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Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs in the context of climate change


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Alaska residents are already feeling the tangible impacts of climate change and are concerned about future impacts. In response, they have generated a large quantity of documents that describe their climate change-related research needs. This paper reviews and codes 63 stakeholder-generated documents that address climate change research needs in Alaska in order to synthesize common research needs and assess gaps in needs assessment. We find that research needs related to infrastructure, economics, hazards and safety, and terrestrial ecosystem impacts are most frequently mentioned. The review identifies a current focus on broad-scale expert assessments, and a gap in local-scale and participatory approaches. The majority of identified information needs cross traditional disciplines and require interdisciplinary approaches. Finally, this research suggests that scientists, stakeholders, and information translators in Alaska engage in iterative dialog in order to better link scientific inquiry to practice.
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Alaskan stakeholder-defined research
needs in the context of climate change
Corrine Noel Knappab & Sarah F. Trainora
a Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy, International
Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks,
b Master of Environmental Management Program, Western State
Colorado University, Gunnison, CO, USA
Published online: 19 Jan 2015.
To cite this article: Corrine Noel Knapp & Sarah F. Trainor (2015): Alaskan stakeholder-
defined research needs in the context of climate change, Polar Geography, DOI:
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Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs in the context of
climate change
Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy, International Arctic Research Center,
University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA;
Master of Environmental Management Program, Western State Colorado University,
Gunnison, CO, USA
(Received 19 September 2014; accepted 15 December 2014)
Alaska residents are already feeling the tangible impacts of climate change and
are concerned about future impacts. In response, they have generated a large
quantity of documents that describe their climate change-related research needs.
This paper reviews and codes 63 stakeholder-generated documents that address
climate change research needs in Alaska in order to synthesize common research
needs and assess gaps in needs assessment. We find that research needs related to
infrastructure, economics, hazards and safety, and terrestrial ecosystem impacts
are most frequently mentioned. The review identifies a current focus on broad-
scale expert assessments, and a gap in local-scale and participatory approaches.
The majority of identified information needs cross traditional disciplines and
require interdisciplinary approaches. Finally, this research suggests that scien-
tists, stakeholders, and information translators in Alaska engage in iterative
dialog in order to better link scientific inquiry to practice.
The impacts of climate change in Alaska are tangible and immediate: coastal
erosion, permafrost thaw, and village relocation regularly make the national news.
Northern regions, such as Alaska, are experiencing more rapid climate change than
other regions of the world (Serreze et al. 2000). Changes in temperature are
impacting a host of ecological processes and ecosystem services (Hinzman et al.
2005). Stakeholders are concerned about how changes will impact them, from
impacts to subsistence resources (Cochran 2004), management of federal lands
and resources (NPS 2014), to infrastructure viability (Zufelt 2009). We defined
stakeholders as non-academic entities that will be impacted by climate change in
Alaska, including tribes and communities, governmental entities, federal and state
agencies, and non-profit organizations. Concerns about climate change have
manifested in numerous climate change research needs assessments completed for
various stakeholder groups, including agencies, government entities, tribal organi-
zations, non-profits, and communities. Each of these needs assessments has been
conducted independently and to date there has been no analysis of or comparison
*Corresponding author. Email:
Polar Geography, 2015
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between documents in order to understand the broader context of research needs in
Alaska. This paper details a systematic review of these documents in order to better
understand common research needs and identify gaps where research needs have
not been assessed. This complements a prior paper in which the authors described
how these documents talk about how the processes and practices of science need
to change to be more relevant in the context of climate change (Knapp and
Trainor 2013).
Needs assessments published in peer-reviewed literature often focus on needs that
stem from prior research rather than those defined by stakeholders (e.g. Karnosky
2003; Matyssek et al. 2012), although there are examples of peer reviewed
needs assessments with stakeholders (e.g. Alexander, Moglia, and Miller 2010). In
addition, relevant research is not always communicated to stakeholders in a manner
so that its implications are transparent for decision-making (e.g. Roux et al. 2006).
While the core questions of academics and managers are often similar, managers
often focus on information that will directly contribute to decision-making, while
scientists often ask more theoretical questions (Cvitanovic et al. 2013). Stakeholders
in northern regions face immediate challenges that require information to inform
action (Chapin et al. 2006; Kofinas et al. 2010; Trainor et al. 2009). The scientific
literature has begun to seriously consider how science can be more relevant and
useful for climate change adaptation planning (Moser 2010; Patwardhan et al.
2009). One of the most important steps in this process is identifying what types of
information end-users desire so that research can be designed to meet community
needs. In this project, we compile and assess stakeholder research needs related to
climate change in order to shape the research agenda and help to bridge scientific
and stakeholder communities.
Alaska is a geographically large state with few long-term data sets and
inadequate monitoring (e.g. Alaska State Legislature 2008). In this context of scarce
data and limited funding, it is important to gage potential needs and prioritize
funding and resources to meet them. It is critical to understand the overarching
stakeholder research needs so that they can be prioritized and addressed. Research
funding for Arctic regions has increased in recent years, leading to concerns that
research is being duplicated and not adequately translated to policy (Ford and
Pearce 2010; Pearce et al. 2011). Systematic reviews can also help to minimize
redundant research efforts and promote learning between different sectors and
regions (Ford et al. 2012). In addition, it is important to identify the gaps in needs
assessment in order to highlight the sectors, regions or levels of organization where
research needs have not been assessed. These gaps are important to understand, as
inadequate attention to the needs of some stakeholders may lead to unequal
outcomes (Thomas and Twyman 2005). This project provides a baseline of
currently articulated research needs as well as gaps in needs assessment in order
to better prioritize and address them.
We believe that this review will be useful to a range of audiences: from
community members who want to understand the information needs of other
residents, to state and local government employees who want to prioritize funding
to meet pressing community needs, to researchers who want to address relevant
stakeholder-defined questions. Given the large scope of this review, this paper will
highlight general categories of research needs, but the documents included in the
review are available for further analysis (Appendix 1). Individuals interested in
specific research areas should contact the corresponding author for specific coding
2C.N. Knapp and S.F. Trainor
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reports of interest. This review also provides a baseline of climate change-related
research needs at a specific point in time that could be re-assessed over time in order
to understand how well researchers are meeting stakeholder-defined research needs.
We analyzed 63 documents that expressed the climate change science and
information needs of a diversity of stakeholders in Alaska. Criterion for document
selection were that the document (1) was related to climate change, (2) addressed
concerns of stakeholders in Alaska, and (3) focused on answering questions to
inform practical and policy decision-making (Clark 2007). We define stakeholders
as non-academic entities that will be impacted by climate change in Alaska
(identified in Appendix 1, Column 5). Often, the entity conducting the needs
assessment differed from the stakeholder whose research needs were assessed,
however federal and state agencies often conducted needs assessments related to
their own research needs. Entities that conducted needs assessments included
research institutions (25%), federal agencies (23%), state government (15%), non-
profit groups (14%), state agencies (12%), local governments (5%), and others
(5%). Assessments created by research institutions were only included if they
assessed the needs of a stakeholder group in order to inform practical decision-
making. In order to bound our project, peer reviewed literature was not included in
the document review. Stakeholders whose needs were assessed included local and
state government (e.g. State of Alaska), federal agencies (e.g. US Forest Service),
state agencies (e.g. Alaska Department of Fish and Game), and non-profit
organizations (e.g. Center for Ocean Science Educational Excellence).
We identified 63 documents through web searches and confirmed the complete-
ness of our sample through conversations with local experts in different sectors.
Documents included needs assessments (35%), summaries of climate change
impacts (23%), strategies to deal with climate change impacts (12%), presentations
about climate change (12%), and letters, notes, and other types of documents
(17%). All of the documents were created between 1998 and 2012, with over half
created since 2010 (Figure 1). We completed document identification in March 2012
so documents created more recently are not included in this review. Documents
addressed a wide range of research needs. While the most common were general
assessments, assessments related to tribes, infrastructure, health, wildlife, forestry,
and community were also common (Figure 2). Common needs assessment methods
included expert knowledge (60%) and workshops (22%). More in-depth particip-
atory assessments using interviews (3%), surveys (3%), and focus groups (2%) were
rare. A complete list of documents included in the review and web addresses are
available (Appendix 1).
