Project and Community Management in Polar Sciences – Challenges and Opportunities
Because geoscientific research often occurs via community-instigated bursts of activity with multi-investigator collaborations variously labelled as e.g., years (The International Polar Year IPY), experiments (World Ocean Circulation Experiment WOCE), programs (International Ocean Discovery Program), missions (CRYOSAT spacecraft), or decades (The International Decade of Ocean Exploration IDOE), successful attainment of research goals generally requires skilful scientific project management. In addition to the usual challenges of matching scientific ambitions to limited resources, on-going coordination and specifically project management, planning and implementation of polar science projects often involve many uncertainties caused by, for example, unpredictable weather or ocean and sea ice conditions, large-scale logistical juggling; and often these collaborations are spatially distributed and take place virtually. Large amounts of funding are needed to procure the considerable infrastructure and technical equipment required for polar expeditions; permissions to enter certain regions must be requested; and potential risks for expedition members as well as technical issues in extreme environments need to be considered. All these aspects are challenging for polar science projects, which therefore need a well thought-through program including a realistic alternative “plan B” and possibly also a “plan C” and “plan D”. The four most challenging overarching themes in polar science project management have been identified: international cooperation, interdisciplinarity, infrastructure, and community management. In this paper, we address ongoing challenges and opportunities in polar science project management based on a survey among 199 project and community managers and an additional of 85 project team members active in the field of polar sciences. Case studies and survey results are discussed with the conclusive goal to provide recommendations on how to fully reach the potential of polar sciences project and community management.