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Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic

Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC)i


The 2018 Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic (hereafter the Principles) revise the Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic (1990)ii; they align with U.S. Arctic policyiii and apply to research across all disciplines. To guide research activities throughout the Arctic, the U.S. Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) prepared the following Principles:

  • Be Accountable
  • Establish Effective Communication
  • Respect Indigenous Knowledge and Cultures
  • Build and Sustain Relationships
  • Pursue Responsible Environmental Stewardshipiv

These Principles are directed at academic and federal researchers funded by IARPC agencies but are equally relevant to other individuals and organizations pursuing or funding research in the Arctic. They are guidelines for conducting responsible and ethical research and they encourage respect for all individuals, cultures, and the environment. The Principles are not intended to supplant existing regulations and guidelines; researchers should follow federal, state, and local regulations, policies and guidelines. Research involving human subjects must adhere to specific requirementsv. Projects on Indigenous homelands or involving Indigenous Peoples should be coordinated with Indigenous leadership and should follow all applicable regulations and local research guidelines.


  1. Be accountable.

    • 1.1. Promote a work environment that is safe, harassment-free, and inclusive. Principal investigators and co-investigators are responsible for all decisions and actions made on their project.

      1.2. Act with integrity, and honor verbal and written commitments. Participation in research must be voluntary and cause no harm. When required, participants' informed consent must be obtained. Research methodology, sponsors, and how the information or images will be used and published should be disclosed and understandable to all involved. Provide reasonable opportunities to individuals, who share information or images, to review and agree, or withdraw their contributions prior to publication.

      1.3. Consider the physical and socio-economic well-being of all Arctic residents - Indigenous and non-indigenous. Credit all research collaborators' contributions, including Indigenous Knowledge holders', in publications and presentations of research with their consent. Discuss expectations for compensation with all collaborators and individuals providing information or services for the project.

      1.4. Maintain data confidentiality in accordance with existing standards and requirements when handling personal or culturally sensitive information or personally or community identifiable information.

  2. Establish Effective Communication

    • 2.1. Communicate expectations, objectives, and potential outcomes at all stages of the project. Provide reasonable opportunities to local collaborators and Tribes to participate in planning, data collection, analysis, interpretation of results, and development of conclusions. Researchers should identify all sponsors and collaborators, sources of financial support, and receive guidance from the community about the most effective and preferred methods of communication.

      2.2. Tribes and communities often conduct their own research. Where possible, inquire about ongoing Tribal and community research and priorities, and collaborate appropriately. Be aware and respectful of Indigenous Peoples' practices and protocols for accountability.

      2.3. Coordinate visits or fieldwork to avoid disrupting peak subsistence periods, traditional activities, religious events, and health services. Coordinate activities such as research vessel tracks or aircraft flights to avoid impact to residents.

      2.4. Identify potentially sensitive data and observations with individuals and/or the community and establish measures to reduce the likelihood of any harm to individuals or the community. Researchers should share research results, preferably in person, with communities prior to broader release, especially in cases where the project's results could be of concern. Following publication, research results should be made accessible to local communities and repositories.

  3. Respect Indigenous Knowledge and Cultures

    • 3.1. Respect is enhanced by mutual understanding. Researchers are encouraged to learn about the regions in which they will conduct research. Understand the region's history, cultures, languages, community perceptions of past and current research conducted in the region, and organizational structures, practices, values, and institutions.

      3.2. Respect all hunting, fishing, harvesting, and gathering practices and use areas. Avoid disturbing cultural resources such as sacred sites, archaeological sites, cultural materials and markers, and cultural property. Adhere to local and Indigenous traditions, customs, and locally-adopted research guidelines. Many Indigenous Peoples have permitting requirements and research guidelines that provide specific protocols.

      3.3. Be open to new viewpoints and be aware of and acknowledge differences and biases when discussing analysis and interpretation of data and observations with residents. Arctic Indigenous Peoples hold unique knowledge and understanding of their homelands and can offer valuable collaborative partnerships with scientists. Inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge in research is encouraged.

  4. Build and Sustain Relationships

    • 4.1. Build meaningful relationships based on good faith and partnership with communities and their representatives. When working in or near communities, develop a community engagement plan in collaboration and cooperation with Arctic Indigenous Peoples and other residents.

      4.2. As research concepts develop, researchers and interested communities should determine their level of collaboration. Not all research will be of direct interest to Arctic residents, nor may all communities have the capacity to participate. Do not assume community interest or capacity prior to discussions with Tribal and community leaders.

      4.3. For projects involving Arctic Indigenous residents and others as research collaborators or study participants, determine in advance who collects, owns, manages, evaluates, and disseminates the data to allow projects to proceed with a shared understanding of data governance and ownership. Work closely with community leaders or representatives to resolve conflicts if they arise.

      4.4. potential outcomes of a research project for the community and the environment should be addressed and discussed. Researchers are encouraged to work with local liaisons and research assistants, and to engage residents in research design, planning, data collection, storage, analysis, interpretation, and reporting.

  5. Pursue Responsible Environmental Stewardship

    • 5.1. Scientific research and local and Indigenous Knowledge contribute to stewardship of the Arctic environment. Researchers should limit the impact of their research on the environment and obtain appropriate permits.

      5.2. Avoid disturbing flora and fauna that are not the subject of the research and minimize disturbance to flora and fauna that are the subject of the research. In the case of fauna, researchers need to be aware of federal, state, and local regulations and coordinate with applicable land managers and experts to avoid causing unnecessary stress on individuals, herds, or populations of animals that may respond to human presence.

      5.3. Avoid and minimize impacts to terrestrial, aquatic and marine habitats, including but not limited to: noise, vegetation trampling, and other environmental impacts.


The Principles reflect the expectations of the IARPC agencies. They are based on input received from federal agencies and the public. Federal agencies will determine the most appropriate way to apply the Principles when supporting research in the Arctic.


iThe Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 (ARPA), Public Law 98-373, July 31, 1984, as amended by Public Law 101-609, November 16, 1990, provides for a comprehensive national policy dealing with national research needs and objectives in the Arctic. The ARPA establishes an Arctic Research Commission (ARC) and an Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) to help implement the Act. Since its inception, IARPC activities have been coordinated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), with the Director of the NSF as chair. A Presidential Memorandum issued on July 22, 2010, made the NSTC responsible for IARPC, with the Director of the NSF remaining as chair of the committee.

iiThe original Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic, (available at: were prepared by the Interagency Social Science Task Force at the direction of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC). The Principles will be reviewed by IARPC every five years for inclusion in the Arctic Research Plan.

iiiThe Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 (ARPA), Public Law 98-373, July 31, 1984, as amended by Public Law 101-609, November 16, 1990; National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 66, Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD 25: Arctic Region Policy, The White House, Washington DC, 2009; National Strategy for the Arctic Region, The White House, Washington DC, 2013.

ivThe U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region (2013) describes "responsible stewardship of the Arctic environment" as "active conservation of resources, balanced management, and the application of scientific and traditional knowledge of physical and living environments."

vThe US Federal Policy for protection of persons involved in Human Subjects Research is codified in the Department of Health and Human Services regulations 45 CFR part 46. This has been adopted in the regulations of 15 Federal departments and agencies that conduct or support human subjects research. Reference: