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Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme – Introduction

About the Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme (CASS)

*** Applications are invited to conduct late-season ship-based CASS projects aboard the RRS SDA. Please see below for further information ***

The Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme (previously known as the Collaborative Gearing Scheme – CGS) provides opportunities for UK researchers to access NERC-BAS Antarctic research stations and marine science cruises for the purpose of conducting small-scale, fieldwork-based science projects that do not require logistic resources additional to those already allocated to the Antarctic field programme supported by BAS.

The projects should enhance existing funded research that has secured BAS logistic support, or may explore new ideas or test hypotheses in preparation for a funding bid to NERC. The Scheme does not provide funding for salaries, capital equipment or other direct science costs. Research proposals submitted for CASS support are expected to be relevant to NERC’s science remit, involve minimal impact on BAS logistic resources, and lead to findings that will be disseminated in the peer-reviewed literature.

Antarctica offers a unique and near-pristine environment in which to conduct science of global significance. As one of the research centres of the UK Natural Environment Research Council, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) provides UK scientists and overseas collaborators with access to UK facilities and infrastructure in Antarctica, the coastal seas and oceans that surround it, and in the sub-Antarctic.

The usual mechanism for UK-based scientists to secure access to Antarctic logistic support from BAS is through the submission of competitive proposals to NERC funding opportunities. Grants awarded by NERC through its Discovery Science, Large Grant, Fellowship or Strategic research programme opportunities, and with an agreed requirement for Antarctic fieldwork, will be supported by BAS according to guidelines given elsewhere. The Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme (CASS) – which has been operating since 2001 – provides an additional route to access Antarctic support and makes efficient use of any spare capacity in the Antarctic field programme supported by BAS.

Through the CASS, NERC provides the opportunity for scientists in recognised UK  Higher Education Institutes (or other Research Council Institutes, or approved Independent Research Organisations) to undertake small-scale collaborative science projects that, by attaching additional personnel, instrumentation, or tasks to existing Antarctic activities, or using research station infrastructure, offer significant additional science outcomes. The CASS only provides access to Antarctic logistics and financial support to cover some specific costs as described under ‘CASS – Requirements and Costs’. It does not provide funding for salaries, capital equipment or other direct science costs.


Apply to conduct late-season ship-based CASS projects aboard the RRS SDA

The RRS Sir David Attenborough will be undertaking two rotations between Punta Arenas in Chile and Rothera Research Station in early May and mid-June 2025. The primary purpose is to support the commissioning of Rothera’s new Discovery Building and to demobilise the construction team.

Through the Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme, the vessel will have a small number of berths available to support underway science. This would be limited to activities that do not require specialist engineering and science support. Subject to constraints on transit, examples may  include experiments using the Uncontaminated Seawater System and associated laboratories, underway air sampling, underway survey, and deployment of ‘plug and play’ instrumentation.

Any substantive deviation from the ship’s course, or deployments of instruments such as the CTD boom that would impact the ship schedule are unlikely to be supported unless there is prior agreement and an associated funding stream.

Information on the ship’s science capabilities can be found here: https://www.bas.ac.uk/polar-operations/sites-and-facilities/facility/rrs-sir-david-attenborough/science-facilities/

The ship is planning to cross Drake Passage and then transit down the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula to Rothera over a period of 5 days.

We encourage any interested parties to engage with the Antarctic Access Office (afibas@bas.ac.uk) as soon as possible. Proposals must be submitted to afibas@bas.ac.uk no later than 16:00 BST on 12th April 2024.

Due to operational constraints this opportunity may be withdrawn at short notice.

Late-season ship-based CASS project form – application form for the 2024/25 field season

Please see the Requirements and Costs and Information for Applicants webpages for further information on the CASS.


Capacity in the 2024/25 field season – Please note that applications seeking support outside of the late-season ship-based opportunity outlined above closed on 15th March 2024. 

Capacity at Rothera will be heavily subscribed in the 2024/25 season due to works required to transition over to the new Discovery Building. Owing to this, and the backlog of funded science projects that BAS are still working to support following the Covid-19 outbreak, BAS are unable to accept any CASS proposals seeking support at Rothera Research Station in the 2024/25 season.

Applications are invited for support at Bird Island Research Station and Signy Research Station. Projects based at Signy should account for a deployment length of at least 1 month and 1 week; this includes transit time, with 3 of these weeks spent at the station. Please note that there is a possibility that projects based at Signy may be faced with a lengthy deployment of between 3 and 5 months from December 2024 to April 2025. Further information on the shipping schedules will be communicated when available.

There may also be the opportunity to support complementary science projects on the RRS Sir David Attenborough (SDA) as part of a funded science cruise, or during transit periods if spare berths exist and any sampling would not impact the itinerary (i.e. no dedicated ship time required). The exact itinerary for the RRS Sir David Attenborough is currently under development, however if you have an idea for a ship-based CASS project, then please contact the Science Capability Coordinator to discuss support possibilities: SDAscience@bas.ac.uk.

Whilst BAS expects to be able to support CASS projects under the current planning scenario for the 2024/25 season, should there be any further delays or impacts to funded fieldwork or infrastructure projects, this may impact BAS’ capacity to support CASS projects. BAS reserves the right to cancel support for CASS projects at any time, and team members are asked to maintain a flexible approach.

Submission deadline: 16:00 on 15th March 2024 (for applications for fieldwork support during the 2024/25 field season)

Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme form – application form for the 2024/25 field season

Please see the Requirements and Costs and Information for Applicants webpages for further information on the CASS.