BOX 6.1
Original IPY Scope and Objectives Statement from Vision for the International Polar Year 2007-2008

At its most fundamental level, IPY 2007-2008 is envisioned as an intense, coordinated field campaign of polar observations, research, and analysis that will be multidisciplinary in scope and international in participation. IPY 2007-2008 will be a framework and impetus to undertake projects that could not normally be achieved by any single nation. It allows us to think beyond traditional borders—whether national borders or disciplinary constraints—toward a new level of integrated, cooperative science. A coordinated international approach maximizes both impact and cost-effectiveness, and the international collaborations started today will build relationships and understanding that will bring long-term benefits. Within this context, IPY will seek to galvanize new and innovative observations and research while at the same time building on and enhancing existing relevant initiatives. IPY will serve as a mechanism to attract and develop a new generation of scientists and engineers with the versatility to tackle complex global issues. In addition, IPY is clearly an opportunity to organize an exciting range of education and outreach activities designed to excite and engage the public, with a presence in classrooms around the world and in the media in varied and innovative formats.

The IPY will use today’s powerful research tools to better understand the key roles of the polar regions in global processes. Automatic observatories, satellite-based remote sensing, autonomous vehicles, Internet, and genomics are just a few of the innovative approaches for studying previously inaccessible realms. IPY 2007-2008 will be fundamentally broader than past international years because it will explicitly incorporate multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies, including biological, ecological, and social science elements .


SOURCE: NRC, 2004.

Observing System (iAOOS), set up shared observing networks throughout the polar seas. The Arctic Observing Network (AON) and the 24-nation Polar Observing Network (POLENET) launched new terrestrial observational networks. Young scientists from a range of disciplines and countries exploited social networking facilities on the Internet to form the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) for sharing knowledge and experience. IPY thus provided the impetus for a novel means of collaboration and action among both established and “next-generation” polar scientists and engineers.


IPY was largely about change: climate system change due to humans, changes in understanding of the polar regions, corresponding changes in research focus, and changes in who does science, how it is done, and how it is communicated. During this time, it became more widely acknowledged that humans are influencing the planet and its climate system, that some changes are occurring faster than anticipated, and that there is a need to take action in response to these changes (i.e., NRC, 2011a).

Historic and current evidence collected during IPY by international teams helped to clarify the impact of human activities in the polar regions. IPY studies yielded important findings about, for example, the continuing dramatic sea ice decline in the Arctic and in the Bellingshausen Sea in the Antarctic; rapid losses of ice in the Greenland ice sheet, on the Antarctic Peninsula, and in coastal areas of West Antarctica; thawing permafrost, terrestrial greening, and biome range changes; and the impacts of climatic warming on ocean circulation and productivity. New sampling also revealed evidence of pollution in remote areas of Antarctica previously thought to be pristine. These and other discoveries during IPY directed scientific inquiry to questions of societal impact, longer-term environmental issues, and sustainability.

In terms of changes in who does science, IPY increased diversity among those involved in the study of the poles. The research community expanded to include more female lead investigators, energetic young scientists launched their own network with the creation of APECS, and Arctic residents and indigenous people’s organizations became active participants in the systematic collection of observations.

Methods of research changed as new tools and observational networks supported by new international partnerships increased the ability to detect and document the polar environment. The exploitation of cutting-edge technology and logistics changed understanding of the polar regions by enabling the imaging of previously inaccessible locations across a huge range of spatial scales, from tiny bubbles in thousand-yearold ice to entire mountain ranges under ice sheets. The resulting advances in knowledge of ice sheet formation and flow have profound implications for the ability to

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