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The plans for the IGY, the International Geophysical Year, 1957-58, included a major Antarctic component.

At the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) Antarctic meeting held in Stockholm on 9 - 11 September 1957 it was decided that there was need for further international organization of scientific activity in Antarctica, and that a committee should be set up for this purpose. The Bureau of ICSU invited the twelve nations actively engaged in Antarctic research to nominate a delegate each to a Special Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Delegates were also invited from the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), the International Geographical Union (IGU), the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and the Union Radio Scientific Internationale (URSI). The following permanent delegates were nominated: Argentina - Captain L. de la Canal; Australia - Professor J. van Mieghem; France - Mons. B. Imbert; Japan - Professor T. Nagata; New Zealand - Dr. E. I. Robertson; Norway - Professor L. Harang (also representing URSI); South Africa - J.J. Taljaard; United Kingdom - Dr G. de Q Robin; United States - Dr L.M. Gould; USSR - Dr M.M. Somov; IUBS - Dr A. Brunn; IUGG - Ing. Gen. G. Laclavère; and IGU - Dr V. Schytt.

The first meeting of SCAR was held at the Hague from 3 - 6 February 1958 and all the participating nations and societies were represented except New Zealand and South Africa. Dr R. Fraser and Colonel E. Herbays represented ICSU. The meeting elected Ing. Gen. G. Laclavère President, Professor K.E. Bullen Vice-President, and Dr V. Schytt Secretary. The main task of the committee at the first meeting was to "prepare a plan for the scientific exploration of Antarctica in the years following the completion of the International Geophysical Year programme". A Finance Committee was also formed. Three working groups were set up to discuss and prepare future research programmes and each later reported their recommendations to the Committee.

Subsequently SCAR was renamed the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

Delegates at the VI SCAR meeting in Boulder, Colorado, USA in August 1962

Geographical Scope:

For the purposes of SCAR, in 1958 "Antarctica" was defined as being bounded by the Antarctic convergence, and also including the Sub-Antarctic islands on which International Geophysical Year observations were being made.

In 2005, this definition was enlarged as follows (from the SCAR Strategic Plan 2004-2010): SCAR's area of interest includes Antarctica, its offshore islands, and the surrounding Southern Ocean including the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the northern boundary of which is the Subantarctic Front. Subantarctic islands that lie north of the Subantarctic Front and yet fall into SCAR's area of interest include: Ile Amsterdam, Ile St Paul, Macquarie Island and Gough Island.

International Polar Year 2007-2008

The International Polar Year (IPY) 2007–2008 became the largest coordinated research programme in the Earth’s polar regions, following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the IGY. An estimated 50,000 researchers, local observers, educators, students, and support personnel from more than 60 nations were involved in the 228 international IPY projects (170 in science, 1 in data management, and 57 in education and outreach) and related national efforts. IPY generated intensive research and observations in the Arctic and Antarctica over a two-year period, 1 March 2007–1 March 2009, with many activities continuing beyond that date. 

For more information on the IPY, see "Understanding Earth's Polar Challenges: International Polar Year 2007-2008" on the ICSU website.

Further information:

See the Membership page for a list of SCAR member countries by date of joining.

See the Executive Committee page for a list of the past elected officers of SCAR.

See the Secretariat page for a list of SCAR Secretariat staff over time.

See the Delegates and EXCOM Meetings page for a list of SCAR meetings, their dates and venues, papers and reports.

See also the SCAR Expert Group on the History of the Institutionalisation of Antarctic Research.

Publications on the History of SCAR:

pdf A Brief Account of the Evolution of SCAR, 1958-2006 (287 KB) by Peter D.Clarkson.

pdf A History of SCAR, 2004-2010 (495 KB) . C.P. Summerhayes, 2011. SCAR Occasional Publication. SCAR, Cambridge. ISBN 978 0 948277 26 9

Science in the snow - fifty years of international collaboration through the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, Walton D.W.H. & Clarkson P.D., with additional material by C.P. Summerhayes, Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research, Cambridge, 2011, ISBN 978-0-948277-25-2, 258 pp.  (currently not available electronically)

pdf Analysis: Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (163 KB) , M. Kennicutt, 2010. Published by Research Media.

SCAR Website Archive:

The British Library holds a UK web archive showing a wide range of websites and, through copies taken at regular intervals, how they have developed over time.  The SCAR website has been part of the archive since March 2012.  The final copy of the old site was taken in March 2014.  To view the collection, go to the web archive