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The SCAR Membership Guide is intended to help guide prospective member countries through the process of applying for membership, to assist associate members wishing to upgrade and become full members, and to provide a complete handbook to current members on what is involved in being a member of SCAR.  

The guide begins with some basic background on what SCAR is and how it works, the various levels of membership, the benefits that being a member of SCAR can bring, what SCAR expects of its members, and the process of applying for associate and full membership (consolidated from the SCAR Rules of Association).  In the appendix to the document, a very useful summary of SCAR’s various research groups is given, including the types of group, the rules governing them, and a brief outline of the research activities that each group covers.

The guide can be downloaded from SCAR Library:

  pdf Membership Guide 2019 (312 KB)

The table of contents of the membership guide is below. Click on a title and read more from the guide.

Introduction to SCAR

In 1958, the International Council for Science (now the International Science Council - ISC) created the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) as an interdisciplinary body to help coordinate international research in and about the Antarctic. The ISC is a non-governmental organisation with a global membership of national scientific bodies and International Scientific Unions, and SCAR forms one of its thematic organisations. SCAR currently includes 44 member countries and 9 ISC unions and strives to include new members, as countries not yet engaged develop an increasing interest in Antarctic science. 

SCAR’s mission is to advance Antarctic research, including observations from Antarctica, and to promote scientific knowledge, understanding and education on any aspect of the Antarctic region.  To this end, SCAR is charged with the initiation and international co-ordination of Antarctic and Southern Ocean research beneficial to global society.  In addition, SCAR provides independent and objective scientific advice and information to the Antarctic Treaty System and other bodies and acts as the main international exchange of Antarctic information within the scientific community.

SCAR’s vision is to create a legacy of Antarctic research as a foundation for a better future.  Through scientific research and international cooperation, SCAR aims to establish a thorough understanding of the nature of Antarctica, the role of the Antarctic in the global system, and the character and effects of environmental change and human activities on Antarctica.  Members of SCAR benefit by being part of a global network of countries and ISC unions which work together to advance Antarctic research, promote knowledge and understanding of the Antarctic region, and provide independent and objective advice to policy-makers.  

In 2014, SCAR sponsored the 1st Antarctic and Southern Ocean Science Horizon Scan. Through this activity, the Antarctic community was asked to submit research questions that should be considered over the next two decades. The world's leading Antarctic scientists, policy makers, leaders, and visionaries helped to distill the submissions into 80 of the most important questions that will or should be addressed by research in and from the southern Polar Regions. The results from this community based effort have been published in Nature and Antarctic Science and serve as a platform for future SCAR research planning and feed into science priorities for many national programmes.

The 2017-2022 Strategic Plan lays out high level objectives for the organization in the years ahead. It can be downloaded from the SCAR Library: pdf 2017-2022 Strategic Plan (1.49 MB) . The Executive Summary is included as Appendix 2 in the pdf Membership Guide document (312 KB) .

The organisation of SCAR and how it works

The membership of SCAR comprises ISC-affiliated national scientific academies or research councils (or the organisation designated by the national ISC representative body) of countries that are active in Antarctic research, together with the relevant Scientific Unions of the ISC.

SCAR Delegates

SCAR meets every two years, in the even years, to conduct its administrative business at the SCAR Delegates' Meeting.  At these meetings, the members of SCAR, through their appointed Delegates, are responsible for formulating SCAR policy and strategy.  They also elect an Executive Committee from among themselves to manage SCAR on behalf of its members.  The Executive Committee comprises the President and four Vice-Presidents (each appointed for a term of four years), the immediate Past-President (appointed for a term of two years immediately following their presidency), and the SCAR Executive Director.  The SCAR Secretariat is staffed by the Executive Director, Executive Officer, a part-time Administrative Assistant, and a Communications and Information Officer (currently a fixed-term appointment). The Secretariat is responsible for the day-to-day administration of SCAR and is responsible to the Executive Committee.

SCAR’s policy and strategy is formulated by its members through their appointed delegates, and is decided by the voting members at the Delegates Meeting.  In addition to electing the Executive Committee, these powers include decisions on which research areas to cover, budget allocations, interactions with the Antarctic Treaty System and other bodies, and partnerships with other organizations.

