At present, no consensus document (“white paper” or “strategy”) exists at the international level to identify forward-looking priorities in permafrost research. CliC has partnered with the International Permafrost Association (IPA) to seize the opportunity offered by the upcoming International Conference on Arctic Research Planning III (ICARP III) and the SCAR Horizon Scan to frame a consultative process that will result in the formulation of such permafrost priorities. Provisionally entitled “Permafrost Research Priorities: A Roadmap for the Future” will focus on all permafrost regions, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and mountain permafrost around the globe in order to accurately represent the level of overlap in scientific challenges in all three domains.

The product stemming from the effort will consist of a high-level, but short publication (ca. 2-3 pages) in a high-profile journal listing and putting into context permafrost research priorities. The document aims to become the benchmark against which permafrost research should be gauged starting in 2015.

A core group appointed in January 2014 is composed of the following individuals:

Hugues Lantuit (AWI, Germany, Chair)

Hugues Lanuit is a professor at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam. His work focuses on the erosion of coastlines in the Arctic and on the effect climate change is having on the speed with which this is happening. It focuses on the geochemical, sedimentological and geotechnical characterization of coastal sections, with the objective of estimating the release of organic matter to the nearshore zone.

Michel Allard (Université Laval, Canada)

Michel Allard is a professor at Laval University and a member of Centre d’études nordiques. His research interest are at the convergence between Quaternary geology, coastal geomorphology, permafrost science and climatology, in particular coastal arctic regions where the landscape evolves within an heritage of deglaciation and post-glacial sea level changes and under the constraints of climate changes.

Mauro Guglielmin (Insubria University, Italy)

Mauro Guglielmin is an associate professor at the University of Insubria, Italy. His research focuses on relationships between permafrost and ecosystems, in particular permafrost and slope stability, periglacial processes and landforms and weathering processes in cryotic and polar conditions, in the Arctic, Antarctic and the Alps. He also does research on quaternary geology of the Italian Alps and paleoclimate reconstruction during Holocene and Pleistocene.

Margareta Johansson (Lund University, Sweden)

Margareta Johansson is a researcher at Lund University, Sweden. Her research focuses on permafrost in northernmost Sweden and includes monitoring and modeling of permafrost in this area. In addition, her research focuses on the interaction between snow, vegetation, and permafrost which is investigated using a manipulation experiment. She is also the Executive Secretary for the INTERACT network (including more than 70 terrestrial research stations in the Arctic) and DEFROST (a Nordic top-level research initiative).

Gleb Kraev (Centre for Forest Ecology and Productivity, Russian Federation)

Gleb Kraev is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center of Forest Ecology and Productivity, Russian Academy of Sciences. The main research interest are the greenhouse gases fluxes as an integral indicator of the habitat both in cryogenic ecosystems and under human impact. Such an integrated task involves the broad range of knowledge and abilities of analysis of permafrost structure and composition, plant and soil ecology, and engineering means of sustainable land-use both in Arctic and Antarctic.

Michael Krautblatter (Technical University of Munich, Germany)

Michael Krautblatter is an associate professor at the Technische Universität München, Germany. His main research areas focuses on the non-invasive quantification and monitoring of permafrost in unstable rock and soil slopes, the quantification of magnitude, frequency and interconnectivity of landslides and the anticipation of landslides based on thresholds, mechanical models and an understanding of the systems involved. Theory, field, laboratory and modeling based research is currently being performed in Alpine and in Arctic environments.

Gerhard Krinner (LGGE Grenoble, France)

Gerhard Krinner is a senior scientist at Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement in Grenoble, a member of the IPCC, and co-chair of CliC. His research involves numeric modeling of past, present and future climate. In particular he works with modeling of ice sheet climates and surface-atmosphere interactions involving the role of permafrost in the boreal and global climate. This modelling work is principally carried out with the LMDZ atmospheric general circulation model and the ORCHIDEE land surface model. His research interests also involve interpretation of ice core archives.