We used qualitative content analysis methods to understand what each document
articulated about research needs. Content analysis is a technique that gathers
sections of text related to similar themes, also called coding, to assess thematic
patterns across documents (Bernard and Ryan 2010). We started with a coding list
based on prior research (Markon, Trainor, and Chapin III 2012) and then
expanded on this list as new themes of interest emerged (Denzin and Lincoln
2005). For instance, we coded all of the documents for categories of research needs
such as infrastructure, health, wildlife, and others. Within each category, we created
sub-categories that reflected the specific information needs identified in each
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Figure 1. Number of needs assessment documents included in review by publication date.
Figure 2. Primary theme of each needs assessment document included in the review.
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document. A sample section of our coding scheme is provided in the Appendix 2.
Needs were rarely prioritized in the documents, and so coding did not reflect any
prioritization. However, number of passages coded is a rough approximation of the
importance given to each code. There were over 700 categories and sub-categories
of code. We coded all documents twice to make sure all stated needs were captured.
After preliminary manual coding in NVivo, a qualitative analysis software, we used
the reports and word search features to confirm that we had captured all the
research needs identified in the documents. The 63 needs assessments represented in
this report represent over 4000 pages of coded material. Each document had an
average of 51 codes (separate themes) referenced per document and over 17,000
total coded passages. In addition to coding for categorical needs, we also labeled
each document based on the primary sector that they addressed (Figure 2).
Once the coding was complete, we looked at both quantitative results (how many
times each theme was addressed) and qualitative results (what was said about each
theme). Quantitative results were used as a way of gaging the relative importance of
each research category across all of the assessments. The number of times each
research area is mentioned is a rough measure of the importance of that research
area to stakeholders (Table 1). Little or no mention of research areas may suggest
either that there is little need for research in this area or that little assessment of
research needs have been done in this sector. Qualitative results were used to
understand the sub-categories within research areas and the content related to each
research area. In this paper, we focus primarily on the quantitative results in order
to provide an overview of stakeholder generated research needs, with short
reflections on the qualitative results associated with each category.
Limitations of this approach
In this review, we focused primarily on research areas that were described most
frequently across the reviewed documents. Our assumption is that research needs
that are mentioned more frequently across documents are a greater need, while
those that are mentioned less often are either less important to stakeholders, or are
in need of further assessment. There are three primary challenges with these
assumptions. First, the needs assessments included in this review may not reflect all
stakeholder needs. While we made our best effort to identify all existing documents
that relate to Alaskan stakeholder research needs related to climate change, we may
have missed some documents. It is quite likely that not all stakeholder groups have
assessed their climate change-related research needs and produced a needs
assessment document. However, this systematic assessment is the best available
gage of documented research needs. Our attention to gaps in needs assessments has
the potential to identify sectors, levels of organization, and regions that could
benefit from addition assessment, and thus lead to better understanding of all
stakeholder needs.
Second, we realize that some types of research needs might be more specific, and
therefore be addressed intensively in a small number of documents instead of being
included across reviewed documents. To address this, we assessed average number
of passages coded for categories and sub-categories per document to identify
categories that are not mentioned widely, but are the focus of specific documents.
While some of these overlap with the most commonly mentioned research needs
(terrestrial ecosystem impacts, infrastructure, economics, wildlife), other research
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 5
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areas emerge such as marine ecosystem impacts, disturbance, hydrology, ocean ice
conditions, continental shelf, and others (Appendix 3). These results suggest that
some documents are intensively focused on specific categories that may not be as
common across documents. These research areas may be equally important, but to
more specific audiences instead of across different audiences (represented by
different needs assessment documents).
Finally, it is challenging to know whether research needs mentioned less
commonly are less important or if these specific sectors, levels of organization, or
regions have not yet had their research needs assessed. Some needs may not have
been mentioned in any of the documents, and it is challenging to identify these as
yet undefined needs. Our assessment of spatial gaps in assessment highlight scales
Table 1. Most frequently mentioned stakeholder-defined research needs and subneeds within
reviewed documents.
Research need % No.
Social impacts
Infrastructure 70 44
Impacts due to climate change (permafrost thaw, coastal erosion, etc.) 47 30
Economic impacts 59 37
Sector specific impacts 43 27
Potential for increased development 22 14
Impacts to economic growth 18 11
Costs of climate change 14 9
Hazards and safety 59 37
Coastal erosion 25 16
Flooding 20 13
Bio-pollutants 18 11
Subsistence 48 30
Quantity and distribution of wildlife 30 19
Impacts to rural culture 18 11
Vulnerability assessments 48 30
Community-level 33 21
Ecological 14 9
Apropriate responses
Governance 51 32
Developing new policies 25 16
Modifying existing policies 30 19
Adaptation 48 30
Creating adaptation plans 20 13
Developing adaptive capacity 16 10
Providing better information 14 9
Planning 44 28
Incorporating climate change 24 15
Ecological impacts
Terrestrial ecosystem impacts 59 37
Wildlife 33 21
Vegetation 18 11
Invasive species 16 10
Fisheries 14 9
Physical science
Climate models 43 27
More accurate models 19 12
Downscaled models 35 22
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and specific areas where needs assessments may be needed in order to explore
undefined needs. As might be expected, those with resources to complete needs
assessments have done so, while those who lack resources for systematic assessment
have not (see results). While this is a bias in the results, this paper provides the most
comprehensive review of assessments possible at this time.
In this section, we describe the percentage of documents that address each of the
following research needs. Many documents expressed multiple research needs, so
percentages add up to more than 100%.
Most common research needs
The majority of commonly addressed research needs have to do with the social
impacts of climate change (infrastructure: 70%, the economy: 59%, safety: 59%,
subsistence: 48%, or vulnerability assessments: 48%) or appropriate responses
(governance: 51%, adaptation: 48%, planning: 44%) (Table 1). Only 2 of the top 10
research needs had to do with impacts to natural systems (terrestrial ecosystem
impacts: 59%) or climate science (climate models: 43%).
The most frequently mentioned research questions were related to the ways
climate change will impact human communities. The most common sub-categories
were infrastructure, economy, safety, subsistence, and vulnerability. Commonly
mentioned infrastructure research needs within this category included general impacts
to infrastructure from permafrost thaw or coastal erosion (47%). Economic
impacts primarily looked at sector-specific impacts (43%), with emphasis on
fisheries (13%) and shipping (12%). Other economic questions related to how
increased development might influence the Alaskan economy (22%), what types
of general shifts there would be to economic growth (18%), and what the total
costs of climate change would be (14%). Research questions related to hazards
and safety most commonly addressed coastal erosion (25%), flooding (20%), and
bio-pollutants (18%). Concerns related to subsistence food harvest were primarily
related to how climate change might impact the quantity and distribution of
species (30%), as well as how these changes might impact rural culture (18%).
Documents that described a need for vulnerability assessments most often
described community level vulnerability assessments (33%).
The reviewed documents also described research needs related to appropriate
responses to climate change. The most common of these involved governance
(51%), and most of these documents talked about developing new policies (25%) or
modifying existing policies (30%). In the group of documents that focused on
adaptation, the most common needs related to creating adaptation plans (20%),
developing adaptive capacity (16%), or providing better information to decision-
makers (14%). The documents that talked about planning, primarily discussed the
need to better engage climate change information in planning efforts (24%).
