Building collaborative networks across disciplines: A review of polar educators international's first five years

Heidi A. Roop, Gary Wesche, Patrícia F. Azinhaga, Betty Trummel, José C. Xavier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Polar Educators International (PEI) is a volunteer-based organization designed to build collaborative relationships between educators and polar researchers. Founded in 2012, PEI was created out of the networks formed during the International Polar Year 2007-2008. This paper explores PEI's first five years (2012-17) of successes, challenges and opportunities that have led to the creation of an organization with over 1,500 members. Using a 'level of participation' framework for communities of practice, we examine the evolution of this educator-researcher network and focus on two key questions: 1) who has PEI reached and served over this time?, and 2) what are barriers to participation? Barriers include sustained engagement with researchers and establishing value within institutional frameworks that generally undervalue activities referred to as 'education and outreach' (EOC). EOC activities continue to be perceived as extra-curricular in both educator and researcher communities. Working to deepen collaboration with polar researchers and targeting a greater diversity of PEI's membership to fill core leadership functions should be future areas of focus for PEI as it looks to continue to shape polar EOC. Advancing and enhancing polar EOC extends well beyond PEI and should be a priority for the broader polar science and education communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-226
Number of pages7
JournalPolar Record
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments. The authors acknowledge the significant contribution from all members of Polar Educators International who have helped to define our organization’s success. We thank the current and past leadership of PEI for working tirelessly to help launch this organization and extend our gratitude to past and present global advisors, working group leaders, and council members. The authors extend their immense gratitude to Jenny Baeseman, Sarah Bartholow, Julia Dooley and Louise Huffman for their dedication to PEI and their help reviewing earlier versions of this manuscript. We also thank the World Climate Research Programme’s Climate and Cryosphere (CliC) project, and the Arctic Research Consortium (ARCUS) for being early champions of PEI. Thank you to CliC for continued support and access to resources including an online webinar platform and to ARCUS for acting as PEI’s secretariat. Thank you to ARCUS, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and the German Society of Polar Research (DGP) for investing resources to support PEI’s international workshops.

Funding Information:
Financial support. H. Roop was partially supported by the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group’s Science Communication Fund for the writing of this manuscript.

Funding Information:
PEI partners with IASC, APECS, the U.S Ice Drilling Program Office, and Gaia Antártica and has received financial resources from CliC, ARCUS and the U.S. NSF. PEI also participates as a member of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research Capacity Building, Education, and Training Advisory Group and has presented at a 2014 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings in Brazil (Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, 2014). However, the level of participation of these organizations is still characterized as transactional as most interactions are characterized best by “receiving or providing a service or to gain access to artifacts produced by the community” (Wenger -Trayner and Wenger-Trayner, 2011, pp. 1; Table 3). While PEI has successfully built the foundation for organizational partnerships, work is still needed to bring these organizations in from solely “interacting to receive or provide a service” (Wenger-Trayner and Wenger-Trayner, 2011) to experiencing PEI as a partner and valuable CoP.

Funding Information:
Over the last two years, ARCUS, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the Italian National Research Council (CNR), the German Society of Polar Research (DGP) and International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) have invested other monies and in-kind donations to primarily support participation in PEI international workshops.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019.


  • Community of practice
  • International Polar Year
  • Polar education
  • Science communication
  • Science education


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