Collaborative Research: Arctic Horizons: Social Science and the High North
Over the past 15 years, the Arctic has experienced substantial social and environmental transformations. Some of these changes are on pace with predictions of the late 1990s, but others have occurred much more rapidly than expected. Many of the documented and anticipated shifts in the Arctic are linked to environmental change: changing sea ice and snow cover, coastal erosion leading to displacement of modern villages and destruction of preserved archaeological sites, questions of subsistence food security, increased shipping and oil exploration, with their associated economic impacts (positive and negative) and risk of oil spills, to name just a few. Many other changes in the Arctic are largely independent of changing climate: continued loss of Native languages, high rates of unemployment, domestic violence and substance abuse, and the increased influence of social media among and between isolated communities of the high north. Yet, while the North has always seemed remote and marginal to global or US national interests, Arctic people and environments are increasingly connected socially, economically, and environmentally to those living to the south. The potential for an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean, for example, opens up possibilities for new shipping routes shifting economic costs and benefits for global markets, for expanded exploitation of the circumpolar basin’s fossil fuel and mineral resources, and for attendant new focus on the north as an economic and security zone of strategic and tactical importance. All of these potential transformations have impacts not only on the United States' northernmost communities, but also on the global and national economic, social, and cultural systems best studied by social scientists in interdisciplinary collaborations capable of providing information and strategies of need for policy development and community development. The National Science Foundation’s Arctic Social Sciences Program (ASSP) is the leading source of funding for U.S.-based social sciences research in the Arctic. Just as the Arctic has changed, Arctic social sciences have experienced substantial growth and development, transitioning from an emerging field of research to a well-established multidisciplinary research area; yet the research priorities for NSF’s Arctic Social Sciences program were last updated in 1999. The Arctic Horizons project will bring together members of the Arctic social science research and indigenous communities to reassess the goals, potentials, and needs of these diverse communities and ASSP within the context of a rapidly changing circumpolar North. A series of five topical and regional workshops held across the country will bring together approximately 150 western and indigenous scholars to discuss the future of Arctic social science research. Additional participation by the broader Arctic social sciences, indigenous science, and stakeholder communities will be solicited through an interactive web platform that will also share workshop and project outcomes, supported by special sessions at national and regional conferences. The results of the workshops and on-line input will be compiled at a final synthesis workshop with a report produced to describe the community's vision for the future of Arctic social science research. This re-envisioning process will help shape future Arctic social science research and inform Arctic economic, environmental, and political policy development. Arctic Horizons project provides a framework and process that will bring together the Arctic social science research and Arctic indigenous communities to reassess goals, potentials, and needs in the diverse disciplinary and transdisciplinary currents of social science research of the circumpolar North. A series of five regional workshops and one synthesis workshop will engage approximately 150 western and indigenous scholars in the re-visioning process. Additional participation by the broader Arctic social sciences, indigenous science, and stakeholder communities will be solicited through an interactive web platform that will also be used to share workshop and project outcomes (e.g. videos of speakers, workshop notes, copy of the report), as well as through special sessions at regional conferences (e.g. Alaska Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Arctic Science Summit Week, Association of American Geographers). Whenever possible, keynote addresses will be video live cast through the platform and preserved for convenient review. Dynamic embeddable data visualizations will present the running results of project analytics, including text analysis of associations in the transcripts of workshop discussions, participant survey results, citation surveys, and an analysis of all 737 NSF grants issued since 1981. The resulting community-based vision will inform research investments for Arctic social science research over the next decade. Arctic social sciences have experienced substantial growth and development over the past 15 years, transitioning from an emerging field of research to a well-established multidisciplinary research area since the last Arctic social sciences visioning workshop held in 1999. The project is the collaboration of five institutions, all of which have a strong history of supporting Arctic social science research (UAF and Brown) or are developing new programs that support Arctic social science research (UNI and PSU). The process will be overseen by a senior advisory panel that includes social scientists and indigenous community members. The project will leverage the broad research networks of the PIs to recruit participation from a diverse and wide-ranging group of early, mid and senior career scholars, ensuring gender and disciplinary equity and the participation of underrepresented groups. This will be achieved through targeted invitation to workshops, a promotional campaign for web input through electronic media, and through participant recruitment at conferences and meetings. The capstone event is a synthesis workshop where the information generated at each of the regional/topical workshops and the on-line input will be combined in a report on the research priorities collectively identified by the Arctic social sciences community.