The two natural science-related research questions revolved around terrestrial
ecosystem impacts (59%) and climate models (43%). Terrestrial ecosystem impacts
related to wildlife (33%), vegetation (18%), invasive species (16%), and fisheries
(14%). Wildlife-related questions were frequently related to climate change impacts
to wildlife (21%), need for better baseline data (16%), and changes to migration
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 7
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patterns (11%). Questions related to vegetation often concerned the need for better
baseline data (6%), change in species composition (5%), and changes to tree line
(5%). Invasive species questions often related to the need for better monitoring of
detrimental species (11%), better control techniques (7%), and the need to develop
regulations and guidelines for controlling invasive species (5%). Fisheries questions
included understanding the impacts of climate change (9%) and monitoring change
in populations (6%). Questions about climate models related to developing more
accurate models (19%) and downscaled models (35%) that would lead to better
local-scale predictions.
Overarching research needs
There were three overarching themes across documents: a need for baseline data
collection, a need to understand impacts to social systems, and a need to integrate
local knowledge and involve local people. A majority of the documents (83%)
spoke to the lack of adequate baseline data. Inadequate data were mentioned in
reference to a wide variety of topics from invasive species to subsistence. Most
commonly mentioned were needs related to weather data, coastal mapping, water
resources, human health, and tides. While few (9%) of the documents explicitly
talked about linked social-ecological systems, almost all of them mentioned impacts
to the social system (98%). Documents show that stakeholders are concerned with
how biological and physical impacts from climate change affect human communit-
ies. Finally, the majority of the documents (60%) mentioned the importance of
engaging and involving local people and their knowledge in climate change research
and planning.
Least common research needs
The least commonly mentioned research needs are primarily nested several levels
below primary categories and are related either to aspects that are difficult to
quantify (sense of place: 3%, spirituality: 1.5%), or specific categories (restoration:
6%, archeology: 5%, primary productivity: 5%, communication: 5%, topography/
mapping: 5%, nitrogen cycle: 1.5%). However, there were several broader sub-
categories such as ecosystem services (6%) and social-ecological interactions (3%)
were also infrequently mentioned.
Gaps in climate change research needs assessments
Inadequate attention to the local scale and local perspectives
This review reveals a lack of assessments at local scales and incorporating local
perspectives. Since documents commonly focused on the state (44%) or larger
(28%) scales, specific regional or ecosystem-level needs may be overlooked. The
majority of documents did not have a local (37%) or ecosystem-level (22%) focus.
The region that has received the most attention in needs assessments is northern
and northwestern Alaska (6% each) and southeast, coastal, and northern Alaska
(5% each). Coastal (8%) and marine systems (6%) have the highest percentage of
needs assessments, while the boreal forest ecosystem has very few (2%). The
primary entities that instigated needs assessments were state and federal agencies
(38%), research institutions (23%), state government (16%), and non-profit groups
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(14%), with less representation from local and tribal governments (5%). The
majority of documents were conducted using expert knowledge (60%) and work-
shops (22%). Assessments that engage local stakeholders, including interviews
(3%), surveys (3%), and focus groups (1%), were rare. The majority of needs
assessments conducted thus far have focused on broad scale assessments utilizing
expert knowledge.
Lack of explicit temporal scale
The majority of needs assessments documents did not specify a temporal scale at
which research needs were being considered. Most of the others considered a short-
term (15 years) temporal scale (9%) with only one explicitly looking at a longer
timescale (10+ years; 2%).
Gaps in research needs for specific sectors
Each document was labeled for the primary sector it addressed, and these sectors
varied widely (Figure 2). The most common sectors that documents addressed were
multiple sectors (11%), tribes (9%), infrastructure (9%), health and wildlife (7%
each), and forestry and community (6% each). The least common sectors included
coastal systems, education, energy, fisheries, and security (1% each). These sectors
may require additional assessment to make sure that needs are documented
and met.
This review highlights some of the most and least cited stakeholder-identified,
climate change research needs in Alaska, as well as identifying some of the current
gaps in needs assessment. In addition, it suggests several important lessons for
conducting user-driven science that can satisfy the information needs of stake-
holders. First, it highlights a consistent desire for additional baseline data, the lack
of which may impede adaptation actions. The need for data suggests both a need to
translate existing research as well as a need to learn how to make decisions despite
the lack of complete information. Second, it highlights important trends in the scale
at which climate change-related research needs are assessed, and suggests a need for
more local-scale, participatory needs assessments. Finally, it focuses on impacts of
climate change to human communities, suggesting a need for both more interdis-
ciplinary research and coordinated solutions. These findings suggest revisions in the
way we think about and move from documenting to addressing local research
The conundrum of baseline data
One of the most consistent themes related to research needs was the lack of
adequate baseline data and monitoring (83%), especially as it relates to weather,
coastal mapping, water resources, human health, and tides. Alaska has a large land
area, and it is challenging to collect adequate baseline data and maintain ongoing
monitoring to feel confident that decisions are well informed (Hinzman et al. 2005).
For example, Alaska is over nine times larger than Washington State, and has only
20 National Weather Service first order observation stations, as compared to
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200 stations in Washington (Alaska Climate Research Center 2013). This paucity of
data has led to several data-sharing hubs in Alaska that make data widely available,
such as regional databases focused on a specific sector of question (e.g. NOAAs
Arctic Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) tool), or the
earth system grid that improves research efficiency by allowing open access to
climate simulation data (Williams et al. 2009). In our prior manuscript, we found
that many documents suggested this type of data clearinghouse (Knapp and
Trainor 2013), indicating either that these documents were created prior to the
establishment of data hubs, or that there is a need for better communication and
outreach about their existence and how to use them. We saw similar issues with
expressed information needs that have already been addressed in some form. For
instance, downscaled climate models are now available for many regions (SNAP
2014). Effective user-driven science may begin with needs assessment, but must then
critically assess identified needs to understand if they are either a sign that either
additional research is needed or there is a need for better translation and
communication of existing research.
This theme also begs the question of when existing information is adequate for
decision-making. Desire for increased information may impede decision-making or
constrain adaptive actions, as decision-makers wait for more information (Barnett
2001). Developing processes for making decisions in low information environments
(Hallegatte 2009; Lempert et al. 2004), and creating adaptive learning processes
(Tribbia and Moser 2008) may be as or more important than collecting additional
data. Decisions about adaptation often occur with imperfect information or varying
degrees of scientific uncertainty (Averyt 2010; Trainor 2012), and even when data
exists, it is not always included in decision-making (Lemos and Rood 2010).
Decisions related to planning and adaptation are often influenced by values and
politics more than scientific data or ongoing monitoring (Morss et al. 2005). In
some instances, calls for additional data may mask a desire to put off decision-
making. Given the uncertainties inherent in projecting climate change impacts,
processes that foster flexibility, learning, and reflection may be more important
than obtaining additional information (Berkes 2007).
Attention to scale
This review demonstrates a reliance on large-scale assessments to the exclusion of
the local (community) scale, where communities experience and will need to
respond to climate change impacts. In part, this is a logical first response to climate
change in order to gage large-scale needs. The focus on large scales and expert
knowledge is reflective of the pressing nature of the problem, the role of strong top-
down leadership, and the ability to take advantage of easily accessible expert
knowledge. It is also possible that additional local scale assessments have been
completed since we collected the documents included in this review. However, the
majority of assessments have ignored the variation and nuance of the local context,
the needs that arise at different scales, and the value of local knowledge. It is time to
shift the focus of assessments from a broad to a local scale. This will require
additional funding and capacity building in communities. Institutions at different
levels (family, tribal council, tribal corporations, native associations, state govern-
ment, national government) will have different needs related to climate change, and
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these needs are important to understand for effective and integrated governance
(Cash et al. 2006).
Local scale assessment is also especially important for tribal needs. While tribes
were one of the most common categories of needs assessment, the majority of tribal
needs assessments were conducted by a third party at the scale of the state. Tribal
needs arising at a large scale will differ from assessment at a local level based on
local history, culture, and ecology. Since our society is built upon activities and
interactions that happen at multiple scales, prioritizing one scale over others may
lead to disconnects between scales and the inability to apply knowledge gained at
one scale to another scale (Adger, Arnell, and Tompkins 2005).
