?
  • How will gaps be filled and the entire effort sustained?
  • How are these activities coordinated and integrated?
  • How is free, open, and timely access to be achieved?

Published in December 2008, Observing the Arctic: Report of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) Initiating Group is derived from these discussions and makes four recommendations, which are summarized here:

  • The AC should lead the facilitation of international collaboration among government agencies, researchers, and northern residents, especially indigenous people at the community level, to ensure a sustainable pan-arctic observing system.
  • The governments of the AC member states should commit to: sustaining their current level of observing activities and data and information services and make efforts to increase the scope of those activities in the future; and creating a dissemination protocol to make data and information freely, openly, and easily accessible in a timely fashion at a minimal cost to users.
  • Arctic states are urged to increase intergovernmental cooperation in coordinating and integrating arctic observing activities and associated data and information management. Each arctic state is encouraged to create a national agency to coordinate their arctic observing—these agencies will form the basis for increased intergovernmental cooperation.
  • Since arctic issues are of global concern, AC member states are urged to welcome non-arctic states and international organizations as partners in the intergovernmental cooperation that will be necessary to sustain and improve arctic observing capacity and information services.

Second Phase
In response to the AC's April 2009 Tromsø Declaration and building on the report recommendations, the second phase of SAON was initiated with the formation of the SAON SG in June 2009. The SAON SG consists of representatives of the eight arctic countries, AC permanent participants and working groups, IASC, and the World Meteorological Organization—it is co-chaired by John Calder (AC Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme [AMAP]) and David Hik (IASC).
The goal of the SAON SG is to identify and implement steps to improve coordination and integration of arctic observing activities, and to promote sharing and synthesis of data and information. To accomplish this goal, the SAON SG interacts with people who use observing data; operate observing sites, systems, and networks; and provide data and information services to promote communication, cooperation, and coordination between all parties. The SAON SG also works with governments to advocate for the resources necessary to sustain and increase arctic observing activities and to encourage intergovernmental cooperation in arctic observing.
The SAON SG has developed a work plan and set priorities for its activities between now and April 2011, when AC ministers are scheduled to meet in Greenland. Priorities of the plan include:

  • developing an inventory of existing networks;
  • identifying needs, gaps, and opportunities for improving data access and sharing;
  • improving linkages between community-based and science-based monitoring; and
  • facilitating coordination and integration among activities supported by national agencies.

The SAON SG is sponsoring a workshop to ascertain the views and support of agencies currently involved in arctic observing activities. The meeting will be held on 18–19 March 2010 during the State of the Arctic Conference in Miami, Florida (pages 1–2), and will focus on defining benefits from and ways to accomplish improved coordination and collaboration in funding and performing arctic observations.
For more information, see or contact Odd Rogne (AMAP), Lars-Otto Reiersen (AMAP), or Volker Rachold (IASC) at the SAON Secretariat (