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19 July 2019

Introducing IASC

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Exploring the Arctic - Iceland's volcanic Kerling mountain.

© Allen Pope

The Arctic is a huge natural laboratory offering a surprising diversity of research possibilities in every

branch of science. The International Arctic Science Committee's (IASC) mission is to encourage and

facilitate cooperation in all aspects of Arctic research, in all countries engaged in Arctic research, and

all areas of the Arctic region. For nearly three decades, IASC has worked to transform the conditions for

cooperation in Arctic science by planning and supporting major multinational research initiatives; by

organizing the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) and other meetings each year; and convening and

empowering international scientific working groups.

Working Across Disciplines

IASC's main scientific working bodies are the five Working Groups: Atmosphere (AWG), Cryosphere 

(CWG), Marine (MWG), Social & Human (SHWG), and Terrestrial Sciences (TWG). While the IASC

Working Groups are set up along disciplinary lines, they have dedicated resources to support interdisciplinary projects proposed by Arctic scientists from IASC member countries. In this way, IASC is committed to fostering interdisciplinary activities, in particular across the natural and social sciences and humanities. IASC is supporting a dozen such projects in the coming year.

Enhancing and Extending Polar Partnerships

With the goal to develop and stimulate shared initiatives that are of high interest to the broader Arctic research community, IASC maintains close partnerships with several other Arctic and Polar organizations. The recent "Arctic Vegetation Archive and Classification" workshop — jointly organized by the Terrestrial Working Group and the Arctic Council's CAFF Flora Group — is an illustrative example. The primary goal of the workshop was to develop an Arctic terrestrial monitoring program and provide a standardized vegetation framework and data enabling each country to assemble its own archive. By developing common protocols, the databases can later be united into a single circum-Arctic Vegetation Archive.

Building Capacity of Early Career Researchers

IASC recognizes that the next generation of Arctic researchers will be faced with increasingly critical Arctic and global challenges. The Committee, therefore, works to support international and interdisciplinary experiences for early career researchers. IASC supported over 150 early career researchers to attend Arctic workshops and conferences in the last year. The Working Groups not only provide travel support for young researchers, they also integrate the IASC Fellowship Program with their activities. A call for applications is released each year in October through the IASC and APECS mailing listswebsites, and Facebook.

Informing Policy

IASC has been an Observer to the Arctic Council since its inception in 1996. IASC partners with the Arctic council nations, working groups, and other Observers to contribute to the work of the Council. IASC does this in a variety of ways, including contributing expertise from the IASC community on particular topics (e.g., plastics pollution, black carbon, oil spill remediation, and more), facilitating review of synthesis reports for policymakers, co-sponsoring early career fellows programs, and co-convening conferences and workshops. You can find out more about the Icelandic chairmanship of the Arctic Council here.


Upcoming Activities

IASC continues to support the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC), scheduled to start in autumn 2019. MOSAiC was born out of the Atmosphere Working Group and will be the first year-round expedition into the central Arctic exploring the Arctic climate system. MOSAiC's overall goal is to understand more thoroughly how the coupled Arctic climate system functions, in particular under rapid Arctic climate change that will not only affect the local Arctic climate but might also be affecting hemispheric circulation patterns and global change. Visit the project's IASC websiteand main MOSAiC webpage for more information. IASC is excited to support and foster MOSAiC and aims to incubate other such transformative Arctic science activities.

Want to find out more about how to get involved with IASC, find collaborators, or how IASC supports Arctic science? Email the IASC Secretariat (, your national representatives, and/or your Working Group representatives, whose names you will find on the website. To hear more about upcoming IASC activities and opportunities, join the IASC mailing list and Facebook group.

This post is adapted from an original post in ARCUS‘ Witness the Arctic:

Allen Pope is the Executive Secretary for the International Arctic Science Committee, Research Scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and affiliate of the Geosciences Department at Williams College. He received an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Earth & Planetary Science with a citation in French from Harvard College, and a masters and doctorate in Polar Studies from Cambridge University. At IASC, Allen works to bring together Arctic researchers across disciplinary and national boundaries and to advocate for the importance of Arctic science. As a researcher, he studies the Earth's frozen regions with satellite and airborne data, does fieldwork to make sure the satellites have it right, and communicates his science to other audiences.

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