The Agora workshop (a collaborative Arctic research community assessment of interactions between global change drivers, societies and subsystems through space and time) creates the arena to bring together researchers from different disciplines (from social sciences to data analysis), indigenous people, and people that have an interest in the consequences of GC in the Arctic system (e.g. think-tank attendees). Unfortunately, the Agora workshop did not get any policymaker participants, although one attendee was a policy expert. However, Agora supported 6 ECRs, and a Yup'ik (Alaska) to be part of Agora. In addition, it was attended by ~30 participants, which enabled a vibrant discussion of science, environmentalism, and how to enact change across scales.
Our workshop started with presentations from participants to showcase the diversity of research approaches and expertise in the room (Goal 1 - Integrating scientific research across disciplines). Next, we formed a group circle to begin discussing approaches to interdisciplinary research approaches. After hearing some good advice from experienced researchers, we had two suggestions from the audience that shaped the rest of our workshop. First, was the idea of “community” which was proposed by our indigenous ECR (Aisha), who provided a powerful testimony of what climate change looks like first-hand in her village. Although we had already been around the room and introduced ourselves using “traditional” titles and affiliations, Aisha asked us to identify further how we got to our current positions, which is more in line with introductions among indigenous peoples (i.e., who are your people; what do you do?).
Next, we had another participant who challenged the proposed framework of our workshop, stating quite rightly that our approach was business as usual and didn’t account for or enable the rapid progress and research-community integration needed to bring about timely change in the Arctic. While taking a direction other than our original intent, we ultimately accomplished goal #2 of our workshop, which was to identify multidisciplinary perspectives for Arctic research focused on both enacting change in our local, regional, and global communities, with the idea that even small changes can lead to “social tipping-points,” or rapid changes in public perception that may lead to sweeping changes in the way that we respond to the threat of global climate change.
Our workshop did less than expected to forward our overall goal, that is, increasing the spatio-temporal scope of Arctic environmental understanding through the use of historical and paleoenvironmental perspectives. This was partly because most participants were not historians or palaeoenvironmental scientists. Work on the third goal of our workshop, to compose a synthesis article on this subject will continue to proceed following the conference, but given the feedback of workshop participants following our meeting, it is clear that our workshop was an unqualified success with respect to the overall purpose of AGORA, which is to serve as a “community meeting place” where people from the IASC community come together to discuss ideas about how to work together to address Arctic change. Below is feedback from conference participants showcasing these results, but overall, most participants agreed that this was one of the more enjoyable and unique experiences they have had in a scientific workshop and wished for more open conversations like this to take place at future meetings.
This workshop encouraged further work towards making concrete steps, no matter how small, towards spreading the word about the rapid environmental changes currently underway in the Arctic and promoting the immediacy in which changes are needed both by scientists and the public to address this great challenge.
Date and Location
February 2023 (during ASSW 2023) in Vienna, Austria
IASC Working Groups funding the project
Year funded by IASC