The Antarctica Treaty System and the promotion of international scientific cooperation: an evaluation of the regime/El Sistema del Tratado Antartico (STA) y la promocion de la cooperacion cientifica internacional: una evaluacion del regimen.

Autor:de Aguiar, Monica Heinzalmann Portella


The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) came into force in 1961 to constitute Antarctica as an international condominium, managed by 12 original members. (1) While the ATS represents the political dimension of Antarctic governance, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR-1958) coordinates scientific activity on the continent. The regime established science and international cooperation as groundwork, but raised controversy by accepting sovereignty (2) claims over the Antarctic territory and instituting a restrictive policy, based on scientific performance, to attain access to decision-making processes. Over the years, the regime gained more legitimacy, by accepting new members and loosening the demands for the acquisition of consultative status. Over the last fifty years, the ATS has incorporated 41 new members, of which 29 are consultative. The regime was certainly effective in increasing the number of State actors, but it is, nevertheless, necessary to assess whether it was able to achieve one of its main purposes: the promotion of international cooperation in the field of science. As the governance of Antarctica depends on both science and politics, we consider that ATS and SCAR are inseparable parts of the same regime. When referring to ATS, SCAR is comprised.

Bibliometric studies carried out by Dastidar and Ramachandran (2008) and Ji, Pang and Zhao (2014) verified an increase of international co-authorship inpublished papers covering Antarctic science, which indicate the advance of international cooperation in this field. However, international co-authorship is a rising phenomenon in science and these authors did not compare their data with some other international benchmark that would allow them to evaluate if there was really a breakthrough.

Under these circumstances, this paper aims to assess whether the ATS regime was effective in promoting international scientific cooperation in Antarctica (ISCA).Instead of focusing on State actors we will investigate whether the international cooperation sought by the ATS has reached the level of the regime's users, namely the scientists and institutions that develop research activity on the sixth continent. If the ATS had not been signed in 1959, how would international scientific cooperation in Antarctica have evolved? Would it have achieved different levels of performance? Based on the literature that proposes the counterfactual technique to perform regime assessment (Underdal, 1992; Young, 2011), the paper proposes a case study to verify the effectiveness of ATS in promoting ISCA.

The first part of the article introduces the regime assessment methodology and discusses the implications of using international co-authorship indicators. The second part presents the research results together with a geopolitical approach of the priority given to Antarctica by countries. Moreover, the research verified that ISCA performed better than international cooperation in the field of science and technology (S&T). We also noted that some countries show strong interest in producing Antarctic science, despite not so favorable conditions.

1.1 Reasons to investigate

An expanding line of research in the area of International Relations is the one that seeks to evaluate regimes in order to establish which conditions pave the way for success or failure. This initiative stems from a two-fold concern, the realization that weak regimes might achieve some degree of success and that strong regimes might not always complete their course. In order to carry out this assessment, it is necessary to determine the meaning of regime effectiveness.

Young (2011) suggests that due to the great causal complexity of the subject, the assessment of regime effectiveness must be approached through a methodology that combines quantitative and qualitative method. Since the former hardly identifies the causal mechanisms and the latter uncovers them yet has difficulties to generalize them, the joining of both methods would solve mutual deficiencies. Underdal (1992) recommends setting the regime against some achievement or success standard by means of a counterfactual method. There are two possible ways to proceed. The first one is to choose as a reference point the situation that would prevail if the regime had not been established. The relative improvement achieved by it could then be verified (or not). The second is to compare what was actually accomplished by the current regime with what the author calls a collective optimum, a projection of the ideal to be reached by it. Young (2011) summarizes this approach in the following equation:

Effectiveness of a regime = [Actual performance - no regime counterfactual/Collective optimum - no regime counterfactual]

Source: Young (2011: 19854)

Although the equation above is conceptually attractive and allows the creation of a common scale for comparing different regimes, Young recognizes its operational difficulty. In this research, only Underdal and Young's first suggestion will be implemented: to oppose actual performance against the no regime counterfactual. Despite omitting the comparison with the collective optimum, we propose for future researches, two examples of successful facilities as a counterpoint: the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESFR) both operated by several countries (Elzinga, 2013).

Some of the objections addressed to the ATS refute the existence of international cooperation and base their arguments on the absence of shared polar stations. In 2013, in an opening speech for the 36th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, Prince Albert of Monaco stated that the continent "does not benefit enough from coordinated international scientific programs" (Grimaldi, 2013: 4) and that "from the 80 installed research stations in Antarctica, only two can be qualified as international. Even though, they only bring together two countries" (Grimaldi, 2013: 5). The claim, while pertinent, is controversial because it limits the concept of international cooperation to a single variable: the sharing of stations.

The controversy surrounding the ATS regime effectiveness relies on the different metrics used to evaluate it. If the regime effectiveness is evaluated only on the basis of the cooperation between State actors, carried out through diplomatic channels, the longevity and breadth of the ATS attest to its value. If what is being evaluated is the ability of the ATS to operationalise the cooperation by removing it from the formal political plane to the practical exercise of its users (scientists and research institutions), it is necessary to reconsider the regime effectiveness through another methodological approach.

Young (1995) considers that a regime consists of rules formulated in two different levels. First, the members of the regime (the States)--through diplomatic and political channels--outline the nature and normative structure of the regime. Under this structure, there is a second level responsible for implementing the agreed principles. Subsequent actors, private or corporations, convert what has been agreed into practical arrangements. In the case of ATS, scientists, polar stations and research institutions are responsible for implementing the rules that lead to ISCA.

The counterfactual technique should not be confused with an assessment of before and after the regime. Within ATS, it is not possible to analyze the evolution of ISCA before and after the Treaty signature (1959), since the internationalization of science is a recent phenomenon, having developed mostly since the end of the Cold War (Vanz and Stumpf, 2010). In Antarctica, as well as in all other fields of scientific knowledge, it would have been observed an increase in ISCA, owing not necessarily to the signature of the Treaty.

Since it was impossible to make projections about a phenomenon that was poorly documented before 1989, the alternative was to assume that ISCA, without the regime, would have evolved at the same rate of international cooperation in global science and technology. One of the indicators used to evaluate International Scientific Cooperation (ICC) is the international co-authorship index, a resource widely used by specialized literature (Dastidar and Ramachandran, 2008; Ji, Pang and Zhao, 2014; Katz, 1994; Vanz and Stumpf, 2010).

The paper, trough a statistical research, compares the rates between international co-authorship found in a specialized journal in Antarctic science with those in the field of Science and Technology. When performing the counterfactual technique, the purpose is to estimate the causal effect of ATS (explanatory variable) on ISCA (dependent variable). The research aimed to verify if the amount of international co-authorship found in the journal exceeded or not the indexes in the area of Science and Technology (S&T). It is not a question of affirming that ATS is the only mechanism acting behind ISCA, but of assessing its contribution, as a regime, to the existence of such phenomenon. The advantage of a case study is that, even if the scope of its conclusions are limited, it allows verification tests for the proposed hypotheses.

For the case study, we sought a scientific publication with international prestige exclusively dedicated to Antarctic matters. The choice fell on the British Antarctic Science (AS) (ISSN: 0954-1020), a journal published by the renowned University of Cambridge and linked to the British Antarctic Survey, a world reference institution. The case study also used as reference and basis of comparison the data of two papers published in Scientometrics. The first, "Intellectual structure of Antarctic Science: a 25 year analysis" (2008) was written by the Indian researchers Dastidar and Ramachandran. The second, published by the Chinese team Ji, Pang and Zhao, is entitled "A bibliometric analysis of research on Antarctica during 1993-2012" (2014). Both...

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