A Final View from the South
SCAR is on the way to its Delegates meeting in March. This signals a change of leadership and ongoing opportunities for science interactions and support.
This time, last year, I was in the Antarctic. Coronavirus was not yet a household word. And most of us were only incidentally familiar with epidemiology’s basics. How things have changed, with much global difficulty, both professional and personal.
SCAR’s community of members has been affected significantly. Loved ones have been lost, life at home filled with unexpected adversity, and professional responsibilities compounded. We have taken time to recognise these hardships and deprivations, and will do so again.
Our community had to forego the opportunity of meeting in person at the Open Science Conference, scheduled for mid-2020 but then cancelled. Most of our scheduled in-person subsidiary group meetings were also cancelled. Other planned meetings have been postponed at least until 2022.
Nonetheless, SCAR has not been quiet. We transitioned to an Online Science Conference, from which many of the talks are still available online. We discovered we can reach a broader audience this way, that we can reduce travel-related greenhouse gas emissions and that we can make things easier for those whose domestic or business responsibilities preclude real-time attendance.
Our groups have remained active too. Many are meeting online and continuing to give effect to the collaborative work that drove their establishment. The Executive Committee has modified our usual budget provisions to accommodate new ways of working and support for those likely to be most compromised. Moreover, the community also came together to develop activities to understand what it is SCAR can do to help researchers affected by the pandemic, and what those effects have been and are expected to continue to be (COVID-19 Project).
Our members are also now gearing up for the first activities associated with the new Scientific Research Programmes (SRPs). Instabilities and Thresholds in Antarctica (INSTANT) is first off the mark. The kick-off meeting is scheduled for the week of 15th February, with full details of the meeting schedule available here. As a SCAR SRP, INSTANT welcomes all members and interested scientists to take part. The other SRPs, AntClimNOW - Near-term Variability and Prediction of the Antarctic Climate System and Ant-ICON - Integrated Science to Inform Antarctic and Southern Ocean Conservation are on the cusp of their kick-off meetings too. SCAR’s news channels will make the arrangements for these known once settled.
SCAR is also on course for a range of contributions to forthcoming Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) meetings under the excellent guidance of the SC-ATS Chief Officer Dr Susie Grant. While the arrangements for forthcoming ATS meetings are not yet finalised, activity in that sector also continues apace and taking into account the realities of the pandemic.
Perhaps most importantly from an internal business perspective, the SCAR Delegates will meet in March (weeks of the 15th and 22nd) to do two things. The first meeting will consider a revision to our current Articles of Association to enable us to meet electronically or in a hybrid of electronic and in-person meetings. This step forward is not only essential in the current pandemic world, but also to help provide future means to enable broad participation with lower emissions implications, both in our Delegates’ meetings and in subsidiary group meetings, especially of our Science Groups.
If our Members’ Delegates agree, we will then hold a full Delegates meeting, though a little restricted in the business details we will cover. Nonetheless, the intention is to ensure we support the science facilitation and advice provision that are the core of what we do, and take care of our legal obligations as a Charity registered in the United Kingdom. As part of the agenda, we will hold elections for a new President and two new Vice-Presidents.
Although different from our usual ways of working, with all of the advantages and disadvantages (no catch-ups in the margins) this brings, the signs are good. Virtually all of our Members have registered Delegates and we have sourced an excellent company to look after the technical details. The company already has had a successful experience in running an ATS-associated meeting. Thus, everything is set.
What the Delegates meeting means, of course, is that my Presidency will come to an end. The last 4.5 years have been an extraordinary time for me. And that is due to the enthusiasm for research, research support and policy advice in all of its forms from SCAR’s members and the organisations with which it works routinely. I have had the privilege of working with an enthusiastic, smart Executive Committee, Executive Director and Secretariat. People who have tremendous appetite for work, tolerance for meetings at odd hours, and a candour about all matters that is the essence of close collaboration and decision-making. SCAR’s Chief Officers represent everything that is the best in those who volunteer their time and those who know their subject matter thoroughly. Rare is the opportunity to work with such capability and dedication. The scores of researchers who comprise our community have likewise been a source of great inspiration and learning. Your time and insights are the core of SCAR. I have also been fortunate to benefit from the acumen, guidance and views of those in the organisations and country delegations (of the ATS and elsewhere) with which SCAR works, either routinely or occasionally. To all of you, thank you for making my time in the Presidency the privilege to serve it has been.
Steven L Chown
Melbourne, February 4th 2021