Researchers in the Arctic A roadmap towards sustained observing in the Arctic 14 May 2020Data and knowledgeMonitoringArctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme The Arctic is undergoing rapid change. In order to understand the effects on ecological and socio-economic systems, as well as to implement mitigation and adaptation measures, sustained and holistic observations are vital. Thus, the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks is developing a Roadmap for Arctic Observing and Data Systems. And surprisingly, the current pandemic could act as a catalysator for enhancing local observation capacities. The Arctic is changing. Its landscapes and seascapes, its flora and fauna, and its social systems, are undergoing profound transformations, challenging the Arctic way of life as we know it. Thus, it is imperative to enhance our knowledge of a changing reality in order to understand its implications – both locally and globally. Observations and their deriving data can support important decisions on mitigating actions and adaptive responses. Yet, the observational networks in the far North are woefully underdeveloped, says Dr. Sandy Starkweather, Executive Director for the US Arctic Observing Network. “Global networks achieve remarkable coverage all over the planet but not in the Arctic. There are two reasons for that: One, Arctic specific processes and conditions, such as ice cover, seasonal darkness, extremes of cold and stratification, sensitive and tightly coupled systems, these combined hamper the use of standard technology and drive up costs. And second, we have also seen that the value proposition for Arctic observations, especially when viewed through the lens of global concerns, fails to compel the necessary funding levels for Arctic observing systems”, Sandy Starkweather stated in her keynote address at the Arctic Observing Summit 2020 – a virtual address at a conference that was moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sandy Starkweather is chairing the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON), a joint initiative of the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC). SAON aims at strengthening multinational engagement in pan-Arctic observing and monitoring of Arctic environmental change. In its ten year strategic plan, the network outlines three goals: ensuring sustainability of Arctic observing; promoting free and ethically open access to all Arctic observational data; and creating a roadmap to a well-integrated Arctic Observing System. “SAON’s Roadmap for Arctic Observing and Data Systems, short: ROADS, is built upon a holistic benefit analysis. It takes the environmental, economic, and social domains into account in which services, operations, and research provide societal benefit”, Sandy Starkweather explains.