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Arctic Research Opportunities

The goal of the NSF Arctic Research Program is to gain a better understanding of the Earth's biological, geophysical, chemical, and sociocultural processes, and the interactions of ocean, land, atmosphere, biological, and human systems. Arctic research is supported at NSF by the Office of Polar Programs (OPP), as well as a number of other disciplinary programs within the Foundation. Coordination across NSF includes the potential for joint review and funding of arctic proposals, as well as mutual support of special projects with high logistical costs.

The Office of Polar Programs offers a focused multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research program that emphasizes the special character of the Arctic for scientific study. The arctic regions are among the most sensitive to environmental change and have exceptionally long natural climate records and thousands of years of human settlement. This interplay provides a unique basis for integrated research on global systems and human adaptation.

OPP/ARC disciplinary programs encompass atmospheric sciences, biological sciences, earth sciences, glaciology, ocean sciences, and social sciences. Interdisciplinary research in the biosciences, geosciences, and social sciences is linked through the Arctic System Science Program of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Besides supporting research on long-term human/environment interactions, Polar Programs encourages the study of contemporary socioeconomic, cultural, and demographic issues. OPP also encourages research relevant to both polar regions, especially glaciology, permafrost, sea ice, oceanography, ecology, and aeronomy. Increasing emphasis is being given to the integration of research and education. Scientific programs that partner with schools, students (K-12 and higher), and communities in the north and that improve the publicís understanding of science and basic research are strongly encouraged.

Toolik Lake laboratory  

The United States Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 defines the Arctic as all areas north of the Arctic Circle and all United States territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers; all contiguous seas including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas, and the Aleutian chain. Field projects falling outside these boundaries but directly related to arctic science and engineering conditions or issues are appropriate, as are related laboratory and theoretical studies.

The Foundation is one of 14 Federal agencies that sponsor or conduct arctic science, engineering, and related activities. As mandated by the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984, interagency research planning is coordinated through the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), which is chaired by NSF. Researchers are strongly encouraged to pursue this possibility directly with Polar Programs. Further information on other agency programs is presented in the U.S. Arctic Research Plan at

As the Arctic is the homeland of numerous Native peoples, special attention must be given to all aspects of research which may potentially impact their lives. An interagency statement of "Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic" has been developed and all arctic research grantees are expected to abide by these guidelines.

Last updated: 2 May 2014