By: Fran Ulmer, USARC Chair, and John Farrell, USARC Executive Director

The U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) biennial "Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2013-2014 for the U.S. Arctic Research Program" recommends that U.S. scientific research focus on the following five major themes:

  1. Observe, understand, and respond to environmental change.
  2. Improve arctic human health.
  3. Understand natural resources.
  4. Advance civil infrastructure research.
  5. Assess indigenous languages, identities, and cultures.

Fran Ulmer, appointed Chair of the Commission by President Obama, released the report on 21 March 2013 at USARC's 100th meeting held in Bethel, Alaska, the hometown of fellow Commissioner Mary Ciuniq Pete, who was recently reappointed to another four-year term on the USARC. The meeting included presentations by University of Alaska researchers and by arctic residents from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of Alaska.

In releasing the report, Ulmer said, "Dramatic changes in the arctic environment, and the pace of resource development, combine to make it very important that public and private decision makers have access to relevant research, including timely and comprehensive information and a more thorough understanding of arctic ecosystems, resources, and infrastructure challenges. The Commission strives to be an effective link between the people who do the research and those who need the results."

Witness the Arctic | 2013 | Article | Image
USARC staff and commissioners outside the University of Alaska Kuskokwim campus during the March 2013 meeting in Bethel, Alaska. From left: Deputy Director Cheryl Rosa and Commissioners James McCarthy, Mary Ciuniq Pete, Fran Ulmer, Chair, and Warren Zapol. Image courtesy of John Farrell, USARC.

The Commission's research goals help shape the national Arctic Research Plan, the most recent version of which was released by the White House on 19 February 2013, found here. Implementation of this plan, developed by the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council, involves 12 teams from 14 federal agencies and non-federal partners, constituting over 250 individuals.

USARC's mission is to develop and recommend U.S. arctic research policy to the President and to Congress' and to build cooperative links in arctic research within the federal government—with arctic residents, the State of Alaska, researchers, and international partners. USARC provides useful information about recent events, conferences, research initiatives, and international news via its daily electronic newsletter, the "Arctic Update." Subscription to the newsletter and further information about USARC, its meetings, workshops, and resources are available here.

Summary of Recent USARC Activities

U.S. Arctic Research Commissioners and staff provide assistance to agencies, hold meetings, produce reports, and partner with other organizations that have similar goals of promoting and sharing scientific research on the Arctic. Here are some examples of recent activities.

  1. Released the biennial "Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2013-2014 for the US Arctic Research Program" at the 100th USARC meeting held in Bethel, Alaska, March 2013.
  2. Assisted the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), which recently released an interagency five-year Arctic Research Program Plan.
  3. Provided advice to the interagency working group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, which produced in March 2013 the report to President Obama titled, "Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic."
  4. Offered comments to the National Security Staff on the new National Strategy for the Arctic Region, which was released 10 May 2013.
  5. Improved the "Arctic Science Portal" on the USARC website.
  6. Supported two studies being conducted by the National Academies titled "Emerging Research Questions in the Arctic" and "Responding to Oil Spills in Arctic Marine Environments."
  7. Met jointly with the Canadian Polar Commission in Vancouver, Canada, and participated in the ArcticNet annual science meeting in December 2012.
  8. At the invitation of the USCG Commandant, Admiral Papp, USARC joined the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research.
  9. Gave invited talks at venues such as the IARPC Principals Meeting, the White House, Wakefield Symposium, Alaska Command, World Ocean Council, Arctic Parliamentarians, Pacific Northwest Economic Forum, Consortium for Ocean Leadership, and the European Institute.
  10. Continued work on the Alaskan Water and Sanitation Retrospective and participated on the State of Alaska's Steering Committee response to the Water and Sanitation Innovation request for proposals.
  11. Supported and served on the Steering Committee for the Northwest Arctic Borough's Workshop on Improving Local Involvement in Research.
  12. Supported and assisted with planning for a pilot implementation of Automatic Identification System (AIS) technology availability for local subsistence vessels in the Bering Strait.
  13. Participated on the Steering Committee/Workshop on Marine Debris in Cetaceans sponsored by the International Whaling Commission at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
  14. Supported ARCUS in sponsoring the 2013 Arctic Forum, titled "Arctic Change Research: U.S. Government Interagency Collaboration," at the AGU Science Policy Conference, in Washington D.C. on 25 June 2013.
  15. Planned the "5th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations," 16-18 July 2013 in Washington, D.C., to be co-hosted with the U.S. National Ice Center.
  16. Planned the 101st USARC meeting in Unalaska, Alaska, in late August, in conjunction with a meeting of the Alaska State Arctic Policy Commission.
  17. Continued to grow the readership of the daily "Arctic Update" electronic newsletter.