This briefing examines the legal impact of the scientific agreement on states and the potential of the agreement to achieve its goal of improving international cooperation in the field of scientific research in the Arctic. The science agreement creates new obligations for states to improve access for scientists. The legal nature of these commitments may be sufficient to encourage states to invest more political and financial capital in the purpose of the agreement (Wood-Donnelly, 2013: 300) and to enable bureaucrats to overcome obstacles to domestic policy (Takei, 2014: 367; Nowlan, 2011: 58; Shaffer and Pollack, 2011: 1162). The text of the agreement gives states great flexibility in interpreting their implementation obligations. This flexibility allows states with ambitious plans to make substantial changes, but it also allows ambivalent states to act with complacency with regard to the provisions of the agreement. This document concludes that the potential of this agreement to improve international scientific cooperation is uncertain, since the agreement depends mainly on the interests of each state. Article 17 provides that contracting parties can continue to improve and facilitate cooperation with non-contracting parties in the field of arctic scientific research, and this provision for cooperation with the parties is not legally binding on the parties. This is important because Arctic science is global and has always been conducted between the Arctic and non-Arctic states.9 This provision has been criticized in other scientific work, such as Shibata and Raita (158-162) and Liu (55), for the eventual creation of a two-tier system in the Arctic. This risks hindering, rather than encouraging, international cooperation in the field of science. The agreement establishes a formal framework for cooperation to promote, develop and facilitate science and technology activities.
The U.S. private sector has strongly advocated for a partnership with Greece in the field of science and technology. It is possible that the state initiatives took place without scientific agreement (Smieszek, 2017: 445). However, limited discussions with the implementing authorities indicate that at least some of these initiatives have begun, because the agreement has drawn the attention of States to the challenges of scientific cooperation.