Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee Developing Five-Year Arctic Research Plan

The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) Principal Members met twice in 2011 to address an agenda that includes developing a five-year arctic research plan that will help federal agencies in implementing their arctic research programs. At their April meeting, Principal Members approved an outline for the research plan focusing on topics that will particularly benefit from multiagency collaboration. A draft of that plan was reviewed at the second Principal Members meeting in November 2011. During the following months, the IARPC staff, which includes staff members from ten Federal Agencies, refined the plan with participation from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, the Marine Mammal Commission, and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. A revised draft was sent to the Principal Members in February 2012 for agency review. The plan will be ready for public review in spring of 2012.

The draft research plan is based on a broad consensus in the national and international scientific communities that the most pressing scientific questions in the Arctic concern the consequences of rapid environmental change for ecosystems and societies. Diminishing sea ice cover is expected to have consequences for the global climate, diminishing ice sheets and glaciers will raise sea level, and thawing permafrost will impact infrastructure and may increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The draft five-year research plan considers changes in the physical environment, impacts on ecosystems, consequences for arctic inhabitants, and global consequences. It will focus attention on key questions concerning change in the cryosphere and address these questions in seven themes:

  • Sea ice and marine ecosystem studies;
  • Terrestrial ecosystem studies;
  • Atmospheric studies affecting energy flux;
  • Observing systems;
  • Regional climate models;
  • Adaptation tools for sustaining communities; and
  • Human health.

The period for public review of the draft plan will be announced in early spring 2012. The public review process is expected to last for one month, and to include a webcast question-and-answer session. The five-year research plan will be revised after public review and published during the summer of 2012. The IARPC staff will begin implementation of the plan in accordance with the Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984.

For a complete list of the IARPC Principal Members, please see:

The full notes from IARPC meetings are available at:

For further information about IARPC, please see: or contact Brendan P. Kelly (bkelly [at] Assistant Director, Polar Science, Office of Science and Technology Policy.