Interview with Oran R. Young

IMG_4799 © Oran R. Young1. Why is Polar Science an important area to study? 

The polar regions are not only significant in their own right; they are deeply connected in biophysical, economic, and political terms to the rest of the Earth system. The links relating to climate change and the future of fossil fuels provide dramatic examples. 

2. How can Polar Science bring benefit to society? 

The key challenge of the coming years is to understand the dynamics of complex systems and to develop the capacity to govern human actions affecting and affected by complex systems. Nowhere is this challenge more in evidence than in the polar regions.

3. How important is Polar Science for the next 5-10 years for industry and academia? 

I would emphasize the importance of polar science to those responsible for making and implementing public policies ranging from the local level to the international level.

4. What, in your opinion, can Springer do to support this?  

The goal should be to support/encourage research that contributes simultaneously to the growth of knowledge regarding key issues like the dynamics of complex systems and to addressing matters of current public concern like the effort to cut back drastically on greenhouse gas emissions.

5. What are today’s hottest trends/topics in Polar Science? 

Understanding the linkages/interactions among biophysical forces, biological processes, and anthropogenic drivers in the polar regions. This is the essential challenge of learning how to live with complex systems both in the polar regions and globally.

6. What are the challenges the field of Polar Science faces today and what can be the possibilities for the future?  

As my previous answers suggest, we must promote mutual respect among those who work in the physical sciences, life sciences, and social sciences in order to promote the mutual understanding and effective teamwork needed both to understand and to coexist with complex systems.



Oran Young is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Program on Governance for Sustainable Development at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California (Santa Barbara). His research focuses on theoretical issues relating to the roles of social institutions as governance systems with applications to matters of governance relating to climate change, marine systems, and the polar regions. He also does comparative research on environmental governance in China and the United States. Dr. Young served for six years as founding chair of the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change of the US National Academy of Sciences. He chaired the Scientific Steering Committee of the international project on the Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (IDGEC). He was a founding co-chair of the Global Carbon Project and from 2005 to 2010 chaired the Scientific Committee of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change. An expert on Arctic issues, Dr. Young chaired the Steering Committee of the Arctic Governance Project and is the science advisor to the North Pacific Arctic Conferences. Past service in this realm includes co-chair of the Working Group on Arctic International Relations, co-chair of the NAS Committee on Arctic Social Science, member of the US Polar Research Board, founding board member of the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, vice-president of the International Arctic Science Committee, chair of the Board of Governors of the University of the Arctic, consultant to the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, and co-chair of the 2004 Arctic Human Development Report. He is the author or co-author of more than 30 books. His recent books include On Environmental Governance: Sustainability, Efficiency, and Equity (2013), Governing Complex Systems: Social Capital for the Anthropocene (2017) , and Satellite Earth Observations and Their Impact on Society and Policy (2017) an Open Access book.


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