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Jørgen Taagholt

tlf. 32 88 01 24 (tirsdag)
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Third Nordic Arctic Research Forum Symposium
January 1994

International Co-operation in Arctic Science
Jørgen Taagholt
Danish Polar Center

In 1875 at a meeting at the University in Graz, Austria, of the German Society for Science and Medicine, the Austrian lieutenant Karl Weyprect proposed, based upon his experience from joining an Arctic expedition organized primarily for national prestige, that future Arctic expeditions ought to be international with the aim of conducting coordinated systematic collection of scientific data.

His proposal was further discussed at the International Polar Congress at Venice in 1881 and at meetings conducted by Organisation Meteorology Internationale in Rome in 1879 and in Copenhagen 1882. Here the director of the Danish Meteorological Institute, Captain H.C. Hoffmeyer, supported the idea which resulted in the planning of the First International Polar Year 1882-83.

The Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland was strongly engaged in this planning, and Denmark, as one of 10 nations involved in the First International Polar Year, established a station in Godthaab/Nuuk as a part of the international programme. This programme comprises establishment and operation of 11 scientific stations in total in the Arctic with special focus on geophysical measurements such as meteorological/climatoogical, geomagnetic, auroral, astronomical and oceanographic data collection.

The reason why Godthaab was chosen is based upon the long series of data collected here by Samuel Kleinschmidt. The data covered the period from 1865 to 1882, which meant that the Danish Stations were unique in this international co-operation; the only stations from where geophysical data had already been collected.

The initiative taken by Karl Weyprect is a good example of international geophysical co-operation which gradually developed into a more general international Arctic research co-operation.

The driving force behind the Second International Polar Year 1932-33 was the Danish scientist Dan la Cour, who was appointed as director of the Danish Meteorological Institute in 1923. He had been a member of the Danish Auroral Expedition to Iceland in 1899-1900, from which we have the famous paintings of the aurora by the Danish artist, Harald Moltke.

Greenland was a central location during the second Polar Year. Denmark established stations at Thule/Dundas, Godhavn/Qeqertarsuaq and Julianehaab/Qaqortoq, Norway established Myggbukta in Northeast Greenland, France at Scoresbysund/- Ittoqqortoormiit, the Netherlands at Angmassalik/Ammassalik, and USA in the southern part of the Melville Bay.

Geophysical Year
After World War II and for 18 months, an International Geophysical Year 1957-58 was conducted with activities covering more geophysical disciplines, such as geography, geology, geodesy, and glaciology, in addition to the disciplines covered 25 years before and as mentioned above. The most important advance was the launch of the first satellite during this period. On 4 October 1957 the USSR launched the Sputnik I, and in February 1958 Explorer I was launched by the USA. During 1958, USA launched 7 satellites as a start of a revolutionary development, not only for space research but increasingly for geophysical investigations.

Technological development
The technological development during and after World War II showed that it was possible to establish modern industrial activities even in the high Arctic. The former Soviet Union has been more active than other Arctic countries with development highly concentrated around natural resources where physical conditions were favourable, for example in relation to transport. The most important centres are Kola, Vorkuta and Norilsk in Russia. Such development demands new effort concerning technological and geophysical investigations in the Arctic, and accordingly Russia has the largest network of geophysical observatories in the circumpolar area.

The growing international interest in high Arctic conditions, increased activities in various scientific disciplines in an attempt to explore this poorly known region, and the physical processes that control the state of this region. A great deal of activity in the western world has been concentrated around the exploration on the North Slope of Alaska and Canada while the Eastern Arctic from North of Greenland to Russia has received comparatively less attention.

Eastern Arctic Science
With this in mind, the Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland in January 1979 convened a workshop at the Technical University of Denmark to address marine science problems in the high Arctic. The objectives of this workshop were to review the present knowledge within a number of disciplines such as geophysics, geology, physical and chemical oceanography, marine biology, air-sea-ice interactions, to list known or expected significant scientific problems, and to define - as far as possible - how they could be approached. Some 125 scientists from all the western countries joined the Workshop and produced the Eastern Arctic Science Workshop Report, published by the Commission in 1980. For information exchange, an initiative was taken to establish a Committee for High Arctic Scientific Research Liaison and Information Exchange (CHARLI) which aims focusses on present research activities in the high Arctic region.