Research Groups

The work of SCAR in achieving its mission is carried out by its many and varied groups. SCAR is currently composed of three permanent, disciplinary Science Groups (Geosciences, Life Sciences and Physical Sciences), five flagship Scientific Research Programmes focusing on high priority topical areas, five Standing Committees to handle ongoing business of a permanent nature, and over 30 specialized subsidiary Expert and Action groups serving to address various scientific needs over a limited timeframe.  All SCAR groups are allocated budgets for their activities and are governed by the pdf Rules of Procedure for Subsidiary Bodies (157 KB) .  They are periodically reviewed to help focus SCAR outcomes on the most important priorities and products needed.  The work of these groups advances understanding of all aspects of the Antarctic region, may result in seminal publications and feeds into the advice given to the Treaty System and other policy makers.

Subsidiary Expert and Action groups are established by the main Science Groups, or in some cases by the Executive Committee, to address specific research topics of interest to the community.  Researchers propose new groups when they identify areas where current research is lacking or more coordination is needed.  Groups report to their parent Science Group and membership is open to any interested researchers from SCAR member countries. Action Groups address one specific issue and are short-term, usually with a lifetime of between two and four years.  Expert Groups have a broader focus and a longer lifetime of around six to eight years, with the option of renewal.  Current groups are listed in Appendix 1 in the folder Membership Guide document , with a brief description of their remit.  More detailed information is available via Science and Research.

In even years, prior to the Delegates Meeting, SCAR holds a major Open Science Conference to draw attention to Antarctic issues.  Business meetings of the three Science Groups are also held, and subsidiary groups often take the opportunity to hold meetings or workshops.  In the intervening (odd) years, disciplinary symposia are held – the International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences (ISAES) and the Biology Symposium (in alternate years), and the Humanities and Social Sciences Conferences.  More information about the various SCAR Meetings is available via Conferences and Symposia.


SCAR could not function without its many experienced and enthusiastic volunteers.  Apart from the Secretariat, all the work of SCAR is carried out by experts and specialists, from all areas of Antarctic research, who freely give of their time and expertise to achieve SCAR’s mission and goals.

Membership of SCAR

The rules governing SCAR membership are laid out in the SCAR pdf Articles of Association (174 KB) and the pdf Rules of Procedure (109 KB) .  The relevant clauses are summarised here.

Full Members

A full member is a national organization adhering to the ISC, or an organization nominated by the national organization adhering to the ISC (typically a polar research department or similar), representing the scientific community of that country.  The country shall maintain an active and continuing independent programme of research in the Antarctic region and the national organization shall have formed a National Committee to communicate with SCAR.  Associate members may apply for recognition as full members when they have established a continuing programme of scientific research in the Antarctic.

Full members appoint one permanent voting delegate and one non-voting alternate delegate to represent the National Committee.  Delegates should preferably be scientists directly involved in Antarctic research.  Members in arrears with their membership contributions are not entitled to vote at meetings.

Associate Members

An associate member is a national organization adhering to the ISC, or an organization nominated by the national organization adhering to the ISC (typically a polar research department or similar), that desires to participate in SCAR for scientific reasons but does not qualify for full membership.  Countries with no national organisation adhering to the ISC may become members, pending advice received from the ISC.

Associate members appoint one non-voting delegate representing the national organization adhering to the ISC or its nominee.  The delegate should preferably be a scientist directly involved in Antarctic research. Delegates of associate members may attend all activities at the Meetings of Delegates except sessions for admitting new members.  Associate members are not entitled to vote.

Union Members  

ISC Unions wishing to participate in SCAR on a continuing basis may apply for union membership.  Union members appoint one permanent voting delegate, who has the right to vote on all matters except finance.

Benefits of Membership

As a member of SCAR, your scientists will be an integral part of:

