International scientific collaboration has been a part of Arctic exploration since times of the first International Polar Year (IPY) organized in the end of the 19th century (1882−1883). More than 120 years and three IPYs later primary reasons for scientists coming together and coordinating their efforts for joint polar research endeavors remain largely the same as in times of the first IPY: heightened expenses and grand challenges related to conduct of scientific research and observations in the high latitudes. Arguably, with the rapid change unfolding today throughout the Arctic and the global implications of largely unprecedented physical and ecological transformations in the region, enhanced scientific understanding of the causes and consequences of Arctic sea ice loss becomes a task of even greater importance than previously. However, the significance of science collaboration goes far beyond the domain of pure research − in particular in the Arctic it has played a key role in shaping environmental and political regimes for the region, from the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) to its successor, the Arctic Council (AC).
The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) is a non-governmental international scientific organization founded in 1990 ‘to encourage and facilitate cooperation in all aspects of Arctic research, in all countries engaged in Arctic research and in all areas of the Arctic region’ (IASC Handbook 1994: 3). Over the past 25 years IASC has evolved into a leading international science entity focused on the North and presently encompasses national scientific organizations from 23 countries involved in research in and on the Arctic. On the occasion of its 25th anniversary IASC published a book, which together with the dedicated website and additional materials (a short movie and selected historical documents) available upon it, compiles the body's history and development. The book, published as the special issue of IASC bulletin, consists of six parts, further divided into numerous sub-sections. They deal respectively with the development of IASC; its initiatives; the contributions of former IASC Presidents; cooperation with other organizations, the Secretariat and the lessons learned throughout the process of IASC evolution. The volume ends with a series of useful appendices practically collecting information on IASC's National Adhering Bodies, its Council and Regional Board members, projects, networks and Working Groups in one place.
In view of this reviewer some of the most interesting parts in the volume (parts 1.1 and 1.2) relate to the very early days of formation of IASC, when the idea for setting up an international body for coordination of scientific research in the Arctic germinated in the late days of cold war and well before the Finnish initiative for the AEPS came. The accounts of Odd Rogne and Louwrens Hacquebord offer a fascinating picture of what it took to develop the concept from informal discussion held aside the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) meeting in 1986 in San Diego to the founding meeting of the International Arctic Science Committee in Resolute Bay, Canada in August 1990. Despite IASC being a non-governmental organization, the realities of the cold war divisions and the challenges related to bringing together partners from the Soviet Union and Western states made the process that led to creation of IASC very much politicized, with representatives of national governments - both from Arctic and non-Arctic nations - playing a central role in it (Young 1992: 40−41, draft in Keskitalo Reference Keskitalo2004). Those delving into questions of present Arctic governance, in particular into the much discussed issues of engaging non-Arctic actors as Observers to the Arctic Council, may also find intriguing in stories of Rogne and Hacquebord about how much time and attention the very same questions of inclusion and involvement of non-Arctic states caught in the negotiation process of IASC.
Parts 1.3 and 1.4 as well subsequent chapters in the book cover in detail evolution that IASC went through over the last 25 years following the consecutive rounds of its reviews. Chapter 2 presents some of the most important IASC initiatives, among them the International Science Initiative in the Russian Arctic (ISIRA), the Forum of Arctic Research Operators (FARO), the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) project endorsed jointly with the Arctic Council, series of International Conferences on Arctic Research Planning (ICARPs), the contributions of IASC to the fourth IPY (2007–2008) and the development of the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW), which today constitutes the largest annual gathering of Arctic science organizations and scientists working on the region. This section would not, however, be complete without the story of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), written in the reviewed volume by Robert W. Corell, the chief architect of the initiative, and Terry Callaghan, one of the leading scientists in ACIA. Whereas it is next to impossible to overestimate the fundamental importance of ACIA for our understanding and raising public awareness of climate change issues in the Arctic, way less often one recognizes that ACIA was not only the Arctic Council's flagship project but a joint effort and a result of close partnership developed between IASC and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) working group of the AC. In fact, in words of Robert W. Corell, who as the Regional Board Chair of IASC was at that time the representative of IASC as observer to the Arctic Council, it was IASC that proposed the AC to conduct a comprehensive assessment of Arctic climate (page 46). At the same time, in the words of IASC President from 2003−2006, Patrick J. Webber, ‘ACIA epitomized one of the functions of IASC, which is to identify important science questions and stimulate the search for solutions to these questions’ (page 77).
Not only the account of ACIA but also contributions of former IASC Presidents collected in chapter 3 speak to what over the course of time has proved to be one of the greatest strengths of IASC: the leaders and individuals whose vision, passion, dedication and determination brought this organization into being and made it evolve into the leading international body coordinating research on the Arctic it is today. It goes beyond the point of this review to name them here, but if the criterion was whose name appears most often on the book's pages this person would be certainly Odd Rogne, former IASC Executive Secretary who was also a central figure to foundation of IASC in early 1990s. It is also his name that appears most often in the selected and scanned historical documents made available on the previously mentioned website (www.iasc25.iasc.info, from where also the book can be accessed). To this reviewer these documents are one of the highlights of the entire publication as not often one gets first-hand access to, for example, minutes from a meeting held in 1988, without going through the archives and taking upon oneself a work of historian.
As the sitting President of IASC, Susan Barr, notes in the preface to the book, ‘[t]his account of “25 Years of Arctic Research Cooperation” could have been a relatively dry listing of facts. However, the contributors have all been, or still are, deeply committed to the development of the International Arctic Science Committee and they convey an insight, engagement and enthusiasm that lifts the story to a higher level’ (preface). Conceivably, in some parts of the book escaping a ‘relatively dry listing of facts’ proved to be more difficult than in others and a few sections come almost too detailed, for instance, the one on the mergers of IASC with other scientific bodies. However, to do justice to their authors, without including this information in such an historical account, it would probably get lost with the course of time or at best required strenuous effort to recollect it in future. Furthermore, when going through the entire volume, a reader may get at moments a sense of being lost in the chronological order of the events or find some elements overlapping. On the one hand, a more thorough editing could possibly remove those overlaps and provide perhaps slightly more chronologically coherent storyline; on the other hand, it could simultaneously erase or conceal those personal features which to this reviewer are one of the finest sides of the book, as they give the flavour to the entire publication and allow to see the same things from sometimes several perspectives. Eventually, it is thanks to the individual styles of all the authors that a reader can feel their deep engagement and commitment to the Arctic scientific cooperation.
In sum, 25 Years of International Arctic Science Cooperation - IASC after 25 years brings to this reviewer's mind words of father of European postwar integration process, Jean Monnet, who wrote once: ‘Nothing is possible without men: nothing is lasting without institutions’ (Monnet Reference Monnet1978: 304–305). Founding of the International Arctic Science Committee in 1990 played a pivotal role in overcoming cold war divisions and developing cooperation between Russian and Western scientists working on the Arctic. Arguably, in light of the presently reoccurring geopolitical tensions in the region − as well as the paramount importance of enhancing our understanding of changes unfolding in the Arctic – the lessons learned from evolution of IASC and written down in the reviewed volume should not be forgotten but instead read carefully as roadblocks for further successful collaboration in Arctic science. With having this and the anniversary character of the book in mind, a reader should well enjoy the IASC history and its accomplishments.