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In the twenty years since the Arctic Council first emphasized the need for science for sustainability in the high north, the Arctic environment and population has changed considerably. NSF's Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) investment highlights the changing Arctic as a priority area for research, “to meet the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet’s life support systems.” (From the National Academy of Science report on Sustainability Science and Engineering, http://www.pnas.org/site/misc/sustainability.shtml)
ArcSEES is a multi-year, interdisciplinary program which seeks both fundamental research that improves our ability to evaluate the sustainability of the Arctic human-environmental system as well as integrated efforts which will provide community-relevant sustainability pathways and engineering solutions. For this competition, interdisciplinary research will be focused in four thematic areas: the natural and living environment, the built environment, natural resource development, and governance.
It is recognized that there are gaps in our understanding of the rapidly changing environmental, social, economic, built and managed systems in the Arctic as well as their complex interactions. Fundamental research is needed to understand the integrated Arctic system in this era of rapid change, how sustainability is defined in that context, whether necessary data and statistical techniques are available to make this assessment, and the stability and predictability of the Arctic system state. ArcSEES encourages the informed observation, synthesis of data sets and development of theories, methodologies, network designs, physical infrastructure, models, tools, and educational approaches necessary to evaluate and communicate the sustainability, trajectory, and uncertainty of these systems and interactions.
In a rapidly changing Arctic, there is a demonstrated and immediate need for sustainability solutions (e.g., imperiled Arctic communities and threatened marine ecosystems). There is also a need for large, integrated efforts that bring together the expertise of disciplinary and interdisciplinary scientists and engineers to bear on community-specific problems. These larger, integrated efforts would promote understanding of Arctic systems and would develop optimized models, multiple stable state scenarios, sustainable pathways, decision matrices, visualization techniques and data infrastructure to aid decision making and communication, and structural, energy and communications technology solutions which would inform community practices, management, and policy for a more sustainable Arctic environment.
ArcSEES plans to support fundamental, pilot efforts and larger, outcomes-relevant research. All proposers are required to provide context for how the project advances science for sustainability and to identify the communities and real-world scenarios to which the research products are relevant. While community-based participatory research projects that engage Arctic resident and indigenous populations in the conception and implementation of the research are encouraged, ArcSEES also welcomes activities that entrain other classes of stakeholders and facilitate education through participation of tribal colleges and minority-serving institutions.
Since Arctic change and sustainability is of global concern and research on sustainability has potential global application, proposers may apply methodologies from more southern latitudes to the Arctic or upscale ArcSEES results to other regions. To encourage a more pan-Arctic or broadly international perspective, proposers may also develop synergistic collaborations with foreign colleagues and international programs. These collaborations may capitalize on already-funded sustainability or relevant research by a single partner country or by consortia of countries or seek to establish connections with communities around the Arctic. Similarly, proposers are encouraged to avail themselves of the capacity-building and to-date efforts of the multitude of US agencies currently working in the Arctic. Significant expertise, facilities, observing networks, and partnership with local communities, state organizations, and stakeholders have been developed to address Arctic social, environmental, and engineering systems under pressure from regional and global change. These resources can be used to translate observed change and community priorities into sustainability pathways for Arctic Alaskan and similar communities around the north and the rest of the globe.
In FY13, NSF is partnering with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Geological Survey (USGS), US Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS), and a consortium of French agencies – including Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux energies alternatives (CEA), Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la MER (IFREMER), and Météo-France – to bring a broad range of expertise to bear on these research questions and underscore the importance of a cohesive approach to achieving resiliency in a shared environment such as the circumpolar Arctic.
What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)
Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program