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New directions in Antarctica

Researcher from the University of Rochester measures an ice sample from Taylor Glacier

VASSILI PETRENKO / ROCHESTER UNIVERSITYResearcher from the University of Rochester measures an ice sample from Taylor Glacier VASSILI PETRENKO / ROCHESTER UNIVERSITY

A report from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has proposed changes in the country’s science strategy in Antarctica, which involves a community of 450 researchers. The study was commissioned by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which invests $70 million in research projects and $255 million in infrastructure and logistics each year on the frozen continent. In general terms, the report recommends maintaining the line of research that is geared towards responding to spontaneous demand from researchers. But it calls for the creation of three new lines of research to promote studies on climate change, with an emphasis on the loss of ice mass; on genomics, to expand our knowledge of species in the region; and on the study of cosmic rays, through experiments already underway at the South Pole and in the Andes. The topics were chosen for their scientific importance, potential social impact and ability to attract partners, including international agencies and institutions, glaciologist Robin Bell, a researcher at Columbia University and co-chair of the report, told the journal Nature. Lean budgets have discouraged very costly projects such as the second-generation IceCube, a network of underground detectors installed near the South Pole for the purpose of observing neutrinos—particles produced in stellar explosions. According to the report, the cost of logistics for a new IceCube could make support for other important projects impracticable.

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