Welcome to the second of my Views from the South.
Over the past several months, SCAR has seen a great deal of activity, from the Biology Symposium in Leuven, Belgium to the #GreatAntarcticClimateHack in La Jolla, California. Many groups have also been busy planning for their meetings next year in Davos and Polar2018 has seen Abstract submissions open and close.
I have had the opportunity to take part in several of the activities. I attended the Biology Symposium, the Past Antarctic Ice Sheet Dynamics Conference in Trieste, Italy, and the IX Congreso Latin Americano De Ciencia Antartica in Punta Arenas, Chile. The range, depth and quality of the science has been impressive to listen to and be part of. The exceptional organisational arrangements and the focus on ensuring attendance by a wide variety of scientists from all career stages was notable across all of these meetings.
A key message that struck me from the meetings is that appreciation of the importance, for the rest of the planet, of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and science in, from, and about these regions, is steadily growing. The same message emerged at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in China, and is not far from centre stage in the news. Understanding the history of ice sheets, their interactions with the ocean, atmosphere and life, and how this knowledge will improve forecasting of what is to come, especially with regard to sea level rise, are undeniably among the most compelling Antarctic questions of our time.
In recognition thereof, I have been encouraging those considering the preparation of a new generation of Scientific Research Programmes (SRP), to think about a Programme that would address this very question. The elements of this integration are visible everywhere now – in SERCE, PAIS, AntClim21, AntEco and AnT-ERA – and many of the conversations at meetings have been about integration of these elements.
Such a single new programme would not be the only new SCAR SRP, but it should be central to the SCAR scientific focus for the coming decade. Such a focus would provide a firm foundation for SCAR to leverage additional support for this scientific work. An argument about the most compelling question of our time is a difficult one to ignore.
A variety of other SRP proposals are in the design process. Overall, however, I think it of great value to reduce the total number and increase the support to each SRP. The six to date have been immensely successful, though with the continual message that with more support, more would have been achieved.
Discussions about the new SRPs and how these can best serve the entire SCAR community, especially recognising and accommodating the variety among SCAR’s membership in terms of interests, capability, and resourcing, should be underway among all the SCAR groups, but especially among the current SRP and Group Chief Officers, and those who might be developing new SRP proposals.
To facilitate such discussion, the Secretariat will be establishing a means to do so and especially in preparation for Polar2018 in Davos. Indeed, to give effect to preparing for the SCAR Open Science Conference and Delegates meeting in 2018, and taking account of the Executive Director vacancy in the Secretariat, I have engaged the services of Mahlon (Chuck) Kennicutt II as a Special Consultant for the next seven months. Chuck will assist the Executive Committee and Secretariat with preparation for the SCAR portion of the Polar2018 meeting, and will provide some assistance to the Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treaty System too.
As many of you will appreciate, the Secretariat has been exceptionally busy, especially with the departure of the Executive Director and the launch of the new web page (a production which is thanks to the Secretariat and especially to Jenny Baeseman). Eoghan Griffin and Rosemary Nash have been doing a fabulous job of managing all of our business. Thanks to them for their indefatigable enthusiasm. We had promised additional office assistance, but that has been held back until the new Executive Director is in place.
The Executive Director position has now been advertised (see "SCAR seeks Executive Director") and the final date for applications is 29th November 2017. The position has benefitted not only from an increase in annual remuneration, but also from several changes in the Secretariat that have been brought into effect. I would encourage you to draw the attention of any suitable candidates to the position. The Executive have agreed a timeline such that we hope to be in a position to make an offer to a new Executive Director by the end of January 2018.
Finally, I would like to remind you all that this coming austral summer will mark SCAR’s 60th Anniversary (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954102017000426), which we have elected to celebrate as a community at Polar2018. Announcements about events at the meeting will be made over the next few months. Nonetheless, plenty of scope exists for you to celebrate this event in your groups, during your expeditions, and within your organisations. We have already received several suggestions to date and are keen to hear of more and to do what we can to support them.
The date of the first meeting of the Special Committee on Antarctic Research (as it was first named) was 3-6 February 1958. Thus, we will consider Monday 5th February 2018 SCAR’s official 60th Birthday. We will, however, celebrate the 60th anniversary in various ways throughout the year, in keeping with the significance of the anniversary. The Secretariat is working on developing merchandise to support events – all suggestions are welcome and simply send these on to Rosemary, Eoghan or myself.
In closing, I wish everyone a safe and successful Antarctic field season.
Steven L Chown