As well as the local implications for Alaskan needs assessment, there are more
general implications for the way that we both conduct assessment and pursue
research to meet those needs. The importance of working at several scales simulta-
neously has been described theoretically (Adger, Arnell, and Tompkins 2005), as
well as the need to integrate multiple types of knowledge in global assessments
(Rothman et al. 2009). Multi-scale deliberative needs assessments have shown
valuable for water planning by bringing multiple types of knowledge and perspec-
tives together to coordinate management (Alexander, Moglia, and Miller 2010).
Working at multiple scales simultaneously can be a challenge. Polar regions that are
experiencing rapid climate change may be excellent places to invest in these multi-
scaled approaches so that other regions can learn from our experience.
This review also demonstrated a lack of attention to the temporal scale of needs
assessment. It may be the nature of needs assessments to focus on current needs,
however by not specifying temporal scale assessments may fail to think proactively
about future research needs related to climate change. In addition, the temporal
scale of analysis is an important component of scientific inquiry. If future needs
assessments can specify the time frame of decision-making, this will assist in
meeting information needs. This suggests that future assessments may want to
consider the timeline at which they are assessing research needs.
Need for interdisciplinary research and coordinated solutions
Nearly all of the documents described the need to understand how climate change
will impact human communities (98%). Research funding has focused primarily on
modeling and understanding climatic change and ecosystem impacts, so increased
focus on understanding impacts to human communities may be needed (Hinzman
et al. 2005). The types of research needs that were commonly mentioned (infra-
structure, economics, hazards/safety, etc.) require understanding of the interactions
of climate, biological, ecological, physical, and human dimensions. Meeting these
types of research needs will require interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary
approaches, which facilitate reflection and learning between physical, social, and
biological disciplines (Pidgeon and Fischhoff 2011). These approaches may require
increased attention to place, new approaches for collecting and comparing different
types of data, and more collaborative research approaches (Knapp and Trainor
2013). Meeting stakeholder needs may not align well with current incentives that
researchers have to produce projects that are fundable, publishable, and contribute
generalizable results (Averyt 2010), so it may be necessary to shift researcher
incentives (Averyt 2010; Knapp and Trainor 2013). This could be accomplished
along a spectrum from collaborations on individual projects to changing the current
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 11
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research/education system and questioning core assumptions about that system is
and how it functions.
The interdisciplinary nature of the problems to be addressed also suggests a need
to coordinate and integrate solutions that arise in different domains. For instance,
effective adaptation for flooding will need to coordinate solutions that arise at
different scales (levies: local, dams: watershed), take different approaches (engin-
eering, policy, etc.) and impact different parts of the system (hydrology, ecology,
human communities). The coordination of adaptation strategies may also require
new institutions with new mechanisms for tracking and monitoring how strategies
influence one another (Ostrom 2010).
Moving from identifying to meeting needs
In the larger context of climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation,
identifying stakeholder information needs is incomplete without also bringing
relevant science to bear to meet those needs. The information needs identified in
this research reflect on-the-ground problems that arise from complex interactions,
solutions to which are generated from neither fully basic nor applied science, but
from research known as use inspired science(Clark 2007). Use inspired science is
one solution to an ongoing conversation about the best way to connect science and
practice. If we want to move from identifying to meeting information needs,
research must be perceived as salient, credible, and legitimate by those who will use
it (Cash 2002).
Recent research has shown the need for a translational role between scientists
and stakeholders, which involves iterative interactions that bridge the scientific and
applied decision spheres of knowledge framing addressing issues such as informa-
tion timeliness and usability. These translators can communicate the state of the
science to stakeholders, identify baseline data that may be challenging to locate,
and facilitate a dialog between scientists and stakeholders about making decisions
in the context of uncertainty. They can also play a role in conducting local needs
assessments and then making sure that the science that results from user-defined
needs is something that is credible, legitimate, and salient to local communities
(e.g. Eden 2011).
This role can be effectively served by boundary organizations that engage in
iterative two-way communication between scientists and stakeholders to help
translate and bridge the realms of science and practice by building trusting, long-
term relationships aimed at the co-production of knowledge (Guston 2001; Lemos,
Kirchhoff, and Ramprasad 2012; Lynch, Tryhorn, and Abramson 2008; Tribbia
and Moser 2008; White, Corley, and White 2008). In the climate change field in the
USA, for example, entities such as the Regional Integrated Science and Assessment
(RISA) Programs funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra-
tion (Kirchhoff, Lemos, and Engle 2013), the Climate Science Centers funded by
the Department of Interior, and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, hosted
by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, have increasingly stepped in to serve this
translational function and act as intermediary between scientists and stakeholders.
Traditional modes of science delivery have operated with limited efficacy
under a model by which results of curiosity driven science are made available
through venues such as websites, newsletters, and reports (e.g. Cash et al. 2006).
Intermediary service providers, or science translators, may or may not be involved,
12 C.N. Knapp and S.F. Trainor
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depending on their availability and the skills and capacity of the scientists and
stakeholders involved. This model assumes that research results will meet consumer
(stakeholder) needs both in terms of content and process of delivery (Figure 3a).
The inverse process begins with identifying specific place-based consumer (stake-
holder) information needs and then conducting research to meet those needs. This
model assumes that scientists will have funding and capacity to conduct research at
relevant spatial and temporal scales, and that results will correspond with the
timeline of decision-making. Here too, the translation role may or may not be
involved (Figure 3b). Both of these models assume a supply and demand
relationship between scientists and stakeholders with one-way information flow
whereby scientists produce information and stakeholders consume it (Sarewitz and
Pielke 2007).
To the best of our knowledge, the research presented here is the first systematic
review of climate change related stakeholder generated research needs in Alaska.
However, previous needs assessment processes in Alaska have identified similar
Figure 3. Two models for communication between scientists and stakeholders. (a) In
science delivery, information that is generated by scientists as the result of curiosity driven
research is communicated to users. Often an individual or organization is needed to serve a
translation role to frame the scientific information in a way that is relevant and usable. In this
model scientists assume that their research results can be applied in a useful manner. (b)
Alternatively, specific information needs can be identified through needs assessment and
those needs can be communicated to scientists, also often with the assistance of an entity
serving a translation role. This model assumes that scientists will have funding and capacity
to conduct research that meets specific needs in terms of spatial and temporal scales as well as
timeliness of information access.
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 13
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research needs (e.g. Schlosser et al. 1998). This suggests a continuing disconnect
between identifying and meeting research needs. It is beyond the scope of this
research to document how or why similar research needs have persisted for more
than a decade in Alaska, however, our research suggests that despite efforts to meet
information needs the traditional one-way information flow between scientists and
stakeholders with the supply and demandmodel of science delivery is failing
to adequately tailor and communicate information in a way that satisfies the
information needs of stakeholders (Knapp and Trainor 2013).
Beyond these one-way frameworks of information flow, this review underscores
the need for a new model of science communication that expands iterative dialog
between scientists, stakeholders, and translating entities, known by some as the co-
production of knowledge (Figure 4) (Cash et al. 2003; Lemos and Morehouse 2005;
Stalpers, Van Ierland, and Kroeze 2009; Vogel et al. 2007). In this way both the
specific information needs of stakeholders, including for example spatial and
temporal scales, and the scientific research constraints, such as limitations in
funding and research capacity, can be considered at the outset and incorporated
into the research design and planned products and outcomes. Several different
Figure 4. Iterative communication between scientists, stakeholders (application) and
translators involves dialog between all three entities throughout the research process. This
process, known by some as the co-production of knowledge, holds much promise in moving
from identifying to meeting stakeholder information needs.
14 C.N. Knapp and S.F. Trainor
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institutional arrangements can accomplish this two-way iterative information
exchange including boundary organizations, embedded capacity, knowledge net-
works, information brokers, and collaborative processes (Dilling and Lemos 2011).
However, establishing scientific credibility identifying role dynamics, and building
the trusted relationships required for this process is time consuming. In addition,
there remains a need for baseline data, shared problem framing, institutionalizing
incentives, and establishing evaluative metrics (Dilling and Lemos 2011; Vogel
et al. 2007).
