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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy 1 Introduction Over the past several years a consensus has emerged on the national need for more and better social science research on the Arctic. This need is well documented. The Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-373) was enacted “to establish national policy, priorities, and goals and to provide a federal program plan for basic and applied scientific research with respect to the Arctic, including natural resources and materials, physical, biological, and health sciences, and social and behavioral science.” The act stresses the importance of research to “enhance the lives of arctic residents, increase opportunities for international cooperation among Arctic-rim countries, and facilitate the formulation of national policy for the Arctic.” While the national need for more and better social science research on the Arctic was clear, so too were the obstacles to meeting that need. For example, there was no lead agency at the federal level to advocate and support social science research on arctic topics. Also, there was no organization to bring social scientists together to reach consensus on arctic research priorities and to facilitate the development of an effective communications network. Finally, inadequate funding prevented the participation of social scientists in meetings where arctic research policy was discussed and formulated. To help overcome the obstacles and provide a focus for arctic social science research, the Polar Research Board established the Committee on Arctic Social Sciences in 1987 and charged it with reviewing existing research, identifying research needs, and recommending future directions for
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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy social sciences in the Arctic. In 1989 the committee produced its study report, Arctic Social Science: An Agenda for Action. Since then, the National Science Foundation has been designated as the lead agency for social science research in the Arctic and has appointed a program director, apportioned funding for the program, and established, through the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, a task force on arctic social science. In addition, the International Arctic Social Sciences Association and the International Arctic Science Committee have been established to assist, in part, with scientific coordination and cooperation internationally. All these infrastructure needs correspond to recommendations in the committee's 1989 report. The 1989 report identified three substantive themes that should be given highest priority in developing new coordinated programs of multidisciplinary social science research on the Arctic: human/environmental relationships, community viability, and rapid social change (Table 1). Each of these themes is discussed in some detail, including background, justification for the research initiative, and representative types of research questions to be incorporated into applied and basic research programs, as well as opportunities for international cooperation. The present report builds on those themes by identifying ways in which research in the Arctic has contributed to evaluating social science theories. In the past, “exceptionalism”—the notion that such research was outside the mainstream—pervaded the arctic social sciences. In fact, arctic social scientists themselves tended to treat the Arctic as an exception to the tenets of social science research. In the course of its deliberations, the committee found that this is no longer the case and that research in the Arctic has indeed contributed, and continues to contribute, to mainstream social science theory. Consequently, the committee undertook a more comprehensive review of the arctic literature to identify theoretical linkages broadly covering the three priority areas in its 1989 study report. The present report intends, therefore, to identify areas where arctic research is relevant to theory and to problem solving, particularly in the organization of production, protecting the environment, and cultural diversity. This report does not presume that arctic research necessarily solves all theories or problems of concern to the social sciences.
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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy TABLE 1 Summary of Key Elements for Multidisciplinary Plan for Arctic Social Science Research Theme Research Problems HUMAN/ENVIRONMENT RELATIONSHIPS Applied methods for allocating natural resources avoidance and resolution of conflicts over use of natural resources Basic control of human activities that threaten to disrupt natural systems human response to habitat change human dimensions of global change COMMUNITY VIABILITY Applied economic diversification and viability of coastal and riverine communities motivation and psychosocial adjustments of the Northern work force obstacles to community survival Basic relationship between community survival and cultural survival RAPID SOCIAL CHANGE Applied patterns of social interaction trends in expectations and aspirations relationship between social change and physical and mental health Basic consequences of social specialization and increased interdependence education for participation in a rapidly changing multicultural world cognitive and emotional limits of peoples' ability to cope with rapid change SOURCE: Modified from NRC (1989).
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