My Turn: UAF to host Arctic summit in 2016

When warmer temperatures and daylight returns this spring, it will also bring nearly 1,000 scientists, policy makers, technical experts, educators and other Arctic authorities from around the world to Fairbanks to develop a better understanding of the Arctic environment and its role in global policy.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is proud to serve our state and nation by hosting the year’s largest international gathering dedicated to the Arctic — the Arctic Science Summit Week, Arctic Observing Summit, and related events — from March 9-20, 2016.

UAF has a record of building collaborative partnerships with indigenous peoples, industry, government agencies and policy makers at the national and international levels in the Arctic. The summit will provide an opportunity to showcase our expertise and capabilities, which could lead to new research, business opportunities and solutions to the challenges we face in Alaska.

Many of our challenges are common to other Arctic nations, so partnerships built during this week will facilitate understanding, explore solutions and provide resources to address emerging high-profile issues. Some of the issues are search and rescue, community-based monitoring, changes in fisheries, infrastructure development to support transpolar shipping and tourism, and technological advances such as autonomous sensor networks and unmanned aerial vehicles.

During the annual Arctic Science Summit Week, scientific organizations from around the world come together to coordinate activities and look for opportunities to cooperate and collaborate. The Arctic Observing Summit meets biennially to assure that adequate observations and measurements of the Arctic environment are being collected and shared for the mutual benefit of all nations.

We will also host a meeting of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum of the eight Arctic nations, which includes the United States, six indigenous organizations, 12 non-Arctic states and 20 organizations holding observer status. The meeting at UAF is part of the Arctic Council’s aim to foster cooperation on issues of mutual concern; it will include updates on associated working groups such as those on Sustainable Development, Emergency Prevention and Preparedness and Response.

These large meetings will be held simultaneously to promote communication and the translation of scientific understanding into policy. UAF is coordinating the program for the International Arctic Assembly, the day that all of these meetings overlap. The program will explore the research and knowledge required by policy makers to help them make sound recommendations, including issues of particular interest to Alaskans, such as economic opportunities explored by the Arctic Economic Council or management of marine living resources in a rapidly changing Arctic.

UAF will also host many outreach events for students and the public, including the Model Arctic Council, an experiential learning exercise in which graduate and undergraduate students from institutions across the Arctic and world simulate the work of the Arctic Council. The Model Arctic Council aims to expand knowledge of Arctic issues and international politics, prepare students to assume leadership roles in the Arctic and enhance collaboration among University of the Arctic institutions.

Alaska’s presence in the Arctic is the reason the United States is an Arctic nation and why UAF, America’s Arctic University, is working to guide the national and international dialogue on the challenges and opportunities unique to the Arctic. UAF research is diverse and encompasses most of the sectors, disciplines and problem areas that matter in the context of rapid Arctic change. By hosting the summit and related meetings, we are striving to make our state a better place to live and work by bringing together diverse perspectives and helping local voices be heard at a national and international level.

• Larry Hinzman is the interim Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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