Polar Systems Institute

Several workshop participants recognized the need for Arctic and Antarctic scientists (and both marine and terrestrial) to meet together to explore, and in many cases, identify new research challenges with important societal implications. Along with the PRB itself, the LTER Network has pioneered this area of scientific interaction and synthesis, with two Arctic (terrestrial only) and two Antarctic (one marine, one terrestrial) LTER sites, although in general the usual mode is for the two groups to meet separately, for example, in SCAR and IASC. The need for institutional mechanisms to facilitate better interdisciplinary, cross-polar dialog and more formalized synthesis activities was a major theme of workshop discussions. It was further noted that among the several U.S. polar research institutes, either cross-polar or disciplinary breadth is usually weak. Therefore workshop participants suggested that a Polar Synthesis Institute, possibly similar in scope and operation, could help the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) to advance toward new frontiers in polar climate change and other areas of cryosphere research.


Discussions on improved strategies of information dissemination resulted in a recognized need for increased communication of results in political arenas, in order to engage local and federal policymakers. For example, communications between scientists and agency representatives in lay language exchanges could help overcome the fact that scientists are generally not well-versed in “political-speak.”

During the workshop, it was noted that outreach requirements are becoming important and essential components in current requests for proposals, a notion widely supported by the group. It is clear that the future of science resides in a holistic approach that integrates science and society. Outreach that is accessible to non-scientists and that is also culturally sensitive is central to publicizing the causes and impacts of global climate change. In the future, the return of results to affected communities is likely to become a requirement, which will enable polar researchers to reach out and connect with societies and residents of these regions. Engaging indigenous residents in all steps of the research process, including identification of research needs, data collection, analysis, and dissemination of findings, provides unique opportunities for scientists to learn from those who live in the polar environment and know it extremely well.

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