The Human Dimension of the Arctic Observing Network: Perspectives from Human Dimension of the Arctic System
The following text is adapted from a brochure produced by HARC (Human Dimensions of the Arctic System) called “Designing the Human Dimensions into an Arctic Observing Network” (HARC, 2005).
Arctic environmental change is the set of biophysical transformations of land, ice, oceans and atmosphere, driven by an interwoven system of human activities and natural processes. Research on the human dimensions of arctic change addresses the coupled human-natural system and investigates how individuals and societal groups contribute to, are influenced by, and mitigate and respond to the changes that take place on a local, regional, and global level. Human dimensions science therefore encompasses may topics, approaches, methods, and disciplines.
Understanding how social systems interact with natural systems (both physical and biological) involves qualitative analyses and quantitative studies that rely on forms of hypothesis testing and analysis familiar to fields such as atmospheric science, terrestrial ecology, glaciology, or ocean biogeochemistry. When biophysical scientists study human-influenced phenomena such as ice roads, river flows, or fish catches, understanding human influences becomes critical. These are nontrivial challenges for biophysical-human dimensions research.
The human dimensions component of the AON could consist of a network of social scientists, citizens, and other observers who help make available and accessible arctic human dimensions data that are being collected in a common data structure with circumpolar scope. This part of the AON could also identify data gaps and fill them. Data might include the size, well-being, and livelihoods of arctic communities; demographic vital statistics, health and economic statistics; qualitative data such as historical accounts or life histories; and global economic and institutional trends (see also Table 2.1).
A key role for the human dimensions component of the observing network beyond collecting and organizing data could be to perform analyses needed to disseminate useful, useable, relevant, and timely data to researchers, policy makers, and the public through a single Web portal with multiple links.