Data in Antarctic science and politics

M. Siegert, S. Turchetti, S. Naylor, K. Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The internationalization of Antarctica as a continent for science with the Antarctic Treaty (1961) was heralded as bringing about international cooperation and the free exchange of data. However, both national rivalry and proprietorship of data, in varying degrees, remained integral to Antarctic science and politics throughout the 20th century. This paper considers two large field-surveys in Antarctica: first, an aerial photographic survey carried out by the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition of 1946-8; and second, the Scott Polar Research Institute's radio-echo sounding survey of 1967-79. Both surveys involved geoscientific data but the context in which the investigations and the exchanges of their results took place changed. We argue that the issue of control of data remained paramount across both cases despite shifting international political contexts. The control of data on Antarctic territory, once framed in terms of geopolitics and negotiated between governments, became a matter of science policy and credit to be negotiated among scientific institutions. Whereas the Ronne data were of potential strategic value for reinforcing national territorial claims, the radio-echo sounding data contained information of potential economic and environmental value.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-604
Number of pages34
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Antarctica
  • data
  • fieldwork
  • geopolitics
  • mapping
  • radio-echo sounding


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