The coastline of the Arctic extends nearly 200,000 km, passing through eight countries/territories (the United States, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia). Since 1999, over 20 different networks of scientists and organizations that are directly or indirectly related to permafrost coastal systems have been formed around the world; many have been cross-disciplinary in nature. These often national networks provide information and support for coastal permafrost management, and many of science, engineering, and society, providing critical knowledge of national permafrost dynamics.
For example, in Russia, the Russian Arctic Coastal Dynamics network is focused on understanding arctic coastal dynamics in Siberia; the Wroclaw Polar Station of the Foundation for Polish Sciences performs integrated research at sites across Svalbard, Greenland, and Iceland; the University of Copenhagen Center for Permafrost is focused on arctic coastal environments in Greenland. In Germany, a project funded by the European Union called Nunataryuk is focused on determining the impacts of thawing coastal and subsea permafrost on the global climate. In Norway, the Sustainable Arctic Marine and Coastal Technology Center is focused on work packages for coastal technology and material modelling to develop tools to assess infrastructure reliability in the Arctic coastal zone. In Canada, the Geological Survey is leading a Coastal Permafrost United Nations Environmental Programme Rapid Resource Assessment to explore the unique processes and interconnections across terrestrial and nearshore marine permafrost environments. In the USA, there are no less than 13 different networks focused on arctic coastal issues, permafrost, and/or related issues; many are funded by the National Science Foundation (e.g., the Permafrost Coastal Erosion RCN, Arctic COAST RCN, Beaufort Lagoons LTER, and the Permafrost Discovery Gateway), while others are state funded (e.g., the Alaska DGGS Coastal Hazards Program), university supported (e.g., the Arctic Coastal Geoscience Lab of UAF), or U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA, and the U.S. Army Corps Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs, and the National Park Service.
However, Arctic permafrost resources transcend borders, and with the increasingly rapid pace of environmental and social change, there is ever greater need for international collaboration. In particular, there is a need for a robust intellectual framework to address critical environmental, social, and engineering challenges; such a framework must be based on knowledge sharing from all sides of national, political, cultural, and disciplinary borders. While some past and existing networks have attempted international cooperation and sharing of data, observations, and expertise, the long-term sustainability of these efforts has fallen short.