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Belgian Polar Platform

International collaboration

Introduction

Since its initiation in 1985, the BELSPO Antarctic Research Programme has allowed Belgian researchers to perform quality research and to generate an internationally recognised expertise, the two conditions for the development of an international collaboration.

Moreover before the construction of the Princess Elisabeth station, all necessary research fieldwork in Antarctica was carried out thanks to the participation of the Belgian researchers in campaigns organised by other countries, based on the availability of vacant space on research vessels and in bases and the integration within the research campaign programme defined by the host country. Frequent sharing of facilities, even during the same campaign periods, took place over the years.

From 1985 to 2009, 165 BELSPO researchers took part in 104 campaigns organised by other countries:

  • 28 campaigns to foreign research stations by 33 researchers,
  • 76 campaigns aboard foreign research vessel by 132 researchers.

Most Belgian researchers (still) participate to campaigns aboard the RV Polarstern, followed by campaigns organised by France aboard the R/V Marion Dufresne and the Astrolabe and by Australia aboard the RV Aurora Australis. Other collaborations are with Italy, the United States, Spain, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Brazil and recently Chili.

Although this international collaboration was initiated purely out of a logistic necessity, this has over the years grown into a close and sustainable research cooperation.

Since 2000, the Belgian researchers financed within the Antarctica research programme may propose a cooperation with non-Belgian universities or public research institutes within their project on the basis of a cofinancement. The non-Belgian partner is responsible for the cofunding, from other sources, for at least the same amount as that requested from BELSPO. This cofinancing tool is an extra incentive for international collaboration.

With the construction of the Princess Elisabeth station, almost 40 years after the closing of the Belgian King Baudouin base, Belgium has its own research platform that is open to scientists from all other Antarctic Treaty partner countries willing to perform research activities in this area. Priority is given to fieldwork integrated within the Belgian research programme and in collaboration with Belgian researchers.

Several Belgian projects perform their fieldwork from the station in close collaboration with international researchers. The SAMBA project on meteorites for example is realised in collaboration with Japan, the GIANT-LISSA geophysical project with Luxemburg and the glaciology project ICECON with Luxemburg, Norway and Australia. Campaign costs for those international collaborations are funded by BELSPO. The station is also used by individual foreign researchers, for which the Polar Secretariat offers a logistic support.

In 2011, BELSPO signed an MoU with the State Oceanic Administration of China (SOA) to pursue scientific cooperation in Marine and Polar Science and Technology.

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