Edward A. G. Schuur (University of Florida, USA)

Ted Schuur is a professor at Northern Arizona University. His main research interest is understanding feedbacks from terrestrial ecosystems to climate change, with emphasis on carbon cycling. He focuses on the response of Arctic ecosystems in a warmer world, which is key for understanding how natural ecosystems interact with human emissions to control the overall pace of climate change.

Ylva Sjöberg (CliC Fellow, Stockholm University, Sweden)

Ylva’s PhD project focuses on exploring the interactions between permafrost and groundwater, which is crucial for understanding future changes that can be expected in the Arctic with climate warming. The aim is to assess the effects of permafrost thaw on hydrology both at a detailed and process-oriented scale, and at catchment scales. This is done by analyzing long-term river discharge data, field mapping of ground-ice using geophysical methods, and physically-based modeling of coupled groundwater flows and heat transport.

Jenny Baeseman (CliC Director, Ex-Officio)

Dr. Baeseman began her love of the cold growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, USA and has a B.S. in Water Chemistry from the University of WI – Stevens Point, M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota, a Ph.D. also in Civil Engineering with an environmental emphasis from the University of Colorado, and postdoctoral training in Geosciences from Princeton University. She has spent 4 seasons in Antarctica, 3 in the McMurdo Dry Valleys and 1 on the peninsula. Jenny was very involved in the planning of the International Polar Year (IPY) and through this co-founded and subsequently became the Founding Director of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) which grew to over 3500 members from 76 countries during her leadership. One of her main objectives in developing APECS was to help young researchers combine their interests in interdisciplinary polar science with education and outreach and gain international leadership through professional development activities. In April 2012 she turned over the reigns of the early career group to become the Director of the Climate and the Cryosphere Project (CliC), sponsored by the World Climate Research Programme, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and the International Arctic Science Committee. The CliC Project office is hosted by the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø, Norway. She continues research in her spare time through an adjunct position at the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. One of Jenny’s personal goals is to make sure everyone she meets knows that polar bears don’t eat penguins – as they live at different Poles.

Karina Schollän (IPA Executive Director, Ex-Officio)

Karina Schollaen is a researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam. She studied Geography at the University of Bonn, obtaining a Masters focusing on dendrochronology in 2009. During her PhD project at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences she focused on exploring climate signal in tropical trees. Now, she extended her interests to the Polar Regions. Since November 2013 Karina is the Executive Director of the International Permafrost Association (IPA). Further she is the Conference Manager of the upcoming 11th International Conference on Permafrost (ICOP 2016), organized by AWI Potsdam and taking place in June 2016 in Potsdam, Germany.

Community Input

The International Permafrost Association (IPA) and the Climate and Cryosphere Project (CliC) initiated a process back in 2014 to seek your input on the definition of research priorities in the field of permafrost science. It is now time to collect your opinion on the relevance of the questions that were submitted.

You can access the survey on the ranking of permafrost research priorities under the following link. The survey will be accessible until December 20th, 2017:

The initial process was very successful and as many as 359 researchers from 37 countries submitted research questions. The respondents were primarily active in the fields of geomorphology, ecology, engineering, and infrastructure. 79% of them had a PhD and 53.8% of them had more than 10 years of experience in permafrost research.

The core group spent a considerable amount of hours reading the research questions and coming up with a consolidated list to submit for vote. The consolidation consisted of removing duplicate questions, merging questions with very similar foci, correcting the syntax and spelling of the questions, and checking that the questions answered the criteria put forward in the first phase of the process.

The result is a list of 347 questions organized in 20 categories. Some questions will look very similar to each other, but the core group decided on listing the submitted research questions in a very inclusive manner and not to perform too much merging. This leads to more representativeness of the original questions, but also to a greater number of questions.

In the survey, the responders are invited to review the questions by category and can choose to review only one category or several (i.e. if you are an expert in more than one category, you have the possibility to vote in several of them). The research questions are then displayed randomly to avoid a potential bias linked to questionnaire structure. Each research question is evaluated with a grade going from 0 to 10.