International Co-operation in different disciplines
Corresponding initiative was taken to establish structures or bodies concerned with international communication and co-ordination of science, research, technological development or information exchange in relation to the Arctic within different disciplines. Examples are the Polar Bear Treaty, the International Commission for Polar Meteorology and International Permafrost Association.

Most of these organizations deal with natural science, but bodies dealing with social sciences have also been established. Some examples are the Inuit Circumpolar Conferences (ICC) and International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA).

Northern Sciences Network
Under the UNESCOs Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), a Northern Sciences Network (NSN) activity has been established.

The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme is the principal United Nations scientific activity concerned globally with the relationships between human activities and the biological world on which we all depend. More than 100 countries take part in MAB studies which focus on the impact that people make on natural ecosystems, the recovery of altered or damaged ecosystems, the relationships between human investment and use of natural resources, and human or societal response to environmental stress.

All northern countries have active MAB programs, organized through national committees. In 1984, an organization was formed within the UNESCO MAB framework: the Northern Sciences Network, to facilitate co-operation in MAB activities in northern and Arctic areas and to provide a focus for UNESCO activities that relate directly to human and cultural problems in the distinctive northern enironment.

The MAB program is well suited to address many issues; some of them dealt with under Northern Sciences Network are listed below:

  • studies of the complex ecosystems at the Arctic treeline, their responses to climate change and the possible consequences for humans who live there;
  • research on the processes by which selected species of plants on the Arctic tundra adapt to Arctic conditions, and to changes in these conditions;
  • conflicts of land use between the needs for extensive Arctic grazing lands and industrial, tourist, or administrative development;
  • the application of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) possessed by indigenous people, in different parts of the Arctic to management of common property resources, and to the assessment of environmental impact; and the applicability of that knowledge to other areas of the Arctic, or to changing environmental conditions;
  • the establishment, management, and application of research results from UNESCO MAB Biosphere Reserves in Arctic regions which are set aside and protected for long-term research on natural environmental processes and for exploration and study of methods of human use that are environmentally sustainable.

Starting 1 December 1993 and during the following five years the Danish Polar Center in Copenhagen will host the Northern Sciences Network Secretariat and the secretary Hans Ramløv Mortensen. Prior to this the Secretariat has been located in Rovaniemi, Finland (1989 1993) and in Ottawa, Canada (1984-1988).

The Network Secretariat at the Danish Polar Center is financially supported by the Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland, the UNESCO Headquarters, the Danish UNESCO National Commission, and the MAB sources in the participating NSN counries.

International Union for Circumpolar Health (IUCH)
International co-operation in the field of Arctic medicine and circumpolar health has been going on since the sixties. In 1967 the first international symposium on circumpolar health was convened in Fairbanks, Alaska, and since then these conferences have been going on regularly, about every third year: In Oulu, Finland, in 1970, in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada, in 1974, in Novosibirsk, USSR, in 1978, in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1981, in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1984, in Umeå, Sweden, in 1987, in Whitehorse, Yukon T., Canada, in 1990 and in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1993. The next conference is scheduled for Anchorage, Alaska, in 1996.

In 1981 the International Union for Circumpolar Health (IUCH) was officially founded to facilitate international co-operation in the periods between the conferences. The objectives of IUCH are to promote international co-operation in the study of circumpolar health; to encourage and support research and exchange of scientific information in the circumpolar health sciences; to promote public awareness of current state of circumpolar health; and to provide a means of communication with other relevant organizations.

The adhering bodies of IUCH are the American Society for Circumpolar Health, the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health, The Nordic Council for Arctic Medical Research (covering Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), and the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. Affiliated members are the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR), Working Group on Human Biology and Medicine, the Society for Medical Research in Greenland, the Icelandic Society for Circumpolar Health, and the Nordic, German and Swedish Societies for Arctic Medicine. The World Health Organization is represented in the council of IUCH.