Identifying stakeholder needs is only the first step in moving toward meeting
those needs. User-driven science emerges from local questions and concerns, but for
it to be understood and applied it may also require attention to translation and
dialog across the science-practice process. In Alaska and the polar region, we
suggest that it is time to move beyond simple science delivery or needs assessment
models and engage in concerted ongoing iterative dialog between stakeholders,
scientists, and translators to make sure that science is not only driven by users, but
that it remains relevant so that it can meet stakeholder needs and be applied in
practice (Clark 2007; Knapp and Trainor 2013; Markon, Trainor, and Chapin
III 2012).
Additional utility of needs assessment review
This review creates a baseline of needs assessments that could be compared over
time to make sure that progress is made in linking science to application and in
understanding climate change impacts and adaptation. This review could also be
used to compare with science plans in order to understand whether planning is
reflecting local needs. Finally, similar assessments could be conducted in other
polar regions in order to understand both the intersection and difference between
research needs across the Arctic. Finally, this review suggests the importance of
moving from identifying stakeholder needs to meeting them through research and
effective communication.
This review identifies important areas for future research and gaps in current
research needs assessment. It highlights the fact that stakeholders are concerned
with how climate change will impact human communities, most often in the realms
of infrastructure, economics, hazards and safety, and governance. It further
highlights the need for interdisciplinary analysis, specifically on social sectors and
their overlap with climate science and ecosystems, and suggests a need for a shift in
focus to help communities better understand impacts and potential adaptation. The
majority of documents also highlight the lack of baseline data and monitoring
programs to help inform decision-making. While this could mean increased data
collection, it could also suggest better tools for information exchange and strategies
to make decisions in information-limited situations. While many of the documents
described the need to integrate local knowledge and engage local people, there are
relatively few research needs assessments conducted at a regional or community
scale. Assessment at a local level may also contribute to identifying research
projects that can address local concerns and inform decision-making. Moving from
identifying to meeting research needs requires focus on the communication between
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 15
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scientists and stakeholders, a process which often requires an intermediary such as a
boundary organization to assist in translation and information exchange.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
This research was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
Climate Program Office [grant number NA11OAR4310141] with the Alaska Center for
Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This research was also
supported by the Resilience and Adaptation IGERT Program at the University of Alaska
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Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 19
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Appendix 1. Documents included in needs assessment review
# Title Date URL Conducted for Type Primary sector Method
1 2011 Science
US Forest
Summary Forestry Expert
2 A Summary of the Alaskan
Marine Arctic
Conservation Action Plan
The Nature
Strategy Conservation Expert
3 Adapting to Climate
Change: A Call for Federal
Strategy Adaptation Expert
4 Alaska Climate Impact
Assessment: A
Commissioners Summary
of Findings
Alaska State
Presentation General Expert
5 Alaska DOT & PF
Adaptation to Climate
Department of
Presentation Infrastructure Expert
6 Alaska Energy Research
The Alaska
Energy Expert
7 Alaska Region Climate
Change Response Strategy
2010 National Park
Strategy Conservation Expert
8 Alaska Subsistence
Lifestyles Face Changing
Article Subsistence Expert
9 Alaska Wildland Fire
Coordinating Group Fire
Research Needs 2011
Alaskan Land
Fire Expert
20 C.N. Knapp and S.F. Trainor
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Appendix 1. (Continued )
# Title Date URL Conducted for Type Primary sector Method
10 Alaskas Climate Change
Alaska State
General Expert
11 Alaskas Climate Change
Strategy: Public
Infrastructure and Climate
Department of
and Public
Presentation Infrastructure Expert
12 American Indian and
Alaska Native Climate
Change Project
and native
letters, or
Tribes Expert
13 Arctic Ocean Synthesis:
Analysis of Climate Change
Impacts in the Chukchi and
Beaufort Seas with
Strategies for Future
North Pacific
Research Board
Ocean ecology Workshop
14 Changing Conditions in the
Arctic: Strategic
Action Plan
agencies and
Strategy Ocean ecology Expert
15 City of Homer: Climate
Action Plan
City of Homer Strategy Community Literature
16 Climate Change and Health
Impacts: Point Hope
Village of
Point Hope
Strategy Health Interview
17 Climate Change and
Private Forest Landowners
in Alaska: A Needs
2011 Private forest
Forestry Focus
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 21
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Appendix 1. (Continued)
# Title Date URL Conducted for Type Primary sector Method
18 Climate Change and Tribes 2012
and native
Presentation Forestry Expert
19 Climate Change and Water
Infrastructure Forum
and tribes
Summary Water Workshop
20 Climate Change Impact
Assessment for Surface
Transportation in the
Pacific Northwest and
Department of
Transportation Expert
21 Climate change impacts,
vulnerabilities, and
adaptation in Northwest
2006 Northwest
Arctic Borough
Summary Community Workshop
22 Climate Change in
Kivalina, Alaska Strategies
for Community Health
Village of
Strategy Health Interview
23 Climate Change Research
Needs Workshop, Meeting
of the Western Governors
Water Workshop
24 Climate Change Strategy 2010
Department of
Fish and Game
Strategy Wildlife Expert
25 Climate Change,
Permafrost, and Impacts on
Civil Infrastructure
Multiple Summary Permafrost Expert
22 C.N. Knapp and S.F. Trainor
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Appendix 1. (Continued )
# Title Date URL Conducted for Type Primary sector Method
26 Climate change: anticipated
effects on ecosystem
services and potential
actions by the Alaska
Region, U.S. Forest Service
US Forest
Summary Forestry Literature
27 Climate Change: Predicted
Impacts on Juneau
City and
Borough of
Summary Community Expert
28 Confronting Climate
Change: An Early Analysis
of Water and Wastewater
Adaptation Costs
National water
and wastewater
Summary Water Expert
29 Current issues and research
agendas from Alaska
Native Communities
communities of
Tribes Workshop
30 Effects of Climate Change
on Subsistence
Communities in Alaska
Summary Subsistence Expert
31 Elim Hazard Impact
City of Elim Summary Infrastructure Multiple
32 Emerging Issue Summaries 2009
Multiple Needs
General Expert
33 Executive Summary on the
Climate Change Forum for
US Forest
Service and US
letters, or
General Workshop
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 23
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Appendix 1. (Continued)
# Title Date URL Conducted for Type Primary sector Method
34 Final Report: Climate
Impact Assessment
Alaska State
General Expert
35 Hazard Impact Assessment:
Kipnuk, AK
Summary Infrastructure Multiple
36 Health and Culture
Technical Working Group
Meeting Summary
Alaska State
letters, or
Health Expert
37 Health Perspective on
Climate Change: A Report
Outlining the Research
Needs on the Human
Health Effects of Climate
National public
Health Expert
38 Health Problems Heat Up:
Climate Change and the
Publics Health
National public
Health Expert
39 Immediate Action Work
Group Recommendations
Alaska State
Community Expert
40 Impacts of Climate Change
on Transportation
Infrastructure in Alaska
Department of
Article Transportation Literature
41 Impacts of Climate Change
on Tribes in the USA
2009 Impacts of Climate Change on Tribes in
the USA
and native
Summary Tribes Expert
42 Implications of Climate
Change and Research
Needs for Built
Infrastructure in Cold
2009 http://defenseassetsworkshop2009.uaa.alaska.
Department of
Presentation Infrastructure Expert
24 C.N. Knapp and S.F. Trainor
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Appendix 1. (Continued )
# Title Date URL Conducted for Type Primary sector Method
43 Implications of Climate
Change and Research
Needs for Coastal Processes
in Cold Regions
2009 http://defenseassetsworkshop2009.uaa.alaska.
Department of
Defense and
Presentation Coastal
44 Implications of Climate
Change and Research
Needs for Training Lands
and Natural Ecosystems in
Cold Regions
2009 http://defenseassetsworkshop2009.uaa.alaska.
