Jeffries was interviewed by Sara Bowden, Executive Secretary of IARPC for this article in August 2015



Dr. Martin Jeffries is the Arctic Science Advisor and Program Officer for Arctic and Global Prediction at the Office of Naval Research (ONR). He also serves as the chair of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee's (IARPC) Sea Ice Collaboration Team (SICT) and is on the IARPC Staff Group. He co-chaired the IARPC team leaders' meeting held in November 2014 in Washington, D.C., and was a leading contributor to the IARPC Arctic Research Plan: FY 2013-2017 and the Arctic components of the National Ocean Policy. In addition, he is the Principal Editor for the "Arctic Report Card," published annually online, and the Arctic chapter in the State of the Climate Report, published annually in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee consists of the principals from 16 agencies, departments, and offices across the Federal government, and is charged with enhancing both the scientific monitoring of, and research on, local, regional, and global environmental issues in the Arctic. In order to meet the Nation's economic, scientific, and environmental needs, IARPC envisions a prosperous, sustainable, and healthy Arctic understood through research coordinated among Federal agencies and domestic and international collaborators. IARPC Collaborations is the structure created by IARPC to implement its 5-Year Arctic Research Plan. The structure is organized around 12 topical collaboration teams. Many collaboration team activities involve establishing and enhancing inter-institutional and interdisciplinary conversations. Harnessing diverse talent requires broad participation and, therefore, all collaboration teams are open to the public through the IARPC Collaborations website.


Q. What is an IARPC collaboration team?

The twelve IARPC collaboration teams are responsible for implementing different topics and themes in the Arctic Research Plan. They do that primarily by addressing milestones. These milestones describe different activities on which we report periodically throughout the year. Progress on the milestones is reported annually to the IARPC principals, and the Arctic Executive Steering Committee which oversees the implementation of the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. Team membership is not exclusively Federal. Collaboration teams are open to any U.S.-based or international researcher who has an interest in the Arctic and who can contribute to the team and its reporting on the milestones. Non-Federal participation is a great part of the IARPC collaboration experiment.

Q: How can members of the non-Federal science and research community participate on collaboration teams?

At the core of IARPC Collaborations is the website. There is a public side and a password-protected member side. Much of the work of the collaboration teams goes on within the member side. Each team has its own page with membership, updates, documents, and milestones. Members can go into the website and write a milestone update, report on current research, share information and documents, or advertise an event, workshop, or activity. To get into the password protected side and become an IARPC member is easy. You must submit a brief application with your name, email, and research interest. This is reviewed by the web manager who then will help you become acquainted with the site. You can join as many teams as you wish. You will receive notices of team meetings, agendas, and webinars. Any collaboration team member may participate in the monthly meetings of the various teams and may connect to those meetings via teleconference and/or web link.

Q: Do IARPC collaboration teams make recommendations to Federal agencies related to research funding?

No. They cannot make recommendations. The Federal Advisory Committee Act has rules about making recommendations to Federal agencies. The IARPC collaboration teams are not about making recommendations but rather implementing the Arctic Research Plan.

Q: You chair the Sea Ice Collaboration Team (SICT). Can you describe some of the tasks of that team?

One of the main areas of focus has been the marginal ice zone, an area where the consolidated pack ice meets the open ocean and is subject to increasing exposure to waves and swells as the pack ice retreats during the summer. An improved understanding of the physics of atmosphere-ice-ocean-wave interactions is important to predicting how the system may change over time. The marginal ice zone work has been undertaken with a series of field campaigns carried out during the 2013 and 2014 field seasons. The goal of the program is to ultimately improve forecast and prediction models.

The SICT has also been implementing a number of remote sensing milestones. This has included the development of algorithms to merge multiple types of remotely sensed data so that we can derive geophysically useful information. A number of new results of these efforts are emerging. For example, as a result of the combined efforts of NASA, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), a merged MODIS-AMSR2 remote sensing sea ice edge product has been developed and assimilated into the Navy Arctic Cap Nowcast Forecast System (ACNFS) model to realize a significant improvement in ice edge forecasts. This effort is the result of IARPC collaborations bringing together Federal agencies and scientists to improve our forecasting capabilities.

Another key component of the SICT is Operation IceBridge, a NASA airborne campaign flying LIDARs and radars over the Arctic basin ice each spring. The data collected by Operation IceBridge will improve algorithms for deriving sea ice information from instruments aboard the CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 satellites; it literally bridges the gap between the ICESat-1 satellite and ICESat-2 leaving no gap in the long-term dataset.

The Sea Ice Prediction Network (SIPN), which is a co-funded effort of NSF, ONR, DOE, NOAA and NASA, brings together a large number of U.S. and overseas researchers who are focused on predicting sea ice primarily at the seasonal time scale. SIPN is one of IARPC's early successes. SIPN was able to get started quickly because IARPC Collaborations was already underway and the SICT was actively bringing together Federal program managers to discuss their projects and future plans. SIPN, which started in the summer 2013, is a good example of how a collaboration team can work at the Federal program level to do more by leveraging activities and resources.

Importantly, the SICT has created an intensity of conversation that we haven't seen before in IARPC.

Q: What are plans for future activities of the SICT?

We plan to carry on implementing our milestones and reporting on our work in due course. One activity which is currently getting underway is ONR's Sea State and Boundary Physics project. The main field phase will take place in the fall of this year aboard the R/V Sikuliaq in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. This is a multi-institutional and international effort aimed at improving our understanding of the seasonal evolution of sea ice and the affect of increasing open water on the ice and on the atmosphere, at Arctic to hemispheric scales. Also, Operation IceBridge has a fall 2015 campaign coming up, and it will return to the Arctic Ocean in spring 2016 for another extensive effort to measure snow depth and ice thickness.

Q: How do you address new and emerging research questions and ideas which may not be in the Arctic Research Plan?

IARPC is subject to an update every two years. We are embarking on a revision now. However, collaboration teams do not need to wait for a new plan. We are free to add milestones as we go along. We do so because agencies are starting new research efforts all the time. In the fall of 2014, for example, NASA launched the Arctic Radiation and IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) airborne campaign flying over the Arctic Ocean to investigate Arctic sea ice change and cloud radiative properties. ARISE was taking place at a time when there were other Federally-funded research campaigns going on which complemented ARISE. NASA developed the ARISE project after the Arctic Research Plan was written, but it is related to the overall goals of the plan. Through IARPC Collaborations, Federal program managers have a better idea of what everyone is doing so when an agency develops a campaign like ARISE, it can be coordinated with other agency efforts.

Q: How can the research community stay informed about IARPC Collaboration Team activities?

By becoming a member of the IARPC Collaborations website and affiliating with collaboration teams of interest.

Q: How does participating in IARPC collaboration teams enhance the work that you do as a program manager at ONR?

Through participation with the IARPC staff group and collaboration teams, I am in conversation with colleagues in other agencies on a regular basis. I have a much better awareness of what other agencies are doing and planning. I am able then to consider ONR activities which might complement the work going on elsewhere within the Federal government, internationally, and in the research community. By sharing information and pooling resources agencies, ONR included, can achieve more through combined efforts than can be done on their own. I believe we are better stewards of the taxpayers' dollars through our collaborations.