  • shaping future Antarctic research directions and priorities;
  • promoting the importance of scientific research related to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and the crucial role of this polar region in global environmental change;
  • communicating Antarctic and Southern Ocean research to the wider scientific and policy communities;
  • stimulating cross-disciplinary collaboration via the SCAR Scientific Research Programmes and specialized subsidiary groups;
  • creating major syntheses of Antarctic data and scientific concepts that could not be achieved by one single nation;  
  • stimulating new ideas and ways of looking at scientific and societally-relevant issues, offering opportunities to learn from each other;
  • engaging with SCAR’s partner organisations with a polar focus or polar interests to build productive partnerships (visit the Partnerships section for details);
  • encouraging international initiatives such as the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) and Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Southern Ocean (ICED);
  • ensuring visibility and open access to data through the Antarctic Master Directory;
  • sharing information through various communication channels, including access to online meeting facilities, mailing lists, newsletter, website, etc.;
  • promoting the development and implementation of internationally recognized standards and quality control procedures for data collection and analysis;
  • generating, improving and using community products such as the Antarctic Digital Database, the Antarctic Map Catalogue and the Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica;
  • presenting their findings in international workshops, disciplinary symposia and the biennial Open Science Conference;
  • working together to leverage new research funding;
  • providing objective scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty System, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other bodies;
  • bringing emerging scientific issues of regional and global significance to the attention of policy bodies and national programmes;
  • promoting your national activities to a variety of international entities.

Being a member of SCAR provides your scientists access to the following:

  • seed funding to grow new science collaborations;
  • travel funding to various SCAR meetings and activities;
  • mentoring to help build an Antarctic research programme;
  • international leadership roles;
  • Visiting Professorship awards;
  • Early-career Fellowships;
  • international recognition through the SCAR Medals programme;
  • career development;
  • … and many opportunities to develop new collaborations and partnerships.

What SCAR expects of its Members

National Contact Points and Group Representatives

On being granted membership of SCAR, the top priority for the member organization is to identify who from their country will be their national contacts, and communicate that information to the SCAR Secretariat (names and full contact details, including email and postal addresses, are essential).  Full members must supply details of three contacts: the national committee contact, the permanent delegate and the alternate delegate.  Associate members need to supply two contacts: the contact at the member organization and the delegate.  These contacts are critical to the communication between SCAR and the researchers in member countries, so it is important that they understand their responsibility to respond to information requests and to relay information.

Full members shall nominate up to four national representatives to the three main science groups (Geosciences, Life Sciences and Physical Sciences) and to the Standing Committee on Antarctic Data Management (SCADM) and the Standing Committee on Antarctic Geographic Information (SCAGI).  Associate Members are encouraged to do the same.

Members should also encourage their researchers to join the Action and Expert Groups relevant to their work and participate in the Scientific Research Programmes. Current groups are listed in Appendix 1 of the pdf Membership Guide document (312 KB) , with a brief description of their remit, and detailed information on all groups is available via the Science section.

Membership Dues

SCAR’s income comes mainly from the annual contributions paid by its members.  There are three categories for full members and one category for associate members.  Full members select their category according to their own assessment of the scale of their national scientific activity in the Antarctic.  Associate members contribute at a level lower than full members.

Membership Contribution Levels (as of 2019)

Full Members

  • Special Contributors - $27,500
    At this level, countries demonstrate the importance of the Antarctic region to their national priorities, despite the size of their programme.

  • Well-Developed Programmes - $21,200
    At this level, countries acknowledge that they have a multi-disciplinary and productive Antarctic research community.  This can include having a base in Antarctica, logistical resources and an established community of scientists working together with the international community.

  • Initial-Stage Programmes - $12,400
    At this level, countries are still growing their national programmes and developing resources needed for sustained activities.  The goal of this category is to become a well-developed programme over time.

Associate Members - $7,000

  • At this level, countries acknowledge their interest in establishing an Antarctic research programme.  It is not expected that a large community of national Antarctic researchers exist for all areas of science.  The goal for associate members is to move up to Initial-Stage Programmes in 5-6 years.

The contribution levels are decided by the voting members at the Delegates’ Meeting, following the recommendation of the Executive Committee.  A proposal to increase contribution levels is announced to National Committees at least six months ahead of the Delegates’ Meeting where it will be considered.  An increase approved at the Delegates’ Meeting will be implemented in the January of the following year.

Each January, invoices for contributions are sent to designated national contacts and are due by the end of that calendar year, but ideally by October.  New members will receive their first invoices in the January following the SCAR meeting when they are admitted as members.  Reminders are sent in July and October to any members that have yet to pay for the year.  Members are classed as “in arrears” if they fail to pay by the January one year following receipt of the invoice.

Newsletter and Reports

The SCAR Secretariat produces a monthly Newsletter with updates on SCAR activities, community news, events and opportunities. We would welcome articles from individual member countries, giving a background to their national programme and highlighting its work. This is an opportunity for members to highlight their national research activities and add detail to their entry in the SCAR Members list.  Members who would like to be featured are encouraged to send details to the Secretariat, giving a general history and an overview of national activities.  Members are also encouraged to submit news items of interest to the wider Antarctic community.

