Imperial College London

Setting the research agenda for Antarctic science



The Antarctic research community has called for greater collaboration to address the most pressing issues facing the region.

In an article in Nature this week the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) have set out their collective vision of what the priorities for Antarctic science should be for the next two decades.

This is the first time that SCAR, which consists of scientists and policy makers from across 22 countries, has undertaken a Horizon Scan looking across all areas of Antarctic research.

Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, was one of the 75 participants invited to participate in the horizon scan, as a result of being awarded the 2013 Martha T Muse prize. Commenting on the report Professor Siegert said:

“Antarctic research often requires substantial time to plan, coordinate and execute. Prioritising research at a 20 year time frame now gives us an unprecedented opportunity to consider how it should best be configured, both nationally and internationally, in the coming years. The UK will have an opportunity to start such a process at its Town Hall meeting at the Royal Society on 27 October.”

Starting from an initial list of over 800 questions, the committee produced a shortlist of 80 pressing scientific questions, grouped under six broad themes which will focus on:

  • Defining the global reach of the Antarctic atmosphere and Southern Ocean
  • Understanding how, where and why ice sheets lose mass
  • Revealing Antarctica’s history
  • Learning how Antarctic life evolved and survived
  • Observing space and the Universe
  • Recognizing and mitigating human influences

In the article, the authors stress that local transformations in Antarctica, such as ice loss and changes in ocean circulation, can have far-reaching consequences, highlighting the global importance of Antarctic science. They call for the southern polar community to work together to address these pressing issues through integrated science, conservation and policy efforts.

A full list of the research priorities can be found in the supplementary information to the Nature article.


Emma Critchley

Emma Critchley
The Grantham Institute for Climate Change

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