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News Release 12-101

NSF Partners With U.S. and International Agencies to Foster Research on Sustainability in the Arctic

Cohesive approach is seen as key to achieving resiliency in the shared environment of the international Arctic

Photo of two Eskimo students holding a tundra swan.

Two Eskimo students hold a tundra swan by the Kashunuk River in Alaska.
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May 24, 2012

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs leadership announced a partnership with several federal agencies and a consortium of French science agencies to foster research related to the sustainability of human, built, and environmental systems in the Arctic.

The Arctic Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (ArcSEES) solicitation was developed as part of the Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) portfolio by NSF in collaboration with several U.S. and international agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), which represents a consortium of French scientific agencies. These partnerships will bring a broad range of expertise to bear on pressing research questions in Arctic sustainability and will underscore the importance of a cohesive approach to achieving resiliency in the shared environment of the international Arctic.

"The rapidity of environmental change in the Arctic provides a dynamic backdrop against which researchers can test sustainability science theories, engineering, and models where results have immediate use," said Erica Key, Arctic Observing Network Program Director in NSF's Office of Polar Programs (OPP).

"NSF staff, led by Dr. Key, have worked long and hard to bring basic research and regulatory agencies together in sponsoring this ArcSEES competition," said Kelly Falkner, acting director of OPP. "The complex problems presented by a rapidly changing Arctic demand such new approaches to research in order to provide vital information to stakeholders and communities both within and outside of the Arctic."

"The Department of the Interior is very excited about the possibility of funding additional research related to the Arctic through this historic partnership, which includes not only BOEM but also the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," said David J. Hayes, deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Interior. "BOEM is one of many federal agencies with a role in making decisions about offshore energy development in the Arctic. Given the unknowns of the Arctic environment, continuous research to develop the best science is central to making decisions. This knowledge is integrated across several disciplines and a number of considerations that affect the economy, safety, protecting the environment, and facilitating shared use of limited resources."

Interest and investment in the sustainability of the Arctic extends well south of the Arctic Circle. The National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU) at CNRS, which is mandated to coordinate the French research in the Arctic, is encouraged that ArcSEES will allow a stronger partnership between French and U.S. scientists engaged in this particular field.

ArcSEES is a multi-year, interdisciplinary program that encourages research into the resilience of the natural, built, and living Arctic systems. The program also welcomes the development of practical, sustainable solutions in collaboration with northern communities affected by rapid environmental changes, shifts in their ways of life, coupled with economic potential associated with natural resource development. These challenges and opportunities for co-managing a sustainable future have global relevance, and approaches developed to adapt or mitigate these changes could have much broader influence.

This initial round of ArcSEES grants will focus on four key thematic areas: the natural and living environment; the built environment; natural-resource development, and governance. A longer than usual proposal window has been granted to allow interdisciplinary groups to form around these themes and develop proposal ideas with communities, industry, and collaborating agency scientists.

Proposals will be accepted until September 14, 2012.  Pending availability of funds, up to $12 million USD will be available for proposals responding to this solicitation. NSF anticipates making five to 15 awards as standard or continuing grants. The number of awards and average award size and duration are subject to the availability of funds. Meritorious proposals may be funded by one or more agencies at the option of the agencies, not the proposer.

Two webinars are currently planned to discuss ArcSEES: one to be held by the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy on June 6th at 2 p.m. ET and another by EPA's Region 10 Tribal Trust and Assistance Unit in conjunction with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals at Northern Arizona University on June 20th at 1 p.m. ET. Additional information on the solicitation is also available online.


Media Contacts
Deborah Wing, NSF, (703) 292-5344,

Program Contacts
Erica Key, NSF, (703) 292-8029,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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