Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research

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Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
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Formation1958;62 years ago (1958)
Region served
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Parent organization
International Science Council

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) is an interdisciplinary body of the International Science Council (ISC). SCAR coordinates international scientific research efforts in Antarctica, including the Southern Ocean.


SCAR’s scientific work is administered through several discipline-themed Science Groups. The organisation has observer status at, and provides independent advice to Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, and also provides information to other international bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). [1]

The calving front at the SCAR Inlet is named for the 'Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. It is the remaining fragment of the much larger Larsen B ice shelf which disintegrated in 2002. Sunny Skies over the Antarctic Peninsula - NASA Earth Observatory.jpg
The calving front at the SCAR Inlet is named for the 'Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. It is the remaining fragment of the much larger Larsen B ice shelf which disintegrated in 2002.


At the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU)’s Antarctic meeting held in Stockholm from 9 - 11 September 1957, it was agreed that a committee should be created to oversee scientific research in Antarctica. At the time there were 12 nations actively conducting Antarctic research and they were each invited to nominate one delegate to join a Special Committee on Antarctic Research. The 12 nations were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, and USSR.

The Special Committee held its first meeting in the Hague from 3 - 6 February 1958 and elected its first Executive Committee - Ing. Gen. G. Laclavère as President, Professor K.E. Bullen as Vice President, and Dr V. Schytt as Secretary. A Finance Committee and three working groups were also formed at this meeting.

The organisation’s name was later changed to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. [4]


SCAR is currently made up of 32 Full Member countries and 12 Associate Member countries. Each Full Member country appoints a Permanent Delegate and an Alternate Delegate, Associate Member countries appoint just one Delegate. The Delegates meet every two years to decide on SCAR’s strategic direction and which Delegates to elect to the Executive Committee. [5]

The role of the Executive Committee is to work with the SCAR Secretariat (based at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England) to carry out decisions made by the Delegates. The Executive Committee is made up of a President, an immediate Past-President, four Vice-Presidents and the Executive Director of SCAR. [6]



One of the ways that SCAR brings researchers together is through meetings. These include biennial Open Science Conferences (OSCs), Delegate Meetings, the SCAR Biology Symposium (every 4 years), the International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences, and the Humanities and Social Science Symposium.

Open Science Conferences

SCAR has been organising biennial Open Science Conferences (OSCs) in various member countries including Germany, Australia, Russia, Argentina, USA, New Zealand, Malaysia and Switzerland, since 2004. The OSCs give Antarctic scientists opportunities to draw attention to Antarctic issues, hold scientific group meetings, share their work, and network. [7]

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the physical 2020 conference and meetings scheduled to take place in Hobart, Australia, were cancelled. SCAR 2020 Online was held online from 3 - 7 August and delivered the highlights of the conference through a combination of live streaming, recorded presentations, text-based chat and a poster gallery. [8] [9]


Over 30 groups coordinate Antarctic research across a variety of disciplines and themes through SCAR. SCAR has three permanent Science Groups:

Each Science Group encompasses Scientific Research Programmes (SRPs) in priority areas. SRPs have a lifetime of about 8 years and new programmes can be suggested and developed through Programme Planning Groups (PPGs).

In 2018, a permanent Standing Committee on the Humanities and Social Sciences was set up to recognise the important and growing contribution of the humanities and social sciences communities to Antarctic research. Antarctica’s human history is relatively recent and this important area of study explores how humans interact with the region.

Each Science Group also has Action Groups (AGs), which have a lifetime of two to four years and are intended to solve short-term issues, and wider-focus Expert Groups (EGs), which last between six to eight years. [10] Examples include the AntArchitecture Action Group, the Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals, the Earth Observation Action Group, and the Action Group on Meeting and Managing Antarctic Environments.


One aspect of SCAR’s work is identifying emerging issues from Antarctic and Southern Ocean research and bringing them to the attention of policymakers, including the Antarctic Treaty, the UNFCCC and IPCC. Environmental and conservation related science is a large and growing part of SCAR’s policy work. [11]

In 2002 SCAR received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. [12] [13]

SCAR provides independent scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings via its Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treaty System (SCATS). SCATS brings together global scientists to create papers on the status of particular areas of research, to present at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings. SCAR is also tasked with providing advice to a number of other bodies, including the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

In 2019, SCAR’s long-standing contribution to the Antarctic Treaty System was recognised by the passing of a resolution calling for the representative countries’ Governments to enhance support, collaboration and cooperation in scientific research and protective measures for Antarctica. [14]

Capacity Building


SCAR awards four medals at its biennial Open Science Conferences, in recognition of excellence in Antarctic and Southern Ocean research and outstanding service to the international Antarctic community [15] , these are:

  • The Medal for Excellence in Antarctic Research
  • The Medal for International Coordination
  • The Medal for Education and Communication
  • The President’s Medal for Outstanding Achievement

Visiting Scholarships

SCAR offers Visiting Scholar Awards, which enable researchers and academics to visit other SCAR member countries.


SCAR provides fellowships to early-career researchers to allow them to join research groups in other countries. [16]

Diversity in Antarctic Science

As one of the principles of its parent organisation, the International Science Council (ISC), SCAR ‘promotes equitable opportunities for access to science and its benefits, and opposes discrimination based on such factors as ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political or other opinion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or age.’ [17]

As part of the push to improve the representation of women on Wikipedia, the SCAR community has already included more than 70 new biographies for notable women in Antarctic research. [18]

Related Research Articles

Antarctic Treaty System International treaties concerning Antarctica

The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, collectively known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth's only continent without a native human population. For the purposes of the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude. The treaty entered into force in 1961 and currently has 54 parties. The treaty sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation, and bans military activity on the continent. The treaty was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. Since September 2004, the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat headquarters has been located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Antarctic Polar region around Earths South Pole

The Antarctic is a polar region around Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica, the Kerguelen Plateau and other island territories located on the Antarctic Plate or south of the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic region includes the ice shelves, waters, and all the island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence, a zone approximately 32 to 48 km wide varying in latitude seasonally. The region covers some 20 percent of the Southern Hemisphere, of which 5.5 percent is the surface area of the Antarctic continent itself. All of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude are administered under the Antarctic Treaty System. Biogeographically, the Antarctic realm is one of eight biogeographic realms of Earth's land surface.

