A remarkable contribution to world science

An evaluation of Australia's Antarctic science program was completed in May 2003. The evaluation was conducted by the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee (ASAC) by engaging independent teams of internationally recognised scientists from Australia and overseas who were not participants in Australia's Antarctic science program. The evaluation was overseen by a steering committee (chaired by Prof. John White, FAA, FRS) and four discipline-based subcommittees. The final report was written by ASAC and submitted to the Parliamentary Secretary the Honourable Dr Sharman Stone.

The Terms of Reference for the evaluation were:

  • To evaluate the quality of the science output against the current Strategic Plan;
  • To evaluate the relevance of the scientific output to the goals of the national Antarctic program as measured against the Strategic Plan;
  • To evaluate the quality and relevance of the scientific output resulting from research projects supported by Australian Antarctic Science Grants (AASG);
  • To evaluate the quality and relevance of the scientific output resulting from research projects ineligible for AASG funding; and
  • To provide advice on areas of science that require either a greater or lesser emphasis and/or on new research endeavours to be undertaken.

The evaluation was highly complimentary of the Australian Antarctic science program – the steering committee stated that Australia is 'well served by its Antarctic science program', that it represents 'a remarkable contribution by Australia to world science', and that 'the strengths in the individual components of the program be maintained'. ASAC considered that the program successfully meets its scientific goals, a view that was supported by the steering committee who gave a strong endorsement of the quality of the overall scientific program.

The major recommendation is that the Australian Antarctic science program shift from the current discipline-based programs to overarching Antarctic themes of great scientific merit and practical value. The steering committee identified three themes to which ASAC has added a fourth:

  • Ice, Ocean, Atmosphere and Climate
  • Southern Ocean Ecosystems
  • Adaptation to Environmental Change
  • Impacts of Human Activities in Antarctica

The recommendations within ASAC's report 'Evaluation of Australia's Antarctic Science program' have been accepted by the Parliamentary Secretary. The report is available on the AAD's web site.

Gwen Fenton, Planning & Coordination, AAD