The International Polar Year 2007-8 has seen an unprecedented level of community engagement in this huge scientific effort to understand the polar regions.
Woods Hole Research Center scientist Max Holmes with students from Zhigansk, Siberia, a predominately Evenki community along the Lena River. Students and teachers from Zhigansk, as well as additional participants from communities located along other large Arctic rivers in Russia, Canada, and Alaska, work with IPY scientists to investigate the impact of climate change on arctic rivers and their watersheds as part of the Student Partners Project. Photo Credit: Amy Clapp.
Engagement of Northern Communities:
Arctic communities have played a key role in the research efforts of International Polar Year 2007-2008. In previous IPYs, communities may have provided basic consultation or aid to research teams in navigating the harsh Arctic environments but their contributions were not recognized as key aspects of the program nor were they purposefully engaged in the research process. IPY 2007-2008 has seen the direct involvement and participation of Arctic communities, organizations, governments and youth. Communities have provided guidance, logistical support, and have led and partnered in the design, implementation and management of IPY research programs. This aspect of the IPY program has provided communities with opportunities for training and capacity building; information for circumpolar decision makers; direct access to advances in technology development; and economic contributions. The partnership and collaboration has led researchers from all fields to think more broadly about engaging community expertise, resources, capacity, and communication in their research. The resulting legacy will be a new approach to conducting research in the polar regions characterized by community leadership and enhanced capacities.
Through a series of International Polar Days IPY researchers have engaged directly with members of the public around the world. Every Polar Day facilitates direct interaction between researchers with members of the public by utilizing both the latest technologies, like videoconferencing and web-based seminars, and more traditional forms of communication such as local community radio shows and visits to schools. For each event we also produce activity and summary flyers that bring different aspects of polar research quickly into the learning environment. These flyers are translated into 15 - 20 languages by our [very busy] volunteer teachers from around the world: a sign indeed that these efforts are appreciated an used!
In addition to Polar Days that are stimulated on an international level, many countries have extensive national IPY outreach and education programmes. To find out more, please contact your National IPY Committee.
For more information on public engagement in IPY, please contact Rhian Samon (
, +44 7711181509)