Indian Antarctic Program

The Indian Antarctic Program is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program under the control of the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India. It was initiated in 1981 with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica. The program gained global acceptance with India's signing of the Antarctic Treaty and subsequent construction of the Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base in 1983, superseded by the Maitri base from 1989. The newest base commissioned in 2012 is Bharati, constructed out of 134 shipping containers. Under the program, atmospheric, biological, earth, chemical, and medical sciences are studied by India, which has carried out 30 scientific expeditions to the Antarctic as of 14 October 2010.

Tim Naish New Zealand scientist (born 1951)

Timothy Raymond Naish is a New Zealand glaciologist and climate scientist who has been a researcher and lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington and the Director of the Antarctic Research Centre, and in 2020 became a programme leader at the Antarctic Science Platform. Naish has researched and written about the possible effect of melting ice sheets in Antarctica on global sea levels due to high CO2 emissions causing warming in the Southern Ocean. He was instrumental in establishing and leading the Antarctica Drilling Project (ANDRILL), and a Lead Author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (2014).

Artigas Base Antarctic base

The General Artigas Station, also referred to as the Artigas Base is the larger of the two Uruguayan scientific research stations in Antarctica, the other one being Elichiribehety Base. It is one of the 68 bases in Antarctica.

Dame Jane Elizabeth Francis, is the Director of the British Antarctic Survey. She previously worked as Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the University of Leeds where she also was Dean of the Faculty of Environment. In 2002 she was the fourth woman to receive the Polar Medal for outstanding contribution to British polar research. She is currently the Chancellor of the University of Leeds.

Captain Arturo Prat Base Antarctic base

Captain Arturo Prat Base is a Chilean Antarctic research station located at Iquique Cove, Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica.

Christo Pimpirev

Christo Pimpirev is a Bulgarian scientist (geologist) and polar explorer.

The Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) is a field project of the Census of Marine Life that researches the marine biodiversity of Antarctica, how it is affected by climate change, and how this change is altering the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean.

José Carlos Caetano Xavier

José Carlos Caetano Xavier is a Portuguese scientist and Polar explorer.

A. B. Dobrowolski Polar Station Antarctic base

A.B. Dobrowolski Polar Station is an inactive Polish polar research station in Antarctica. It is located at the edge of the Algae Lake, Bunger Hills region in the Wilkes Land and was originally constructed by the Soviet Union. It is one of the two Polish stations in Antarctica, the other being the Henryk Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station.

Terry Wilson (scientist) International leader in the study of present-day tectonics in Antarctica

Terry Jean Wilson is an international leader in the study of present-day tectonics in Antarctica. She has led large, international efforts, such as Polar Earth Observing Network (POLENET), to investigate the interactions between the earth's crust and the cryosphere in Antarctica.

Angelika Brandt

Angelika Brandt is the world leader in Antarctic deep-sea biodiversity and has developed, organised and led several oceanographic expeditions to Antarctica, notably the series of ANDEEP cruises, which have contributed significantly to Antarctica and deep-sea biology. Brandt was the senior scientist of ANDEEP which was devoted entirely to benthic research in the Antarctic abyss.

Michelle Rogan-Finnemore American geologist

Michelle Rogan-Finnemore is a New Zealand-American science administrator, and currently the Executive Secretary of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP) which is the international association which brings together the National Antarctic Programs that make up its members. She is also the namesake of Finnemore Peak.

Carlota Escutia Dotti is a geologist, best known for her work on the geologic evolution of Antarctica and the global role of the Antarctic ice cap. Escutia is based at the Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra, Universidad de Granada and the High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC).

Florica Topârceanu is an Antarctic researcher, best known for her work on Antarctic aquatic viruses and for developing the Antarctic scientific community in Romania. She was the first Romanian woman biologist to study life in Antarctica, and the first Romanian woman expert to the Antarctic Treaty.

Siti Aisyah Alias Malaysian academic

Siti Aisah Binti Hj Alias is a Malaysian marine polar researcher and lecturer. As of August 2016, she is Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the National Antarctic Research Centre (NARC) in the Malaysian Antarctic Research Programme (MARP), at the University of Malaya. Her work focuses on the physiology of marine and polar microbes and fungi.

Cornelia Lüdecke Polar researcher, author

Cornelia Lüdecke (1954) is a German polar researcher and author. A leading figure in the history of German polar research and the history of meteorology and oceanography, she founded the Expert Group on History of Antarctic Research within the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), institutionalising historical study and reflection for the Antarctic scientific community. Her books, among others, about the Schwabenland Expedition to Antarctica during the Third Reich and Deutsche in der Antarktis are milestones in the history of polar research publications.

Viviana A. Alder is an Argentinian researcher in Antarctica, best known for her research on marine microbiology. Alder is considered to be among the first group of Argentine female scientists to work in Antarctica.

David Walton (ecologist)

David W. H. Walton was a British emeritus professor with the British Antarctic Survey. Walton trained as an ecologist and was a specialist in the Antarctic. He was the first chair of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treaty System and held this position from 2002 to 2006. He was the Chief Scientist on the Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition (ACE) which took place from December 2016 to March 2017 aboard the Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov.


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