Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 October 2008
As the fourth International Polar Year (IPY) 2007–2008, gets into full swing it is timely to reflect on the history of development of international scientific collaboration in the IPYs since the first one in 1882–1883, including the third, which evolved into the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957–1958. The success of international scientific collaboration in the IGY led the International Council for Science (ICSU), the body that managed the IGY, to create the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) to carry forward the collaboration in Antarctic science that had begun during the IGY. This year, 2008, seems an appropriate time to undertake such an historical review, given that we are not only midway through the fourth IPY, but also that it is SCAR's 50th anniversary; the first SCAR meeting having been held in The Hague on 3–5 February 1958. Since SCAR's membership began with 12 member countries and 4 ICSU unions, membership has grown to 34 countries and 8 ICSU unions, with more expected to join at the 30th meeting of SCAR in Moscow in July 2008. Both SCAR's activities and those of the fourth IPY benefit from international collaboration not only between scientists, but also between the national Antarctic operations managers, working together through the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP), and national policy makers working together through the Antarctic Treaty mechanisms. Thanks to all their efforts, the IPY of 2007–2009 will leave behind a legacy of enhanced observing systems for documenting the status and change of all aspects of the Antarctic environment as the basis for improved forecasting of its future condition. SCAR expects to play a major role in the design of those systems and their use to improve scientific understanding of the place of the Antarctic in the global environmental system, and the pace and direction of change within that system.
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