Department of
Presentation Military Literature
45 Kotzebue Meeting Notes 2010
letters, or
General Workshop
46 Needs Assessment of
Alaska Teachers
Education Survey
47 Nelson Lagoon Hazard
Impact Statement
2011 Aleutians East
Summary Infrastructure Multiple
48 Optimizing Military
Training Land Use into the
Future, NH Joint
Engineering Society
Department of
Presentation Military Expert
49 Our Wealth Maintained 2006
Department of
Fish and Game
Wildlife Expert
50 Prioritized Fire Research
Topics for Alaska
Fire Workshop
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 25
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Appendix 1. (Continued)
# Title Date URL Conducted for Type Primary sector Method
51 Priority Information Needs:
Federal Subsistence
Request for
Fisheries Expert
52 Research Needs Statements
for Climate Change and
Department of
Transportation Expert
53 Research Needs Work
Group: Recommendations
on Research Needs
Necessary to Implement an
Alaska Climate Change
Alaska State
Adaptation Expert
54 Resource for Consideration
by NCA Teams Addressing
the Impacts of Climate
Change on Native
and native
letters, or
Tribes Workshop
55 Sea Grants Role in
Understanding and
Preparing for Climate
Change along Americas
letters, or
Subsistence Expert
56 Snow, Ice and Permafrost
Hazards in AK
agencies and
working on
Permafrost Workshop
26 C.N. Knapp and S.F. Trainor
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Appendix 1. (Continued )
# Title Date URL Conducted for Type Primary sector Method
57 The Arctic Climate Change
and Security Policy
Conference: Final Report
and Findings.
Summary Security Workshop
58 The effects of a changing
climate on key habitats in
Department of
Fish and Game
Summary Wildlife Expert
59 Tribal Recommendations
for the Fiscal Year 2012
Department of the Interior
Climate Change
Adaptation Initiative
and native
letters, or
Tribes Expert
60 Tribal Science Priorities for
the National EPA
and native
Tribes Expert
61 U.S. Climate Change
Science Program
Stakeholder Listening
Session in Anchorage
2008 Not available online Multiple Notes,
letters, or
General Workshop
62 Western Association of
Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Climate Change Committee
Annual Update for
Committee Members
Department of
Fish and
Wildlife Survey
63 Wildlife Response to
Environmental Arctic
Wildlife Workshop
Alaskan stakeholder-defined research needs 27
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Appendix 2. Sample section of the coding scheme for the project. Headers in bold are
taken from the table of contents in Markon, Trainor, and Chapin III (2012). Other
codes are emergent based on reviewed documents. This list shows three levels of
organization, however there are often sub-categories within these categories
The ocean environment
Sea ice conditions
General understanding
Biological impacts
Biogeochemical impacts
Human community impacts
Interconnections with terrestrial system
Tools to understand
Ocean acidification
Rate of acidification
Human community impacts
Wildlife impacts
Coastal processes
Sea-level change
Coastal salinization
Coastal storms
Human community impacts
Improved mapping and surveying
Coastal and marine environments
Impacts to wildlife and habitat
Changes to food webs
Circulation processes
Tide monitoring
Appendix 3. Themes coded eight or more times per document
Total number of
documents coded
Average times coded
per document
Terrestrial ecosystem impacts 37 14.78
Disturbance 19 14.37
Wildlife 21 14.10
Marine ecosystem impacts 24 11.63
Infrastructure 44 11.20
Hydrology 34 10.50
Ocean ice conditions 15 10.13
Continental shelf 5 10.00
Physical characteristics 23 9.26
Tribes 6 9.00
Carbon cycle 16 8.38
Climate and weather 35 8.31
Water resources 23 8.30
Economy 37 8.14
Transportation 17 8.12
Fisheries 11 8.00
28 C.N. Knapp and S.F. Trainor
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... Boundary organizations-organizations that facilitate two-way, sustained interaction and communication among science and decision-making spheres-are designed to deliver existing science and develop actionable scientific information to address social-ecological questions (Kocher et al. 2012). Actionable science can enhance decision-making, especially for complex problems like climate change (Cash et al. 2003;Clark et al. 2016;Dilling and Lemos 2011;Knapp and Trainor 2013). Knowledge coproduction-a collaborative research approach that incorporates scientists and science users throughout the research process-is increasingly advocated for developing actionable science (Table 1) (Meadow et al. 2015;Wall et al. 2017a). ...
... Fire managers in Alaska desire actionable fire science to support decision-making (Knapp and Trainor 2013;Knapp and Trainor 2015;Rutherford and Schultz 2019). AWFCG has produced a research needs list for more than 15 years to facilitate collaboration with scientists and meet their needs for actionable information. ...
... Fire managers in Alaska desire actionable fire science to support decision-making (Knapp and Trainor 2013;Knapp and Trainor 2015;Rutherford and Schultz 2019). AWFCG has produced a research needs list for more than 15 years to facilitate collaboration with scientists and meet their needs for actionable information. ...
Boundary organizations facilitate two-way, sustained interaction and communication between research and practitioner spheres, deliver existing science, and develop new, actionable scientific information to address emerging social–ecological questions applicable to decision-making. There is an increasing emphasis on the role of boundary organizations in facilitating knowledge coproduction, which is collaborative research with end users to develop actionable scientific information for decision-making. However, a deeper understanding of how boundary organizations and knowledge coproduction work in practice is needed. This paper examines the Alaska Fire Science Consortium (AFSC), a boundary organization focused on fire science and management in Alaska that is working to address climate impacts on wildfire. A case study approach was used to assess AFSC activities over time. AFSC’s boundary spanning involves a continuum of outputs and activities, but their overall trajectory has involved a deliberate transition from an emphasis on science delivery to knowledge coproduction. Key factors that facilitated this transition included a receptive and engaged audience, built-in evaluation and learning, subject matter expertise and complementarity, and embeddedness in the target audience communities. Recommendations for boundary organizations wishing to develop knowledge coproduction capacity include knowing your audience, employing trusted experts in boundary spanning, and engaging in frequent self-evaluation to inform change over time.
... Developing tools that support decisions and align with user preferences, capacities, and needs is a key priority in the Arctic (Knapp & Trainor, 2015;Thoman et al., 2017). Knowledge co-production is an action-oriented approach to develop information that is relevant, credible, and usable (Miller & Wyborn, 2018). ...
... Research on decision contexts in the Arctic highlights a diversity of sea ice-related information uses, preferences, and needs for maritime operators and subsistence users . Assessments also reveal factors impeding information availability and use, including lack of environmental data at sufficient spatial and temporal resolutions and limited internet connectivity (Hughes, 2012;Knapp & Trainor, 2015). Understanding the full spectrum of requirements associated with operations and planning for both decision makers and service providers is required for advancing actionable science and sea ice prediction services that meet operational needs, preferences, and institutional mandates. ...
... Additionally, the system provides near-real time tracking of sea ice conditions in a high use area, including sea ice break-out capability (Hutchings & Bitz, 2005;Tivy & Petrich, 2016). The system was also created collaboratively among researchers, service providers, and decision makers (Andreassen, Itchoak, Krutikov, & Trainor, 2011;Knapp & Trainor, 2015). ...
Improving situational awareness and crisis response are key priorities in reducing potential risks associated with sea ice and environmental-related hazards in the Arctic. This research explores the opportunities and challenges associated with leveraging arctic system science research to coproduce sea ice decision support tools. The research is based on information derived from a coastal radar operated as part of university research in Utqiaġvik, Alaska as well as decision context analysis from 12 interviews with marine operators and responders, subsistence users, and service providers. Findings revealed a diversity of information preferences and needs, decision thresholds, capacities, and constraints. A sea ice notification framework is presented, which illustrates how near-real time observations can be integrated into existing trusted notification systems. Key challenges to using Arctic system science research to support decision maker needs include the logistics of operating and maintaining near-real time observations. Innovative partnerships and informal networks may be especially important in overcoming these challenges.
