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United States

Open Collaboration Onf the Arctic (US0102)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Environment and Climate, Natural Resources, Public Participation, Science & Technology

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Understanding the rapid changes that are affecting the Arctic—as well as the impacts of these changes on the rest of the world—requires a cooperative, global approach based on open intergovernmental partnerships and research collaboration involving participants from Arctic and non-Arctic nations. On September 28, 2016, the U.S. Government will host the first ever White House Arctic Science Ministerial to bring together ministers of science, chief science advisors, and other high-level officials from countries around the world, as well as representatives from indigenous groups, to expand joint, inclusive collaborations focused on Arctic science, research, observations, monitoring, and data-sharing. The goals of the event are to advance promising science initiatives and create a context for increased international and open scientific collaboration on the Arctic over the longer term

IRM Midterm Status Summary

This commitment was not assessed in the midterm IRM report.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 50. Open Collaboration on the Arctic

Commitment Text:

Increase Open Scientific Collaboration on the Arctic

Understanding the rapid changes that are affecting the Arctic—as well as the impacts of these changes on the rest of the world—requires a cooperative, global approach based on open intergovernmental partnerships and research collaboration involving participants from Arctic and non-Arctic nations. On September 28, 2016, the U.S. Government will host the first ever White House Arctic Science Ministerial to bring together ministers of science, chief science advisors, and other high-level officials from countries around the world, as well as representatives from indigenous groups, to expand joint, inclusive collaborations focused on Arctic science, research, observations, monitoring, and data-sharing. The goals of the event are to advance promising science initiatives and create a context for increased international and open scientific collaboration on the Arctic over the longer term.

Responsible Institution: Not Specified

Supporting Institution: Not Specified

Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Editorial Note: Completion at the midterm is not assessed for this commitment because it was submitted to OGP in September 2016 following the close of the midterm reporting period; progress for this commitment is therefore assessed from September 2016 onwards in the sections below.

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed for the White House to host an inaugural White House Arctic Science Ministerial on 28 September 2016. The ministerial was expected to provide an opportunity for a variety of government officials from other countries—including but not limited to ministers of science and chief science advisors—and representatives from indigenous groups to expand “joint, inclusive collaborations focused on Arctic science.” In doing so, the White House aimed to further Arctic-related science initiatives and provide a forum for long-term global scientific cooperation on the Arctic.

As described in the press release announcing the ministerial, [743] the Arctic is undergoing rapid environmental change, in turn compounding challenges for Arctic peoples; addressing these changes requires concerted, collaborative scientific efforts to understand environmental changes and further climate change resilience among Arctic people. The magnitude and pace of these changes is severe, with potential consequences for other regions. As noted in a recent Cable News Network (CNN) article, “the Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world,” with the Arctic’s average air temperature in 2016 reaching a new high since recordkeeping began in 1900. [744] Speaking to the potential for spillover effects into other regions, Director of NOAA's Arctic Research Program Jeremy Mathis further noted that “rarely have we seen the Arctic show a clearer, stronger or more pronounced signal of persistent warming and its cascading effects on the environment than this year [2016]," highlighting the magnitude of the potential threat posed by these changes, such as rising sea levels. [745] The Arctic Ministerial proposed in this commitment represents a new forum through which to further discussions surrounding scientific initiatives linked to these issues.

The ministerial proposed in the commitment is well-defined with a clear delineation of the issues it will address and its intended participants. However, the scope of engagement with indigenous groups is not well-specified, nor is the structure of format of the ministerial itself. As such, specificity for this commitment is medium.

The commitment is relevant for the OGP values of access to information and civic participation, as the proposed ministerial will further access to information on government-related scientific activities in the Arctic, while providing opportunities for members of civil society to engage with government on issues related to these activities. However, if fully implemented, the commitment is anticipated to have a minor potential impact due to the one-off nature of the ministerial and the difficulty in predicting the nature of initiatives that could result from the gathering.

Status

End of term: Complete

On 28 September 2016, the White House hosted the White House Arctic Science Ministerial described in the commitment text. The White House first announced the ministerial several months earlier in a White House blog post on 13 May 2016. [746] As described in a summary report for the ministerial prepared by the United States Arctic Research Commission, [747] the ministerial was attended by ministers of science (or their representatives) from 24 countries [748] and the European Union, with the US delegation led by John P. Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The ministerial itself revolved around four themes: (1) Arctic science challenges and their regional and global implications; strengthening and integrating arctic observations and data sharing; applying expanded scientific understanding of the Arctic to build regional resilience and shape global responses; and Arctic science as a vehicle for STEM education and citizen empowerment. [749] Structurally, the ministerial entailed four main sessions lasting 1.25 hours, each of which focused on one of the four themes described above, as well as an opening session, post-session plenary discussion, and closing remarks. [750]

One day prior to the ministerial, the White House hosted more than 30 Alaska-Native leaders, as well as representatives of five international indigenous organizations to “share their concerns and priorities” with over 40 US government officials from the White House and federal agencies in attendance. [751]

As described in the report, the ministerial “capstone” output was the signing of a joint statement that “recognizes that international collaboration and the inclusion of Arctic Indigenous peoples in science and decision-making are essential to advancing research in the Arctic.” [752] The report offers a forward-looking interpretation of the statement’s goals, noting that “The Joint Statement and the ASM help chart a new collective approach in Arctic science that will inform national policies concerning climate-change mitigation and resilience, Arctic development, stewardship, and the needs of the region’s Indigenous peoples.” [753] The statement itself touches on each of the four themes that informed the ministerial’s structure, and serves as a sort of “action plan” for specific activities to be carried out under each of these themes.

