Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: RAPID: Social Transitions in the North: Document Digitization (Award# 1743654)

PI: Johnston, Janet M ( )
Phone: (907) 786.6567 
Institute/Department: U of Alaska, Anchorage, Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Colleen Strawhacker (
Discipline(s): | Data Management | Social and Human Sciences |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
This is a small RAPID award to fund the digitization and long-term storage and access of rapidly deteriorating scientific data records from the NSF funded "Social Transitions in the North (STN)" project that are currently stored at the Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS), University of Alaska Anchorage. STN was a four-year collaborative effort by Russian and Alaskan researchers in the early 1990's to collaboratively collect and analyze historical and contemporary demographic, epidemiologic, and domestic data in arctic communities. The primary investigators died in a boating accident while engaged in data collection at a Russian project site and the records of the project were ultimately donated to the ICHS by the widows of the original research team. The records have been stored at ICHS as analog tapes and paper documents, but unfortunately these documents are deteriorating rapidly and are in need of organizing and archiving in a way that would make them accessible to other researchers. The Arctic Social Science Program (ASSP) has a long history with this project and with these data materials. ASSP funded the original awards (OPP-9213137 and OPP-9496351) and in 2006 the program funded the "Social Transition in the North Memorial Symposium" during the Alaskan Anthropological Association Meeting held in Kodiak Alaska. The workshop brought together remaining original participants, some of the researchers' family members, and other scholars whose work has been built on the foundation of the original STN project. As the Review Analysis for the 2006 workshop stated, "This workshop has strong intellectual merit in that it will bring together for the first time the original scholars, Russian and US, with new scholars to discuss their mutual interests in the STN research and data and to stimulate new research on social change in the Arctic. In addition, the workshop will discuss the archived data and renew interest in its analysis and future use." These data have value and should be preserved as envisioned in the original awards and as discussed at the 2006 workshop. Not just for historical value but because they represent critical data on the social and physical health and wellbeing of Russian Indigenous people during a time of rapid social and economic change, the early 1990s following the development of the policies of Glasnost (Openness) and ultimate fall of the Soviet Union. These data are of particular interest today because Russia has again changed its policies toward Indigenous people and anyone undertaking research in the northeastern region of Russia should examine this data. PI Driscoll has the qualification and the interest in ensuring that the digitization and access plan can be completed and institutionalized.

Logistics Summary:
Social Transition in the North (STN), was a four year research study funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF; OPP-9213137 and OPP-9496351). STN was a longitudinal study analyzing four circumpolar regions, two in Russia (Chukotka and Kamchatka) and two in Alaska (Nana and Aleutian-Pribilof Islands), looking at demographic, epidemiologic, and domestic social transitions. During the final year of the study, while in the Russian region of Chukotka, the principle investigators, two additional research staff, and 10 villagers, died in a tragic boating accident in September of 1995. It was decided that the documents would be given to the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS) where they are now housed. The current STN material is not digitized or organized. This RAPID project will create a sustainable archive of the original STN materials to allow for further analysis of the original data. With the support of student internships, over a two to three month period in 2018, all STN material will be uploaded to a sustainable content management system that can be easily accessed by other researchers. No fieldwork is conducted.

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