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Federal Agency That Oversees Arctic Research Reports Progress, Sets Goals for 2017-18

A new Arctic research plan – same as the old plan …

The federal agency that oversees Arctic research has unveiled its planfor the next two years. The six goals set by the U.S. Arctic Research Commission are the same as those in the last plan. Commission Chair Fran Ulmer says that’s partly because there’s still a lot of work to be done on those objectives.

Credit S. Gerland/Norwegian Polar Institute
The U.S. Arctic Research Commission's biennial Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research cited international cooperation as one of the major areas of progress over the past two years. It singled out the White House Arctic Science Ministerial, held in September, as a milestone in that cooperation.

“After listening to people who live in the Arctic and people who do research in the Arctic and businesses that need the information, those goals are still the most important and still the most relevant,” she said.

Ulmer says the biennial document released this week will for the first time include progress reports on meeting the goals, which include enhancing scientists’ ability to observe and predict changes in the Arctic environment and improving the quality of life for those who live in the region.

“It not only lists those goals and explains why they are the most important,” she said. “It also takes the next step and says ‘Here are some examples on progress that has been made under each of those goals.’ ”

Ulmer says the other reason commissioners decided to stick to the last set of goals is out of deference to the incoming Trump administration. She says members of the new administration may have different objectives for Arctic research, which would likely be reflected in the commission’s 2019-2020 plan.

Credit U.S. Arctic Research Commission
The eight commissioners serve four-year terms that are staggered. Fran Ulmer chairs the panel.

“Priorities may shift,” she said, “not just by the federal government but by others, based in part on what we’re experiencing in the Arctic, but also based on the priorities and the values of the next administration.”

Presidents may compel the commission to observe their priorities by both appointing commissioners, when their four-year terms expire, and by designating the chairperson.

“The United States Arctic Research Commission, even though it’s appointed by the president, is really designed to be an independent federal entity that gives advice to the president, to Congress, and even gives advice to the research community.”

Two commissioners’ terms will expire in February. Ulmer’s term will be up in 2019.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.