Additional investments by ICSU and the WMO in 2005 established support for an IPY Joint Committee of 20 members, who steered the scientific preparation, implementation, and completion of IPY from 2005 to 2010. The daily tasks of managing the international IPY activities were coordinated by the International Programme Office (IPO) in Cambridge, UK, which was funded by the United Kingdom and eight other nations, and provided the means to establish and maintain IPY networks throughout 2005-2010. Dr. David Carlson served as Director of the IPO. Other nations established national IPY coordinating offices, many of which (e.g., the Canadian IPY office) made invaluable contributions to the international coordination of IPY.

In 2003, the PRB formed the U.S. National Committee for the International Polar Year 2007-2008. This committee conducted a study to outline the U.S. vision for IPY: What questions should it address? How should it be planned? The group, chaired by Dr. Mary Albert, sought input from across the polar science community and in 2004 published an outline of the U.S. rationale and focus for IPY, A Vision for International Polar Year (the Vision Report; NRC, 2004). The Vision Report was instrumental in defining the potential for IPY and sparking participation by the U.S. science community and a number of agencies. The recommendations from this report are listed in Box 1.2.

The committee also worked with senior leaders in U.S. science agencies—the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and U.S. Geological Survey, among others—to encourage agency participation in the U.S. components of the IPY program. In July 2004, PRB convened a workshop to promote discussions among the federal agencies, provide a forum for their representatives to identify possible scientific activities of interest, and serve as a springboard for collaborative IPY activities. Upon completion of the workshop report (NRC, 2005), U.S. National Committee responsibilities transitioned to the PRB, at the time chaired by Dr. Robin Bell. Some members of the U.S. National Committee also participated in the IPY Planning Group (2003-2004) and Joint Committee (2005-2010).

BOX 1.2
Recommendations from 2004 NRC Report on A Vision for the International Polar Year 2007-2008

• The U.S. scientific community and agencies should use the IPY to initiate a sustained effort aimed at assessing large-scale environmental change and variability in the polar regions.

• The U.S. scientific community and agencies should include studies of coupled human-natural systems critical to societal, economic, and strategic interests in the IPY.

• The U.S. IPY effort should explore new scientific frontiers from the molecular to the planetary scale.

• The International Polar Year should be used as an opportunity to design and implement multidisciplinary polar observing networks that will provide a long-term perspective.

• The United States should invest in critical infrastructure (both physical and human) and technology to guarantee that IPY 2007-2008 leaves enduring benefits for the nation and for the residents of northern regions.

• The U.S. IPY program should excite and engage the public, with the goal of increasing understanding of the importance of polar regions in the global system and, at the same time, advance general science literacy in the nation.

• The U.S. scientific community and agencies should participate as leaders in International Polar Year 2007-2008.


SOURCE: NRC, 2004.

The White House designated NSF the lead federal agency for organizing U.S. IPY activities.2 In this role the NSF Office of Polar Programs (OPP) interacted with the leadership of other U.S. agencies to promote IPY and plan collaborative activities. NSF funded or cofunded the planning and execution of a wide array of science and education activities in support of IPY. For example, the NSF-funded workshop on “Bridging the Poles” in 2004 brought together scientists, educators, and media specialists to define IPY goals for integrating research, education, and outreach at the national and international levels and to build a coherent and exciting public presence during IPY (Pfirman et al., 2004). In 2005, NOAA and NSF jointly funded a workshop, “Poles Together: Coordinating International Polar Year


2 NSF also supports the U.S. government IPY website:, which contains extensive information on federally supported IPY research and activities.

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