Organization Headed by Former UTD President Rutford Wins International Award for Work in Antarctica

An organization headed by Dr. Robert H. Rutford, a former president and now a member of the faculty of The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), has won a prestigious international award for its work in Antarctica.

Dr. Robert H. Rutford

Dr. Robert H. Rutford

The organization, The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), popularly known as the International Antarctic Committee, has been selected to receive the 2002 Prince of Asturias Award in the International Cooperation category. The Prince of Asturias Award, first presented in 1981, was established to recognize and reward “scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanistic work performed by individuals, groups or institutions worldwide.”

Rutford, who was UTD president from 1982 to 1994 and currently is an Excellence in Education Foundation Professor in the university’s Geosciences Department, serves as president of SCAR, a non-government, multidisciplinary group made up of scientists from around the world committed to coordinating and promoting scientific research in Antarctica, protecting the continent’s environment and lending independent technical assistance to the International Antarctic Treaty. The membership of SCAR includes 32 countries.

In selecting Rutford’s organization for the award, the Prince of Asturias Award jurors expressed “satisfaction at being able to recognize (SCAR’s) important cooperation for the benefit of the international scientific community.” Rutford and Dr. Peter Clarkson, executive secretary of SCAR, will go to Spain to accept the award on behalf of the organization. The award, which will be presented in October in Ovideo, a town in the Asturias region of northern Spain, includes a monetary recognition of about $26,000 as well as a diploma, an insignia and a sculpture made especially for the occasion by Joan Miro.

Previous Prince of Asturias Award winners in the International Cooperation category have included Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Yitzhak Rabin, Helmut Kohl and the International Space Station.

“We are pleasantly surprised and deeply honored to have received this prestigious award from the Prince of Asturias Foundation,” Rutford said. “All of the members of our organization greatly appreciate this recognition of the several decades of international activity and leadership SCAR has provided in Antarctic science. Our thanks go not only to the foundation, but to all who have participated in the work of SCAR since its inception and whose efforts are recognized by this award.”

SCAR, which is based in England at Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute, was founded in February of 1958 as a committee of the International Council for Science to preserve the continent as a reserve for peace and research and to make it into a heritage for all of humankind. The original 12 members were the nations that had operated a scientific station on the Antarctic Continent during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1955-56. To this day, Antarctica remains the world’s only demilitarized continent.

SCAR seeks to identify important research issues and opportunities in Antarctica, building international collaboration to address those issues. SCAR also provides an important international forum for the discussion of scientific matters. Through its Working Groups and Groups of Specialists, SCAR provides a mechanism though which representatives of the member nations and other international scientific groups can meet informally to discuss problems, identify needed research and make recommendations to member nations that are both reasonable and effective.

As a non-governmental organization, SCAR recommends but does not conduct research. It is called on to provide scientific advice to nations operating stations or research vessels in or around Antarctica and is an active participant in treaty meetings.

Rutford, 69, is a well-known expert on Antarctica. An ice stream that he discovered on the continent, which measures 130 miles by 30 to 40 miles, bears his name. Rutford first went to Antarctica in 1959 to conduct research for his Ph.D. dissertation. He has made 16 trips to the continent, the latest one in December.

Rutford received a distinguished service medal from the National Science Foundation in 1977 and was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal. He has been an author and a co-author of many published papers about Antarctica.

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