... Johnson et al., 2015). Local and traditional knowledge was also a major theme in the fourth International Polar Year (Grimwood et al., 2012;Pulsifer et al., 2012), and there are growing calls for more use of local knowledge and co-production approaches within the Arctic climate impact assessment literature (Danielsen et al., 2014;Groulx et al., 2019;Huntington et al., 2019;Knapp & Trainor, 2015;Pulsifer et al., 2018;Robards et al., 2018). The co-production method, which also addresses a recognized need for local knowledge in Arctic science generally (cf. ...
... By using the co-production method to identify nuanced local climate impacts that are important for adaptation, this study also adds to the literature on the importance of multi-stakeholder engagement for adaptation planning in the Arctic (Knapp et al., 2014;Knapp & Trainor, 2015;Pearce et al., 2012;Pulsifer et al., 2018). The local knowledge from subsistence residents in particular diversifies the types of impacts that should be considered in adaptation planning (Knapp et al., 2014). ...
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The impacts of coastal erosion on municipal infrastructure and property have been widely documented within coastal Alaska. Less is known, however, about erosion-related impacts on natural resource-based land uses that contribute to the well-being of Alaska’s Native residents. This study explores erosion impacts on resource-based land uses on Alaska’s North Slope. The study utilized a collaborative mapping workshop approach, in which research participants defined major categories of land use impacts, identified locations most at risk, and described key local and regional effects of erosion. The study findings highlight three critical types of land use impacts associated with coastal erosion. These include: (1) disruption of subsistence hunting; (2) losses associated with damaged military radar assets (DEW-Line); and, (3) constrained hydrocarbon related development opportunities on land controlled by Native corporations. Through specification of locally relevant land use impacts, the study findings contribute to a better understanding of how climate change is undermining cryosphere-related ecosystem services, particularly buffering cultural and economic activity from coastal storms. The study results reinforce the utility and value of co-production approaches for Arctic climate impact assessments. Through integration of local perspectives on erosion risks, the study contributes to collective regional knowledge about climate change risks to Arctic communities.
... Such subsistence activities are tied to intricate knowledge of local land-, ice-and waterscapes and to wellbeing, and provide food and other raw materials for everyday life. The focus on subsistence was motivated by their central contribution in living a good life in the Arctic (Holen & Gartler, 2020;Kruse et al., 2008;Watt-Cloutier, 2018) as well as the need from permafrost communities to better understand perceived impacts of climate change on these activities (Knapp & Trainor, 2015). As the first of its kind, the survey addresses local awareness of permafrost thaw, related perceived challenges, and perceived impacts on subsistence activities in three permafrost communities: Aklavik (Northwest Territories, Canada), Longyearbyen (Svalbard, Norway), and Qeqertarsuaq (Qeqertalik Municipality, Greenland). ...
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Permafrost characterizes ground conditions in most of the Arctic and is increasingly thawing. While environmental consequences of permafrost thaw are under intense scrutiny by natural and life sciences, social sciences' studies on local communities' perceptions of change is thus far limited. This hinders the development of targeted adaptation and mitigation measures. We present the results of a survey on communities' perceptions of permafrost thaw, with a focus on subsistence activities, carried out between 2019 and 2020 in Aklavik (Northwest Territories, Canada), Longyearbyen (Svalbard, Norway), and Qeqertarsuaq (Qeqertalik Municipality, Greenland). Results show that the majority of the 237 participants are well aware of the consequences of permafrost thaw on the landscape as well as the connection between increased air temperature and permafrost thaw. The majority perceive permafrost thaw negatively although they do not perceive it as a challenge in all life domains. Permafrost thaw is perceived as a major cause for challenges in subsistence activities, infrastructure, and the physical environment. Different perceptions within the three study communities suggests that perceptions of thaw are not solely determined by physical changes but also influenced by factors related to the societal context, including discourses of climate change, cultural background, and land use.
... Communication with potential research users can create pathways for implementing research results in decision-making. Partner organizations with established relationships in the region may be better suited to communicating results than the researcher, effectively playing the role of a boundary organization by bridging science and policy through two-way communication [158]. This is particularly relevant when communicating sensitive information or Indigenous knowledge, which may require contextualization by community members or partners. ...
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Academic research plays a key role in developing understanding of sustainability issues in the Canadian Arctic, yet northern organizations and governments struggle to find research that is relevant, respectful of local interests, and that builds local capacity. Northern science and research policies communicate expectations for how research should be prioritized, planned, conducted, and disseminated. They discuss northern leadership of research and outline the diverse roles that northerners and northern organizations could fill in research programs and projects. Many of these documents are founded on the need for research to improve environmental, economic, and social sustainability in the Canadian North and provide insight into how academia can support a northern-led Arctic sustainability research agenda. The goal of this study is to examine northern research-policy documents to identify commonalities amongst the goals and priorities of northern organizations and their shared expectations for research in northern Canada. The objectives are to understand how organizations expect researchers to engage in and conduct research, how research programs can align with northern science policy objectives, and how academic research can support policy and decision-making related to sustainability. Through a quantitative content analysis combined with a qualitative thematic analysis, this comprehensive review examines research policy, strategy, guidance, and program documents produced by northern and northern-focused governments and Indigenous organizations. Relationships, partnership, and communication are the foundations of relevant and applicable research, requiring both resources and time for local and partner participation. Our analysis shows that researchers should consider potential policy applications for sustainability research early on in the development of research projects, ensuring that relevant local and policy partners are involved in designing the project and communicating results.
... Projections of climate change, including extreme events, are desired in Alaska to provide insight into planning efforts (Knapp and Trainor 2015). Global climate models (GCMs) provide projections of the expected large-scale response to anthropogenic climate change. ...
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Understanding potential risks, vulnerabilities, and impacts to weather extremes and climate change are key information needs for coastal planners and managers in support of climate adaptation. Assessing historical trends and potential socio-economic impacts is especially difficult in the Arctic given limitations on availability of weather observations and historical impacts. This study utilizes a novel interdisciplinary approach that integrates archival analysis, observational data, and climate model downscaling to synthesize information on historical and projected impacts of extreme weather events in Nome, Alaska. Over 300 impacts (1990–2018) are identified based on analyses of the Nome Nugget newspaper articles and Storm Data entries. Historical impacts centered on transportation, community activities, and utilities. Analysis of observed and ERA5 reanalysis data indicates that impacts are frequently associated with high wind, extreme low temperatures, heavy snowfall events, and winter days above freezing. Downscaled output (2020–2100) from two climate models suggests that there will be changes in the frequency and timing of these extreme weather events. For example, extreme cold temperature is projected to decrease through the 2040s and then rarely occurs afterwards, and extreme wind events show little change before the 2070s. Significantly, our findings also reveal that not all weather-related extremes will change monotonically throughout the twenty-first century, such as extreme snowfall events that will increase through the 2030s before declining in the 2040s. The dynamical nature of projected changes in extreme events has implications for climate adaptation planning.
Northern regions are still less visible than others. This means that dealing with problems of the North often takes place in the mode of damage control. Drawing on Canadian and Alaskan experiences, we argue that northern communities need integrated resilience strategies for their development and that such strategies need to have the character of local plans. We argue therefore for local planning as a site of policy integration in the formulation of resilience strategy. A redefinition or reorientation of key terms is required however, with resilience taking on local attributes, planning understood as pro-active local design and governance seen as an always local northern bricolage. This approach can enhance the capacity to entertain alternative futures in the governance system, the capacity to assess constantly shifting problematizations of issues, and a better matching of locally desirable futures and existing assets.
