The polar regions are changing rapidly with dramatic global effect. Wise use of resources, astute management of our environment, improved decision support, and effective international cooperation on natural resource and geopolitical issues require a deeper understanding of, and an ability to predict change and its impact. Understanding and knowledge are built on data and information, yet polar information is scattered and scarce as well as temporally and spatially sporadic.
We are inspired by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 that established the Antarctic as a global commons to generate greater scientific understanding. Correspondingly, we assert that data and information about the polar regions are themselves "public goods" that should be shared ethically and with minimal constraint.
We envision a Polar Information Commons (PIC) as a shared virtual resource mirroring the geographic commons. The PIC would serve as an open, virtual repository for vital scientific data and information, and would provide a shared, community-based cyber-infrastructure fostering innovation, improved scientific understanding, and encourage participation in research, education, planning, and management in the polar regions.
The PIC builds on the legacy of the International Polar Year and we seek active participation and ideas from national governments, international organizations, and the scientific and data management communities at large to build this common resource.