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SCAR XXXIII WP16: Report from the SCAR Social Sciences Group
XXXIII SCAR Delegates Meeting
1 - 3 September 2014, Auckland, New Zealand

SCAR XXXIII WP16: Report from the SCAR Social Sciences Group

Working Paper: 16
Agenda Item: 4.4.1
Posted/Revised: 24 Jul 2014
Person Responsible: D. Liggett

Executive Summary

Title: Report of the SCAR Social Sciences Action Group

Authors: D. Liggett, J.F Salazar, E. Leane, K. Bastmeijer, S. Chaturvedi, A.D. Hemmings, M. Lamers, J. O’Reilly, G. Steel, E. Stewart and other members of the steering group


Increasingly, Antarctic institutions and stakeholders acknowledge the costs and benefits of human activities in Antarctica not merely from an economic perspective but also from environmental, social and cultural points of view. The coverage (in the media and in policy discussions) of the many aspects of human endeavour in the Antarctic asks policy-makers, educators, scientists and the wider public to weigh multiple costs and benefits (that is to say, values) against one another. Understanding the extent and nature of the values that human beings place on the Antarctic has large-scale and very serious implications for human engagement with and activity in the region in the future and significant public-relations implications in relation to the wider social acceptability of even traditional forms of Antarctic activity.

Important Issues or Factors:

Social scientists and humanities researchers have the expertise and tools to lead an academic assessment of Antarctic values and other questions linked to human presence in the Antarctic or its cultural, political, social and behavioural dimensions.  The Social Sciences AG (hereon “the group”) was established to carry out research targeted at understanding the range of values underpinning human engagement with Antarctica.  As shown in this report (including its appendices), this research effort has progressed considerably.  At the same time, as a result of this research, it has become clear that continued research into Antarctic values needs to be cognisant of broader considerations around human presence in Antarctica.  A concomitant broadening of the humanities and social sciences research agenda within SCAR promises considerable benefits in the long run, especially with regard to understanding human behaviour, impacts, influence and decision-making in an Antarctic context and developing alternative strategies for environmental management.

Recommendations/Actions and Justification: We request that the group be designated Expert Group status to maintain and expand the momentum established through the Antarctic values research project and to incorporate and coordinate a greater breadth of existing and new Antarctic social sciences and humanities projects, and potential collaborators, under its umbrella.

Expected Benefits/Outcomes: The group will continue to raise the profile of SCAR in the public realm and in social science and humanities research communities by demonstrating that SCAR supports multi-disciplinary research efforts outside the realm of the natural sciences.  Social sciences and humanities enquiries and analyses through this group will also help SCAR to better ground its scientific advice in a thorough understanding of the drivers of human engagement with the Antarctic.  Finally, a range of academic publications resulting from this research effort will bolster SCAR’s scholarly record in the social sciences and humanities.

Partners: The group collaborates with the SCAR History EG, as highlighted by a joint SCAR History and Social Sciences workshop (Cambridge, UK, 1-5 July 2013) and a joint session at the SCAR OSC 2014.

Budget Implications: The group requests the standard operating budget for SCAR Expert Groups ($5000 per year).