While members are no longer required to submit a folder National Annual Report to the Secretariat, all members are encouraged to send reviews, reports or posters highlighting the achievements of their national programmes.  Electronic copies of published reports on national programme activities are welcomed and the report can be in the member’s native language, but they are encouraged to include a paragraph or two in English summarising the activities. Updates on national activities help to build capacity in our new members and encourage international collaboration – two things central to our mission.

Applying for SCAR Membership

How to make a Membership Application

Applications for membership are submitted to the Secretariat and should be made after consultation with the Secretariat.  Generally, new countries join as associate members and then, after a few years of building their programme, are expected to move to full membership, ideally progressing from developing programmes to developed programmes.

The written application need not exceed 1,000 words, but it must address specifically the points detailed and summarised below.  Supporting documents may be sent with the application but should not include full literature papers.  All applications should be submitted electronically This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Once received, applications are then sent to full members for consideration, and to associate members for information.

It is expected that a representative of the organization applying for full or associate membership will attend the relevant SCAR Delegates’ Meeting to make a verbal presentation to the Delegates at the beginning of the first day of the meeting.  All prospective applicants are reminded that the working language of SCAR is English and that translation and interpretation facilities are not provided.

Principles of Protection of the Antarctic Environment recommended by SCAR

A country which has not acceded to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty must include in its application a statement agreeing to comply with the Principles of Protection of the Antarctic Environment recommended by SCAR:

SCAR recommends and encourages that, in the absence of the new SCAR Member having acceded to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, the Member adheres, to the best of its ability, to the requirements of the Environmental Protocol and its Annexes, and to the ATCM Resolutions and Measures that apply to environmental matters in the region.

Associate Membership

When applying for associate membership of SCAR, the national organization adhering to the ISC must present a statement in writing of what it hopes to contribute to and/or gain from SCAR membership. If the national ISC representative wishes to nominate another institute/entity to represent its interests in SCAR, a letter from the country’s ISC representative stating their preference for another national entity to represent their interest should be submitted with the application. Countries with no national organisation adhering to the ISC should This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as advice will be needed from the ISC.

Full Membership

Associate members may apply to move to full membership when they have established an active programme of Antarctic research.  When applying for full membership, the national organization adhering to the ISC, or the organization it has nominated, must present a short statement in writing of its achievements in and proposed continuing national programme of scientific research in the Antarctic. Its programme should not be restricted to a single field of scientific activity and it should support SCAR’s mission and aims, including exchange and cooperation with other members.  The application can include a list of publications in peer-reviewed journals and other recognised publications, but not the full journal papers.  Applications for associate membership are usually expected to precede applications for full membership.

Applications for sssociate membership or to move to full membership must be received at least six months before the SCAR Delegates’ Meeting at which they will be considered.  A decision regarding any application for membership is made by the voting delegates at the SCAR meeting.

Summary of requirements for Membership Applications
  • Applications must be submitted through the national organization adhering to the ISC or its nominee.
  • Applications must be written and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at least six months before the SCAR meeting at which they are to be considered.
  • Applications must include a statement:
    • for an associate member, of what it hopes to contribute and/or gain from SCAR, or
    • for a full member, of its achievements in and proposed continuing national programme of scientific research in the Antarctic.
  • Countries which have not acceded to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty must also include a statement agreeing to comply with the Principles of Protection of the Environment recommended by SCAR.
  • It is expected that a representative of the organization applying for membership will attend the relevant SCAR meeting to make a verbal presentation to the Delegates.

Union Membership

When applying for union membership, the union must present a statement regarding the interest of the union in SCAR’s activities, and indicate potential ideas for collaboration.

Termination of Membership

A member can resign by giving at least three months’ notice in writing, provided that all contributions due by the member have been paid.

Any associate member that is in arrears in its contribution by two years or more may be deemed by the voting delegates at a SCAR meeting to cease to be a member.

Any full member that has not been active in the Antarctic for four years, or has not been active in SCAR for four years, or is in arrears in its contributions by two years, will be given written notice to choose whether it wishes to adhere as an associate member or to withdraw from SCAR.  The member has the right to respond within three months of the date of notice and its delegate is entitled to speak at the Delegates’ Meeting where the status of its membership will be discussed.