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The need for a well-coordinated and sustained Arctic Observing Network that meets scientific and societal needs has been identified in numerous high profile reports (e.g. Toward an Integrated Arctic Observing Network (NRC)) and at a variety of workshops and conferences. In November 2006, at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Salekhard, Russian Federation, Ministers welcomed the International Polar Year (IPY), 2007 –2008, as a unique opportunity to stimulate cooperation and coordination of Arctic research and increase awareness of the importance of the Arctic region.

Further, the Arctic Council Ministers requested the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), to cooperate with the other AC working groups, the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), and other partners in efforts to create a coordinated Arctic Observing Network that meets identified societal needs (Salekhard Declaration). The goal of developing an Arctic Observing Network as a legacy of IPY (WMO/ICSU) was endorsed by the WMO XV Congress in May 2007.

In January 2007, the Sustained Arctic Observing Networks Initiating Group (SAON IG), composed of representatives of international organizations, agencies, and northern residents involved in research and operational and local observing, has been formed to develop a set of recommendations on how to achieve long-term Arctic-wide observing activities that provide free, open, and timely access to high-quality data that will realize pan-Arctic and global value-added services and provide societal benefits.

The Swedish and Canadian IPY Committees have agreed to take the lead in the launch of the SAON initiative by running a succession of workshops together with the SAON IG.

The first workshop took place in Stockholm, Sweden on 12-14 November 2007 and addressed the question: Are current Arctic observing and data and information management activities sufficient to meet users’ needs? The material presented at the workshop is available on this web site by following the main menu link 'Background' -> 'SAON Initiating Group' -> ‘Stockholm workshop’.

The second workshop, took place in Edmonton, Canada, 9-11 April 2008, and was hosted by the Canadian IPY Secretariat. This workshop did address the question: How will Arctic observing and data and information management activities be coordinated and sustained over the long-term? The material presented at the workshop is available on this web site by following the main menu link 'Background' -> 'SAON Initiating Group' -> ‘Edmonton workshop’.

The third workshop was held in Helsinki, Finland 15-17 October 2008, hosted by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The scope of the workshop included creating a successor to the SAON-IG and how to to continue the development of a program of internationally coordinated, sustained observations in the Arctic. An important element was to synthesize the advice and information gathered at previous workshops into the final set of recommendations. The material presented at the workshop is available on this web site by following the main menu link 'Background' -> 'SAON Initiating Group' -> ‘Helsinki workshop’

One smaller additional SAON-workshop was held in St Petersburg, Russia prior to the SCAR-IASC Joint IPY Conference in July 2008. A number of Russian scientists and government officials provided their insight on current and future observing activities in the Russian sector of the Arctic. All presentations from from the workshop can be down-loaded from this web site. Read more about the St Petersburg workshop

In September, the SAON process was introduced to the Asian Forum on Polar Science in Seoul, Korea.

In March 2010, a meeting was held with agency officials. The objective of the meeting was to seek input from funding agencies on feasible mechanisms for harmonizing actions involving priority-setting, decision-making, and implementation regarding long-term observing activities in the Arctic. The material from the meeting is avaiable here.

A workshop on data management, organised by SAON and the IPY Data Management Group, was held in Oslo in June 2010. The report from this workshop, including recommendations is avaialble here

The SAON Steering (SAON-SG) group drafted the Plan for the Implementation Phase of SAON for the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee (February 2011). 

The decision to establish SAON was made by the Arctic Council in the Nuuk Declaration (2011). Details are found in the SAO report to tne Nuuk Ministerial Meeting from 2011 (page 7)