In advance of the forthcoming field season, and given several developments, I am writing to you to update you on SCAR’s activities and our course of action.
First off, congratulations to SCAR’s Medal Winners for 2020: Valérie Masson-Delmotte (President’s Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Antarctic Science); W Berry Lyons (SCAR Medal for Excellence in Antarctic Research); Carlota Escutia (SCAR Medal for International Scientific Coordination); Huw Griffiths (SCAR Medal for Education and Communication).
We have now concluded our Business Consultation and have a way forward which has been posted to the new Delegates Forum. That Forum is now operational. The Forum is restricted to Delegates and each Delegate and Alternate Delegate should have received login instructions and be able to access the Forum. Should you find you have not received such instructions, and think you should have as a Delegate or Alternate Delegate, please feel free to contact info[at]scar.org. Vice-President for Administration, Gary Wilson, developed the Forum with the assistance of Meta Digital – a company based in New Zealand that has also delivered the Antarctic Environments Portal.
Either the SCAR Secretariat or I will keep the SCAR community informed of the outcomes of Delegates discussions. In the case of the Business Consultation, some Members expressed concerns about the use of the Resolutions procedure for decision-making which is available to SCAR as a UK-based charity. Given that SCAR operates typically by consensus, some alternative approaches are now being considered.
Most importantly, the SCAR Secretariat has now circulated to all Members a revised Articles of Association which enable us (including all of our subsidiary groups) to meet electronically. According to our current Articles, Members must be given six months to consider any revision to our Articles and this process is underway. We are aiming to hold a brief Delegates’ meeting as soon as possible after 17th February 2021 to consider and hopefully approve the revised Articles. Once that is done, a fuller online meeting will be held immediately thereafter to give effect to SCAR’s business.
Until these meetings are held, the SCAR Executive, in discussion with group Chief Officers wherever appropriate, will ensure that SCAR’s activities continue and that plans can also be developed and set in motion, as appropriate, for new activities. Activities cover both science facilitation and evidence-based scientific advice.
In this regard, the following developments are noteworthy:
- The final proposals for the new Scientific Research Programs (SRPs), developed by the Program Planning Groups (PPGs) approved at our 2018 meeting in Davos, have all now been peer reviewed. The outcomes of the reviews will be circulated to PPG Chief Officers shortly and both reviews and responses will then be made available to Delegates and SG Chief Officers. As a reminder these proposed SRPs are:
- The Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals established a small sub-group to consider the potential impact of COVID-19 on Antarctic wildlife. The group, led by Andres Barbosa, has produced a draft report which has been made available via pre-print server and is under review for publication: www.preprints.org/manuscript/202008.0478/v1.
The SCAR Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treaty System will now also consider the recommendations from this report and develop these, as appropriate, as formal SCAR advice in keeping with our usual procedures.
- SCAR continues to plan for its next Open Science Conference to be held in India in 2022. The SCAR Delegates warmly accepted India’s offer, made in Davos in 2018, to host the meeting. The SCAR Executive will work closely with India and the SCAR community to determine the most suitable ways forward.
- SCAR has also received a proposal from a Member country to host the 2024 Open Science Conference. The proposal will be circulated via the Delegates Forum and news of any decision will be made available as soon as is possible.
Finally, a word of thanks to all of those who participated in the SCAR Online Science Conference. The attendance and atmosphere, even if encountered remotely, were fantastic. Catherine Ritz, Vice-President for Science, Chandrika Nath, Executive Director, and many session chairs and organisers did an extraordinary job in making this online meeting work.
As always, should you wish to raise any matter with me directly, please feel free to do so by e-mail. And likewise with any member of the SCAR Executive.
Steven L Chown