One of the things about polar research – in the Arctic and the Antarctic – I’ve always found interesting and just plain cool is that it’s pretty international. These environments are remote and harsh enough, and operations and logistics are complicated and expensive enough, to almost force international collaboration on big projects.
Of course, territorial conflicts in the Arctic are an emerging problem, but putting things in perspective in this BBC story from last year, Admiral Gene Brooks from the US Coast Guard made a very pointed statement:
The philosophy has got to be one of co-operation, because competition or conflict in the Arctic is not going to help anyone and it’s going to do a lot of damage to an otherwise fragile ecosystem.
So I am happy to see news items that mention the international component of big projects. A recent example is the Autosub mission in the Antarctic completed a few weeks ago, which was conducted from the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP). The Autosub is developed, built and maintained at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton, UK, and the NBP is one of the two research vessels operated by the US Antarctic Program (USAP), funded by the US National Science Foundation.
This mission was a lot of work to put together for all involved. Since the Autosub had not been launched off the NBP before, all kinds of technical problems (beginning with: does it even fit…?) had to be solved by both the USAP and the NOC teams.
The operation was successful – and what an opportunity to celebrate the successful collaboration! Making these kinds of international scientific collaborations more prominent in the news should go a long way towards showing people that scientists and support staff all over the world can work/are working together successfully to solve problems (different to politicians in a lot of cases?), and maybe serve as a good example.
This post was first published on Nature Network, which has since been discontinued. The post has been moved to SciLogs.