During the ministerial, the United States also released the first digital elevation model for the Arctic. These digital elevation models are the focus of Milestone 42.3, and are therefore evaluated more fully under Commitment 42. Participating governments also profiled several additional initiatives during the ministerial, such as the European Union’s development of the Integrated Arctic Observing System (INTAROS) and the US Office of Naval Research’s Arctic Mobile Observing System (AMOS), among other initiatives. [754]

According to the summary report, op-eds for the ministerial appeared in both the Washington Post and the Alaska Dispatch, with media coverage appearing in the Washington Post, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and others, with coverage via 27 total print and digital outlets. [755] With respect to attendance, participants included government officials from numerous countries, as well as individuals from major global academic institutions (e.g. National University of Singapore and University of Cambridge) and civil society organizations (e.g. the Aleut International Association, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Saami Council, and the United States Arctic Research Commission). However, as indicated by the ministerial’s participant list, government officials comprised the majority of attendants. [756]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Civic Participation: Marginal

This commitment marginally opened government with respect to access to information and civic participation.

With respect to access the information, the ministerial’s summary report offers a cohesive inventory of scientific initiatives in the Arctic, both new and existing. However, as the ministerial itself was a one-day event and did not clearly articulate follow-up reporting activities (such as reporting on the progress of the initiatives profiled at the ministerial), the commitment cannot be said to have opened government more substantially.

With respect to civic participation, the ministerial provided an opportunity for members of civil society to engage with government officials on initiatives in the Arctic. While media reports noted that the meeting was “much broader and more inclusive than the high-level dialogues typically convened by the Arctic Council” [757] and was “first-of-its-kind,” [758] the executive director of the Aleut International Association expressed disappointment that Arctic indigenous peoples were not involved in the planning of the event. [759] Moreover, while the ministerial’s outreach to and engagement with representatives of indigenous groups is noteworthy, the ministerial itself was a one-off event that did not provide a clear or institutionalized pathway for follow-on engagement. In light of this, the commitment cannot be said to have opened government more substantially in this area.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this theme will be carried forward. While the commitment is complete, the government should nevertheless continue to support the various scientific initiatives profiled at the Ministerial.

[743] Holdren, John P. “White House Arctic Science Ministerial: September 28, 2016.” The White House Blog. 13 May 2016. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/05/13/white-house-arctic-science-ministerial-september-28-2016. Consulted 3 October 2017. Much of the commitment text was taken verbatim from this press release.

[744] Cuevas, Mayra and Max Blau. “Arctic Heating Up Twice as Fast as Rest of Globe.” CNN Press Release14 December 2016.http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/14/world/arctic-report-card/index.html. Consulted 3 October 2017.

[745] Quoted in Ibid. For additional discussion of potential spillover effects and the changing Arctic environment, see Kahn, Brian. “Climate Change Altering the Arctic Faster Than Expected.” Climate Central. 25 April 2017. http://www.climatecentral.org/news/rapid-climate-change-arctic-21389. Consulted 3 October 2017.

[746] Holdren, John P. “White House Arctic Science Ministerial: September 28, 2016.” The White House Blog. 13 May 2016. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/05/13/white-house-arctic-science-ministerial-september-28-2016. Consulted 3 October 2017. Much of the commitment text was taken verbatim from this press release.

[747] United States Arctic Research Commission. “Supporting Arctic Science: A Summary of the White House Arctic Science Ministerial Meeting.” November 2016. https://www.arctic.gov/publications/other/supporting_arctic_science.html. Consulted 3 October 2017. Per its website, the United States Arctic Research Commission is “an independent agency that advises the President and Congress on domestic and international Arctic research through recommendations and reports.” The report itself is available directly at https://storage.googleapis.com/arcticgov-static/publications/other/Supporting_Arctic_Science_1.pdf. Consulted 3 October 2017.

[748] These governments included Canada, the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. See Ibid. p.5.

[749] Ibid. p1.

[750] Ibid. p.3.

[751] Ibid. p.1.

[752] Ibid. p.4. For the text of the Joint Statement itself, see pp.10-19 of the report. Consulted 3 October 2017.

[753] Ibid. p.4.

[754] Ibid. p.4.

[755] Ibid. pp. 20-21.

[756] Ibid. pp.22-25.

[757] Hoag, Hannah. “Top Arctic Science Officials to Meet at White House.” Arctic Deeply. 27 September 2016.https://www.newsdeeply.com/arctic/articles/2016/09/27/top-arctic-science-officials-to-meet-at-white-house

[758] Martinson, Erica. “Alaska Natives, international officials gather for White House meeting on Arctic research.” Anchorage Daily News. 28 September 2016. https://www.adn.com/arctic/2016/09/28/alaska-natives-international-officials-gather-for-white-house-arctic-meeting/

[759] Hoag, Hannah.“Top Arctic Science Officials to Meet at White House.” Arctic Deeply. 27 September 2016.https://www.newsdeeply.com/arctic/articles/2016/09/27/top-arctic-science-officials-to-meet-at-white-house


Commitments

Open Government Partnership