Maintaining and Building Operational Capacity

New technologies allow new approaches to conduct research in many fields. Among the most promising recent developments is a host of autonomous mobile sensors for the ocean and atmosphere. These can be deployed relatively easily and inexpensively, and thus promise to alleviate the limitations of icebreaker access or aircraft time (though range is still limited for many such devices). New remote sensing capabilities are also being developed to measure features of the Arctic system that required in situ observation in the past. It is also important to sustain the capacity that exists, such as at research stations and by satellites. Even with new developments, there is still a need for heavy-duty icebreaking capability, which at present is a critical weakness of U.S. Arctic research capacity. Improvements in power generation for remote sensor arrays, and better broadband communication for transmitting and sharing data, are also important for increasing our ability to conduct research and observations in the Arctic. Improvements in modeling and forecasting will not only provide a clearer window to the future, but will also better guide research needs and help determine optimal placement of field sites. The increasing role of industry in the Arctic creates opportunities for private sector involvement, for example, through public-private partnerships.

Growing Human Capacity

Arctic research depends on sufficient human capacity, including scientists trained in the necessary fields who are capable of interdisciplinary collaboration and working across the Arctic. During the International Polar Year, concerted efforts were made to involve young researchers, and those opportunities helped to train the next generation of scientists in Arctic research. Arctic residents can offer a great deal, as well, and the capacity for local involvement in all stages of research can be improved. There are many good examples of such collaborations, but also apparent are indications of “research fatigue” among those who have been the subject of, or otherwise involved in, many studies without seeing a direct return for their efforts. For Arctic residents, a crucial aspect of human capacity is the ability to act on what is learned from research, and to enhance the adaptive capacity of communities and societies as they face rapid and far-reaching changes. Making connections between research activities and real-world challenges requires more effort on all sides.

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