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SCAR Executive Committee Meeting
5-7 August 2009, Punta Arenas, Chile

SCAR EXCOM 2009 WP05: SCAR Performance Review 2009

Working Paper 5
Agenda Item: 2
Deadline: 1 May
Person Responsible: Smith

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research: A Decade of Progress; New Challenges Ahead

Report of the 2009 SCAR Review Group

June 8, 2009

Executive Summary:

In 1999, SCAR President Robert H. Rutford, acting on a SCAR recommendation, appointed an Ad Hoc Group on SCAR Strategy and Structure to examine all aspects of SCAR: its statement of mission, its science initiatives, its organization, its administration including its communication practice internally and with other organizations and the science community, and its role as an advisory to the ATCM and others.  The Ad Hoc Group’s report that called for sweeping changes in SCAR was adopted by SCAR Delegates in 2000.

SCAR then began a process of change by restating and re-invigorating its science mission, its attention to early career Antarctic scientists and national capacity building, by reorganizing at the Delegate level and in subsidiary SCAR committees, by modernizing its communication procedures and by revamping its administrative practices.  In 2004 SCAR appointed an Executive Director to fulfill the Ad Hoc Group’s recommendation that SCAR should have pro-active executive leadership.

The report of the 2009 SCAR Review Group, appointed by SCAR President Dr. Mahlon C. (Chuck) Kennicutt, evaluates the progress that SCAR has made in fulfilling the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Group.  In all areas where there were Ad Hoc Group recommendations, SCAR has made significant progress.  The Review Group comments favorably on SCAR’s decade of progress in this report. 

The Review Group makes recommendations on ways to build on the progress SCAR has made.  Altogether there are 27 recommendations.  While this may seem to be a large number, it should be noted that they cluster into nine areas.  They center in the following themes that are the major areas of discussion, finding, and recommendation in the 2009 Review Group Report:

  • Science planning and facilitation;
  • Nurturing capacity and early career polar scientists;
  • Internal and external communications;
  • Relations with ICSU and other organizations;
  • SCAR and the Antarctic Treaty;
  • Facilitating data management and archiving;
  • Delegate-level, Standing Scientific and other groups;
  • The SCAR Secretariat; and,
  • Maintaining SCAR’s momentum.

In contrast to the Ad Hoc Group’s conclusions the 2009 Review Group’s findings, as noted, are favorable.  The Review Group’s recommendations are designed to build on SCAR’s significant accomplishments, 2000-2009; and to prepare SCAR for an even more effective role in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, always important scientifically and diplomatically will be evermore so in the decades ahead.  Understanding Antarctic climate change and objectively interpreting this information for policy makers and the public, is perhaps the greatest immediate challenge.  SCAR must continue to play a central role in this process.  There are other daunting challenges, e.g. the over-exploitation of living resources.  While exploitation of natural resources has receded from view in recent years, it is possible to imagine scenarios that will bring this issue to the fore once again.  Environmental protection, including sound environmental practice in research, will grow in importance. There will also be emerging areas of scientific inquiry that should receive priority. In some instances the inclusion of new science initiatives will require that other programs receive less financial or logistic support.  In all of these and other emerging challenges sound scientific advice must be at the core of policy making so that it is well informed on a continuous basis as scientific understanding continues to grow. SCAR has prepared itself well to address emerging challenges through the reforms undertaken during 2000-2009.  By building on these developments through the recommendations presented here, SCAR can continue to play a central role in facilitating and coordinating science and advising governments working together in the Antarctic Treaty System.