Polar Field Stations and IPY History: Culture, Heritage, Governance (1882-Present)'
Project DescriptionIn the present project a team of researchers from six nations will study the history and legacy of IPY through its field stations. (For a more full-bodied description of our approach and themes of study, see EoI 686, January 2005.)
Field stations have been one of the most salient and tangible features of IPYs since 1882-83 and through to the coming IPY 2007-08. The polar station is a modern feature, the smaller field cousin of the Laboratory, Instrument, or Observatory. It is a nexus, and a place, where a number of central features of the modern scientific enterprise – laboratory practices and methods, precision instruments, territorial claims – meet in the landscape and sometimes in close vicinity of local groups and populations. Field stations, and the scientific expeditions that created them and used them as vantage points, are inseparable from polar research. They form important parts of the infrastructure of polar research in the past two centuries. They have also served as flag carriers, and as symbols of political, diplomatic and economic ambitions of the nations to which their founders belonged.
However, field stations remain a surprisingly neglected element in the study of the creation of scientific knowledge, and in relation to science diplomacy and geopolitical conflict and cooperation. We know quite little of the bipolar archipelagoes of IPY stations and their significance, some of them more than a century old. We are yet not sufficiently clear about their status as legacies of past ambitions, or as heritage in landscapes which were shared by science with local groups and indigenous peoples.
In this project we will approach field stations from a range of disciplinary vantage points. At the heart of our concerns are field stations as units of knowledge production in the field. This is particularly pertinent to the IPY legacy. Cooperation in sharing field data is an ideal that has run through previous IPYs, and it has been given special prominence in the IPY 2007-2008 Framework. The original idea of IPY emerged from a recognition that individual studies in the field sciences only contribute to a larger picture with a great deal of work. Field stations are one of the chief means by which a sustained presence in the field is maintained: field sites, instruments, and the movement of personnel are carefully coordinated; projects are vetted within research communities through systems of peer review; research efforts are directed with an eye to agendas decided by policymakers. Another thing is the way that contact and collaboration between researchers and disciplines is influenced by the specifics of the field station, including management practices and physical design, which evidently has significant implications for field stations and knowledge production.
In the project we intend to use the International Polar Year 2007-2008 as an opportunity to identify and analyse the work (e.g. planning, calibrating, publishing, management, hidden labour, sharing data) required to make field observations meaningful across a range of scales and contexts of users or audiences. The IPY 2007-08 represents a singular opportunity to understand how the field sciences have generated a scientific and cultural legacy. We will analyse former and present research station sites, including important non-IPY sites, to understand how the residues of scientific practice become valid knowledge, collective memory and heritage. We will also study the contemporary and past role of field-stations in establishing patterns of management-labour interactions, work rules and customs, and attitudes toward jobs, for modern, non-subsistence employment in communities which have hosted or interacted with stations. For some stations, only archival work is possible.
Among a range of IPY proposals which are in different ways connected to this one (see further under 3.2), our project links up in particular with the LASHIPA project (EoI 636). LASHIPA studies industrial, mining, and whaling stations and sites in the polar regions, some of which are also related to IPY history. In this way the “station” comes out not just as the site of different forms of production (of knowledge, goods, and perceptions), but also as a theoretical concept: the physical manifestation of Western knowledge and its specific relationships of nature and culture, time and place, the physical and the spiritual. In combination, the two projects (686 and 636) provide a comprehensive and novel approach to the geography of human presence and IPY encounters in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Summary provided by http://classic.ipy.org/development/eoi/proposal-details.php?id=100