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Permafrost Research Priorities Process

The aim of the Permafrost Research Priorities (PRP) process is to establish a concise set of ~15-20 key research priorities for the next ten years, as agreed upon by permafrost researchers, and with input from researchers in cognate scientific disciplines. The final number of research priorities might change during the process if input from the questionnaire and in subsequent meetings suggests this is required. The target audience of the exercise is three-fold: 1. The research community; 2. Funding agencies; and 3. Policy-makers.

Scope of research questions

The following criteria are required for the questions to be submitted through the process. These criteria are directly inspired by the criteria put forward by Sutherland et al. (2011). The questions:

  1. Need to be answerable through a realistic research design (which can rely on future technological developments)
  2. Need to have a factual answer that does not depend on value judgments
  3. Need to address important gaps in knowledge and/or technology
  4. Need to have a spatial and temporal scope that could reasonably be addressed by a research team or a consolidated research program.
  5. Should not be formulated as a general topic area (e.g. geomorphology, ecology)
  6. Should not be answerable with “it all depends”
  7. Except if questioning a precise statement (“does the Earth go round the sun?”), should not be answerable by yes or no (i.e. not “is X better for permafrost than Y”)
  8. If related to impact and interventions, should contain a subject, an intervention and a measurable outcome.

Target number of research questions

Based on prior exercises conducted in the fields of ecology, conservation, or biodiversity, the number of priority questions or issues should be related to the breadth of the topic. While a field as broad as biodiversity can justify as many as 100 questions (e.g. Sutherland et al. 2009), other fields (e.g. conservation) can be covered with 15 to 40 questions (Sutherland et al., 2010; Rudd et al., 2011). The consolidation of the questions is the essence of the exercise and should guide the core group during the prioritization phase of the process. For permafrost, we recommend focusing on ~15-20 research priorities stemming from the research questions formulated during the process. Depending on the input given by the questionnaire and subsequent meetings of the Core Group, the number of questions could be expanded and decreased during the PRP process.


Selection of participants and engagement

Participation in the online questionnaire is open to all. The audiences targeted in the process will be engaged through existing communication platforms and tools devised specifically for the exercise.

The announcement will be circulated through partner organizations and through mailing lists relevant to the permafrost community. Additionally, target groups relevant to the policy arena and/or belonging to funding agencies will be engaged in the process through targeted mailing. In order to reach out to the whole spectrum of permafrost research, a targeted search will be conducted in Scopus to identify authors having published on permafrost over the past five years.


Download the full Permafrost Research Priorities - Process.pdf here