ongoing support from funding agencies for both the observing networks and the scientists.

The Vision Report defined the terms for U.S. IPY efforts, and this follow-up report on lessons and legacies provides the concluding bookend for those efforts. Several other nations (Canada, Sweden, Japan, the United Kingdom, Norway) invested in the production of timely assessments of their national IPY activities similar to this report, whereas others closed their IPY programs without a concluding assessment or statement.

The authors of this report urge planners of the next IPY (or of similar international efforts) to consider all of the lessons identified in this report, as well as the mix of ingredients that made IPY such a success.


IPY changed perceptions and understanding of the polar regions. Its findings revealed that the Earth system cannot be understood without knowledge of the dynamics of these regions, a message that is especially relevant in light of evidence of the many global impacts of polar change. It also became clear during IPY that traditional knowledge can make a material contribution to the joint assessment of global processes and that science and scientists can provide effective means of achieving international discourse. At a time when the polar regions, in particular the Arctic, are undergoing a transformation from a perceived icy wilderness to a new zone for human affairs, these new insights could not be more timely or relevant.

The success of IPY was also evident in the people it touched. The international polar research community grew in terms of inclusiveness, capability, and experience. Arctic residents, and particularly indigenous communities, learned that information from science and scientists can be used to inform and enrich their daily lives. For their part, scientists learned how to make the results of their science useful for decisions faced by citizens of both the Arctic and the midlatitudes. Students and public audiences in numerous countries became engaged in learning about the current climate change that affects all people, and in the thrill and excitement of unraveling the mysteries of the planet and its extraordinary polar environments.

For all these reasons, IPY was a success scientifically, organizationally, and as a collective international endeavor as humanity grapples with the complexities and challenges of the many changes occurring in the environment and societies around the world. May it provide an inspiration for planners of the future, as science increasingly provides the knowledge that informs action.

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