The evaluation period will run until December 20th, 2017. The core group will then examine the answers and come up with a list of consolidated overarching questions reflecting the selection made by the respondents.

Please feel free to share the link with any of your colleagues who you think may be interested. Questions can be directed to Ylva Sjöberg, CliC fellow, or Hugues Lantuit, chair of the PRP Core Group.

It’s only with the generous help of individuals like you that this global community-driven list of permafrost research priorities can be successful.

Internet consultation process

An online home will be set up jointly with the partners involved in the process (e.g. IPA, CliC, IASC) and will be used to collect input from the community at large. The community will be informed through mailing lists, word of mouth, newsletters, etc. and be invited to provide targeted comments on the definition of research priorities. The process will be inspired by the one organized for the elaboration of the Future Earth project of ICSU and by the Horizon Scanning of SCAR.

Consultation meetings

Several meetings will be organized during or around other major events to maximize awareness about the project and collect additional input from the community. In some cases (e.g. EGU, EUCOP4), the core group will organize events targeted at early career researchers and encourage participation in the process.

2014 Updates from the Permafrost Research Priorities

Permafrost Research Priorities survey – preliminary demographic statistics and submitted questions.

A core group was appointed in January 2014 and consists of the above-mentioned individuals. The core group set up an online questionnaire on the IPA and CliC websites for the input of scientific questions. The questionnaire was open from July 15th until September 20, 2014. The announcement was circulated widely to encourage input into the process. A town hall meeting as well as a dedicated “world café” session in the young researchers workshop were held during the Fourth European Conference on Permafrost and has been used as the venue to launch the process and to foster community engagement.

The Permafrost Research Priorities survey received almost 650 questions from more than 300 participants. A list of all the submitted questions and preliminary figures depicting demographic data can be found at the project website.

Preliminary statistics from part two (demographics) of the survey show that:

  • The respondents come from 37 countries
  • A majority of the respondents (69 %) are men working within academia (68%)
  • 79 % of the respondents have a Ph.D. as their highest academic degree
  • The respondents have a wide range of areas of primary expertise, the most common being geomorphology (13 % of respondents), ecology, engineering and infrastructure, and climate change (each 8 % of respondents) and the least common being industrial development and impacts (no respondent), land use and community planning (1 respondent), and mapping (1 respondent).
  • Age distribution and years of experience working with permafrost-related issues for respondents are across the full spectrum.

The PRP core group is now reviewing the submitted questions to assure they meet the criteria by Sutherland et al. (2011) outlined at the beginning of the project, discard questions that do not meet the criteria, merge similar questions, and if necessary, reword questions with grammatical errors or other language issues. This will set the stage for the community ranking set to start in March 2015.

Plans of the Permafrost Research Priorities for 2015 and Beyond

At the end of the categorizing process, envisioned to start in March 2015, a consolidated list of questions will be put online for community review and consultation. The voting phase is one of the most important parts of the PRP process as it will lead to the ranking of the top ~10-15 permafrost research priorities. The online voting will take place in Spring 2015. Participants will be asked to select the themes they have expertise in. They will then be asked to rank the questions within that theme(s) based on the overall importance of answering that question to fundamentally improving our understanding of permafrost over the next 10 years. The results of the ranking and demographic information of the participants will be included in the master database.

Using the rankings from the voting process, the core group will analyze the results and select the top questions from each theme. The number of themes selected and the quality of the questions will ultimately determine the final research priorities. A core group meeting will be organized in April 2015 to finalize the process and distribute the tasks for the writing of the manuscript stemming from the effort. The core group will work on a manuscript to be published as a draft in April 2015 for the ASSW/ICARP III/ISAR conference in Toyama (Japan). The output will consist of a short publication highlighting the top 10 research priorities and a longer academic paper describing the entire process.

For more information, see the Process.