IARPC Collaboration Framework Fosters International Think-Tank Meeting - Towards A Unifying Pan-Arctic Perspective: Concepts and Theories

December 19, 2016
By Amélie Bouchat

The participants met Nov. 7-11, 2016, in Solomons Island, MD. The meeting was made possible by the collaboration framework provided by the IARPC teams, namely the Chukchi-Beaufort Seas Ecosystems, Sea Ice, and DBO collaboration teams.

Relevance: This science integration effort

  1. is well aligned with the FY2013-2017 IARPC plan, and is jointly supported by NSFUSARCONR and BOEM.
  2. addresses the 2017-2018 USARC Goal #6: Enhance International Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic
  3. is aligned with the vision of the Arctic Council of promoting scientific collaboration internationally.

 Organised by

  • Paul WassmannUiT – The Arctic University of Norway
  • Eddy Carmack, Fisheries & Oceans, Sidney, Canada
  • Carlos M. Duarte, UiT Norway, and KAUST, Saudi-Arabia


  •  Moderated by Henry Huntington, science director for The Pew Charitable Trusts, Arctic projects.
  •  Executive Assistant: Jessica Rohde, Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC)
  • Conceptual artist: Ivan GromichoKAUST, Saudi-Arabia
  •  Local host: Jackie Grebmeier, University of Maryland, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Solomons, MD

Initiative: Guillermo Auad, Department of the Interior (BOEM

Overview:The participants' focus was centered in developing a shared, high-level conceptual model of the functioning of the Arctic Ocean that synthesizes our understanding of the key processes and elements governing the responses of the Arctic marine ecosystems to current pressures and changes. The development of a unified pan Arctic conceptual model for the Arctic Ocean, will enable improved coordination of research efforts addressing the Arctic Ocean in a time of change. The Arctic Ocean is a region of peaceful and constructive political and economic cooperation, which can be improved through science-based knowledge sharing, and unifying concepts.

In order to create rich possibilities for discussions and intellectual exchange the meeting was limited to only 17 top Arctic scientists which were carefully selected in order to reflect the entire field of oceanography.  They came from 6 countries (USA (7), Canada (3), Norway (3), Saudi-Arabia (2), Denmark (1) and Russia (1)).  47 % were females.  They ranged from experienced post docs to emeritus scientists.  The geographic setting of the meeting and the local atmosphere was carefully selected in order to provide quietness and the possibilities for walks and refreshing scenery. The meeting started on Sunday with the three organizers and the moderator to discus in detail the procedures of the meetings.  After an introduction on Monday morning the Arctic Ocean was placed into the global perspective, in order to obtain a frame for conceptual models on the top of the Northern Hemisphere.  This was followed by a principal introduction of conceptualization and an overview on existing conceptual models of the Arctic Ocean.  In the afternoon the participants shortly described their take on conceptual Arctic models, before the background for involving an experienced artist to support the groups endeavors.  The first day ended with a major discussion.  Plans were made for the following days, a mixture of outbreak groups, joint meetings and the principle outline of the unifying conceptual model. 

The participants discussed topics related to Change, Circulation and Coupling and their conceptualization and representation, e.g., coastal trapped flows, light, and teleconnections, among several others.

A conceptual model should capture the main elements and processes of the system so that we can:

  • Focus attention on key areas of knowledge gaps (what we don’t know) and insufficient understanding (what we can’t explain), including recognizing when we have been surprised
  • Identify points of intervention (where human action makes a difference) and the system’s sensitivity to those interventions
  • Identify where the Arctic depends on external inputs and what Arctic outputs affect the rest of the World

 While the group has made clear plans for the further work on the model it was decided to produce three main products.

  • Review of existing conceptual models: how well do they do what we want a conceptual model to do?
  • New conceptual model for the Arctic Ocean: one that does all the things we want it to do
  • Assessment of likely future states of the Arctic Ocean: hypotheses, interventions, externalities, and how to tell if we are wrong.

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Contact Andrey Proshutinsky, Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at aproshutinsky@whoi.edu.