By: Larry Hinzman, Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, Executive Director


The Arctic is vast, complex, and changing, and it takes concerted collaborations among scientists from many disciplines, utilizing an array of research platforms, to understand how the components of the Arctic system interact and how they affect societies in the Arctic, as well as those in more temperate regions. The Arctic is experiencing unprecedented changes due to rapidly rising temperatures. President Biden has recognized that the United States is an Arctic nation and that actions must be taken to slow the rate of climate change. To achieve this goal, the Biden-Harris Administration rejoined the Paris Agreement and set a course to reach a 50–52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050. The Administration has also taken a number of actions to enhance climate resilience in the US Arctic and across the Nation, as well as to elevate Indigenous Knowledge.

The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) was created to promote coordination among federal agencies, researchers, and community members involved in Arctic research. IARPC brings the Arctic research community together via IARPC Collaborations, an innovative platform that serves as a hub for building connections and facilitating research. Nearly 4,000 members from federal agencies, academia, Arctic communities, and more come together on IARPC Collaborations. This workforce of collaborators in Arctic research partners with Arctic residents, the State of Alaska, Federal agencies, and members of the concerned public to identify the most urgent research needs or knowledge gaps. IARPC is now soliciting input from all sectors on where we should go from here. We ask you to please consider our accomplishments and abilities and offer your input on the next set of research challenges that our teams should strive to resolve.

The United States Arctic Research Plan is a high-level strategy to guide Federal investments and Arctic scientists to address the most critical research priorities. In 2021, we launched the 2022–2024 Implementation Plan, highlighting key needs in Arctic research, from studies on long-term food security to improvements of ice-sheet models. Some accomplishments achieved under this implementation plan include:

We've supported Arctic community resilience and health through research on public health needs, work to address threats to food safety, and technical support for water and sanitation infrastructure. Several studies have been conducted such as exploring the development and impact of harmful algal blooms and other zoonotic diseases. New projects have been funded, including research on the abrupt changes facing Arctic rivers and on community observations of phytoplankton in northwestern Alaska.

We continue to push forward fundamental science about the Arctic system. The IARPC Collaborations platform has hosted conversations about models to predict the Arctic Earth system, water mass changes in the Arctic Ocean, shifts in Alaska salmon populations, and more. Many agencies continue to conduct groundbreaking research—including the Department of Energy's Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiment in the Arctic (NGEE Arctic) and NASA's Arctic Radiation-Cloud-Aerosol-Surface Interaction Experiment (ARCSIX). The National Science Foundation continues to support basic research in Arctic system science, while the US Geological Survey hosted a workshop in September 2023 to bring together scientists conducting research on permafrost.

We're working to ensure that the people of Alaska and the Arctic have sustainable economies and livelihoods into the future. In particular, we're developing an infrastructure asset map that will support centralized coordination on infrastructure development. Agencies, including the National Science Foundation, are also funding research on emerging technologies like electric vehicles in the Arctic.

We're supporting Arctic communities as they address the risks and hazards facing them. We're building a centralized community for Arctic risk management and hazard mitigation research by holding collaborative meetings on wildfire risks, mapping and modeling coastal hazards, and technology sharing. The Denali Commission is working to update the 2019 Alaska Statewide Threat Assessment, which identifies threats from erosion, flooding, and thawing permafrost in remote Alaska communities. The US Arctic Observing Network has engaged partners via the US AON's Benefit Tool to understand how gaps in observing or data systems impact risk and hazard work in the Alaskan Arctic.

We're now preparing to shift our focus towards addressing new priorities for the years 2025–2026. As we reflect on the achievements and ongoing efforts outlined in the current implementation plan, it's clear that the landscape of Arctic research is dynamic and ever-evolving.

We invite you to share your thoughts and perspectives, on the IARPC-hosted form, Updating the 2025–2026 Implementation Plan for the Arctic Research Plan through Friday, 31 May 2024, as we work together to refine our strategies.

Your participation in this collaborative effort will be instrumental in addressing the challenges faced by Arctic communities. We encourage you to join us in this endeavor by signing up for an IARPC Collaborations account. Advancing our understanding of the dynamics of the Arctic depends on connecting scientists, community members, and policymakers alike. We sincerely hope you'll join us.

About the Author

Larry HinzmanLarry Hinzman, Ph.D., is the Assistant Director for Polar Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Executive Director of IARPC.