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Changing biophysical conditions due to amplified climate change in northern latitudes has significant implications for species' habitat and populations and can dramatically alter interactions between harvesters and local resources. Tribal, regional, and state governments, federal agencies, and other local planning entities have begun documenting observations of changing harvest conditions and the information necessary for communities to adapt to shifting resource availability. We identify and evaluate what stakeholders are saying about wild foods in the context of climate change information needs in Alaska through a review of published grey literature (n = 87). Documents consistently expressed that climate change was impacting habitat conditions, resource distribution, and the abundance of wild foods. They solicited more information on biophysical processes (e.g., sea ice conditions) and population-level responses (e.g., shift in migration patterns). They also recommended that future projects focus on information that will improve food security, travel access, and community well-being. Documents suggested that communities have successfully sustained harvest practices, but most current adaptations are localized decisions being made by harvesters to manage the risks of current climate change. Strategies include finding new areas to hunt, substituting harvest species with other wild foods, or using new modes of travel. Documents also identified several adaptation strategies that still need to be implemented, and are dependent on actions by actors at larger scales; these strategies include legal, policy, and management actions to help reduce climate change impacts to wild food harvest. This review of the grey literature complements the climate-change literature by describing information needs of Alaskan wild food harvesters as well as providing tangible suggestions about how to improve adaptation and management strategies for harvesters grappling with changing resource conditions in the Arctic.
The Polar Regions are undergoing rapid environmental change while simultaneously witnessing growth and diversification of human activity. These changes call for more responsive, detailed and specialized weather, water, ice and climate (WWIC) information services so that the risks related to human activities can be minimized. Drawn from an extensive literature review this article provides an examination of selected sectors and their uses of WWIC information services in order to offer an initial understanding of diverse environmental forecasting needs. Utilizing a mobilities perspective we provide a characterization of mobility in the Polar Regions to help contextualize current WWIC uses and needs. Using four illustrative case studies of polar mobilities (community activities; cruise tourism; shipping; and government and research operations) the article explores two broad questions: (1) How are mobilities characterized in the Polar Regions? (2) What is known about the role of WWIC information in Polar mobilities? The findings suggest an incongruence between the information provided and the ways in which WWIC information is both used and needed by various sectors. Knowledge gaps are outlined that suggest more efforts are needed to understand the highly complex set of interconnections between WWIC users, providers, mobilities and decision-making across the Polar Regions.
Technical Report
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The Polar Prediction Project (PPP) was conceived and initiated in 2012 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), through its World Weather Research Programme (WWRP), in response to rapid environmental change in the Polar Regions. The primary goal of the PPP is to advance scientific knowledge such that society, both within and outside of the Arctic and Antarctic, may benefit through applications of improved weather and climate services. This includes improved understanding and prediction of physical parameters and the ways people use the available information. To this end, the Polar Prediction Project Societal and Economic Research and Applications (PPP-SERA) working group was established in 2015. This report represents the foundational work of PPP-SERA and aims to explore how weather, water, ice and climate (WWIC) information is currently being used and produced in the Polar Regions, by whom, and for what reasons. The report also identifies, frames and articulates important areas of research related to the use and provision of environmental prediction services that should be prioritized and further developed during, and beyond, the Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP, 2017-19).
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The empirical evidence in the papers in this special issue identifies pervasive and difficult cross-scale and cross-level interactions in managing the environment. The complexity of these interactions and the fact that both scholarship and management have only recently begun to address this complexity have provided the impetus for us to present one synthesis of scale and cross-scale dynamics. In doing so, we draw from multiple cases, multiple disciplines, and multiple perspectives. In this synthesis paper, and in the accompanying cases, we hypothesize that the dynamics of cross-scale and cross-level interactions are affected by the interplay between institutions at multiple levels and scales. We suggest that the advent of co-management structures and conscious boundary management that includes knowledge co-production, mediation, translation, and negotiation across scale-related boundaries may facilitate solutions to complex problems that decision makers have historically been unable to solve.
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Research on the human dimensions of climate change (HDCC) in the Canadian Arctic has expanded so rapidly over the past decade that we do not have a clear grasp of the current state of knowledge or research gaps. This lack of clarity has implications for duplication of climate policy and research, and it has been identified as a problem by communities, scientists, policy makers, and northern organizations. Our review of current knowledge about the HDCC in Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut indicates that the effects of climate change on subsistence harvesting and other land-based activities and the determinants of vulnerability and adaptation to such changes are well understood. However, the effects of climate change on health are less known. In the nascent research on this topic, studies on food security and personal safety dominate, and little peer-reviewed scholarship focuses on the business and economic sector. Published research shows a strong bias toward case studies in smaller communities, especially communities in Nunavut. Such studies have focused primarily on negative impacts of climate change, present-day vulnerabilities, and adaptive capacity, but studies proposing opportunities for adaptation intervention are beginning to emerge. While documenting the serious risks posed by climate change, they also highlight the adaptability of northern populations and the effects of economic-political stresses on vulnerability to changing climate. We note the absence of studies that examine how Northerners can benefit from new opportunities that may arise from climate change, or assess how the interaction of future climatic and socio-economic changes (specifically, resource development and enhanced shipping) will affect their experience of and response to climate change, or discuss the broader determinants of vulnerability and adaptation.
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The magnitude of flood damage in the United States, combined with the uncertainty in current estimates of flood risk, suggest that society could benefit from improved scientific information about flood risk. To help address this perceived need, a group of researchers initiated an interdisciplinary study of climate variability, scientific uncertainty, and hydrometeorological information for flood-risk decision making, focused on Colorado's Rocky Mountain Front Range urban corridor. We began by investigating scientific research directions that were likely to benefit flood-risk estimation and management, through consultation with climatologists, hydrologists, engineers, and planners. In doing so, we identified several challenges involved in generating new scientific information to aid flood management in the presence of significant scientific and societal uncertainty. This essay presents lessons learned from this study, along with our observations on the complex interactions among scientific information, uncertainty, and societal decision making. It closes by proposing a modification to the "end to end" approach to conducting societally relevant scientific research. Although we illustrate points using examples from flood management, the concepts may be applicable to other arenas, such as global climate change.
Forests in Europe face significant changes in climate, which in interaction with air quality changes, may significantly affect forest productivity, stand composition and carbon sequestration in both vegetation and soils. Identified knowledge gaps and research needs include: (i) interaction between changes in air quality (trace gas concentrations), climate and other site factors on forest ecosystem response, (ii) significance of biotic processes in system response, (iii) tools for mechanistic and diagnostic understanding and upscaling, and (iv) the need for unifying modelling and empirical research for synthesis. This position paper highlights the above focuses, including the global dimension of air pollution as part of climate change and the need for knowledge transfer to enable reliable risk assessment. A new type of research site in forest ecosystems (“supersites”) will be conducive to addressing these gaps by enabling integration of experimentation and modelling within the soil-plant-atmosphere interface, as well as further model development
Forests in Europe face significant changes in climate, which in interaction with air quality changes, may significantly affect forest productivity, stand composition and carbon sequestration in both vegetation and soils. Identified knowledge gaps and research needs include: (i) interaction between changes in air quality (trace gas concentrations), climate and other site factors on forest ecosystem response, (ii) significance of biotic processes in system response, (iii) tools for mechanistic and diagnostic understanding and upscaling, and (iv) the need for unifying modelling and empirical research for synthesis. This position paper highlights the above focuses, including the global dimension of air pollution as part of climate change and the need for knowledge transfer to enable reliable risk assessment. A new type of research site in forest ecosystems (“supersites”) will be conducive to addressing these gaps by enabling integration of experimentation and modelling within the soil-plant-atmosphere interface, as well as further model development.
Climate scientists face a wide variety of practical problems, but there is an overarching need to efficiently access and manipulate climate model data. Increasingly, for example, researchers must assemble and analyze large datasets that are archived in different formats on disparate platforms, and extract portions of datasets to compute statistical or diagnostic metrics 'in place'. The need for a common virtual environment in which to access both climate model datasets and analysis tools is therefore keenly felt. The software infrastructure to support such an environment must therefore not only provide ready access to climate data, but also must facilitate the use of visualization software, diagnostic algorithms, and related resources. To this end, the Earth System Grid Center for Enabling Technologies (ESG-CET) was established in 2006 by the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC)-2 program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (OASCR) and the Office Biological and Environmental Research (OBER) within the Office of Science (Fig. 1). ESG-CET is working to advance climate science by developing computational resources for accessing and managing model data that are physically located in distributed multiplatform archives.