The Frontier Science theme aims to encourage and support research that falls outside the priorities of the other three research themes, but within Australia’s national research priorities. While the focus on environmental policy-related science in the first three themes is driven by government needs, the Australian Antarctic Science Program will continue to support excellent new science.
Frontier Science projects will be chosen on scientific excellence. Some Frontier Science areas will grow in significance as a result of their scientific impact and/or policy relevance. Thus, a key role of the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee (ASAC) will be to monitor the Frontier Science portfolio, the national policy drivers and the national and international innovation horizons, and identify new priorities for thematic science.
A number of science areas that have had a long and very successful history of engagement in Antarctica will be considered under the banner of Frontier Science, examples of which are listed below.
Sites within the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) may soon become the focus of major international investment in astronomical infrastructure. This will provide an opportunity for Australian astronomers to continue to play a leading role in the characterisation and understanding of these sites and continue to engage with the international community to ensure that the advantages of Antarctica as a platform for scientific observations can be fully realised.
Geosciences play a critical role in addressing a number of questions outlined within the other themes in the science strategic plan. There is also scope to further explore the geological and geophysical characteristics of the AAT.
Human biology and medicine
Future priorities for research in this field, set by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Expert Group on Human Biology and Medicine, focus on research on and healthcare of humans in Antarctica (e.g. biomedical sciences, social and behavioural sciences, and medicine). Areas of particular interest include research into the effects of isolation, cold, altitude and light and dark. The use of the Antarctic as a space analogue has recently become of interest to the international polar medicine community.
While routine measurements are made at all stations (part of underpinning science activities), a full understanding of space weather impacts at high latitudes is a complex evolving science task. Space weather research is of high value to Antarctic air, sea and land operations via continuity of communications and navigation right across the polar region.
Fundamental biology and physiology
The unique attributes of Antarctic biota will always provoke fundamental questions of scientific interest.
Theme Leader: Chief Scientist Dr Nick Gales