The IUCH permanent secretariat is located on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. The organization IUCH works through a number of working groups, inter alia on circumpolar cancer, family health, tobacco and health, AIDS, environmental health, and injuries.

IUCH publishes, together with the Nordic Council for Arctic Medical Research, the Scientific journal Arctic Medical Research on a quarterly basis as the official journal of IUCH. The journal is indexed in Index Medicus. The IUCH is committed to ensuring substantial involvement of native people in its work.

Comitè Arctique International
Parallel to the Danish Eastern Arctic Sciences initiative an international independent multidisciplinary organization, Comitè Arctique International (CAI), was established in 1979 by a group of senior Arctic scientists and senior industrial managers with the objective to improve knowledge and understanding of Arctic areas and to that end promote research in different fields on an international and multidisciplinary basis, to work as a non profit, non-political expert group with a view towards exchanging and sustaining a harmonious well-balanced development of Arctic regions in close cooperation with existing relevant national and international authorities and organizations. In the period 1979-1989 CAI took several initiative organizing conferences with corresponding publications covering subjects such as:

  • The Arctic Ocean the Hydrographic Environment and the Fate of Pollutants, 1980
  • Cartographic History of the Discovery of the Arctic Region, 1981
  • Arctic Energy Resources, 1982
  • Arctic Underwater Operations, 1984
  • Arctic Marine Living Systems, 1985
  • Restoration and Vegetation Succession in Circumpolar Lands, 1986
  • Global Significance of the Transport and Accumulation of Polychlorinated Hydrocarbon in the Arctic, 1989 (in press).

At all these conferences the subject was dealt with from different perspectives, from a pure scientific, from an economical, from a social and community related, from a human health- and from an environmental point of view. This approach gives a very broad spectrum of attendees, so the conferences fulfil the objective to work as a forum for exchange of opinions among scholars, commercial companies, bankers, public administrations and politicians.

As an independent body, CAI also took the responsibility to focus on important scientific issues. In 1983 CAI was responsible for the formulation of an international FRAM Strait Project. This project proposal dealt with a co-ordinated field and modelling study of the flow of water and ice into and out of the Arctic Ocean through the Fram Strait. The aim of the project was to study how these flows determine oceanographic and ice conditions within the polar basin and adjacent waters, and how this knowledge could be applied to long-range forecasting. A better understanding of this heat exchange is of greatest importance for all climate studies and climate modelling in the northern hemisphere.

The advantage for CAI was that it could invite the best qualified international experts to formulate the project proposal. The disadvantage was that CAI did not have any power to implement the project especially due to the fact that the international oil companies because of the energy market price withdrew their support for the implementation. The Comité Arctique International has been a sleeping organization after the death of its last president, Dr. Brynjulf Ottar in November, 1989.

As a result, leading international experts formed a platform for further negotiations concerning ideas originally created at the Eastern Arctic Science meetings in Copenhagen and later formulated partly by CAI by establishing the

Arctic Ocean Science Board, (AOSB),
with representative members from national research administration authorities. Since then AOSB has dealt with promoting and co-ordination of projects such as East Greenland Current project (EGC), Marginal Ice Zone Experiment (MIZEX) and the Arctic Polynya Experiment (APEX) of which the Northt East Water project, (NEW) is an ongoing important activity. Because the AOSB was formed by persons representing responsible national authorities involved in science administration, AOSB was able to implement several large research projects, but did not have the contact and the co-ordination with relevant related research activities inside other disciplines.

The need for an overall umbrella for Arctic science issues
As it can be seen from the above several initiatives has been taken to establish bodies to serve the Arctic science communities, but an overall organization is still missing. In the Antarctic, far away from national military interest, the activity is based upon the Antarctic Treaty which entered in force in 1961. Here the overall co-ordination of Antarctic research is conducted by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). At a SCAR meeting in San Diego in 1986, USA again brought up the need for a similar body to cover overall Arctic Research interest. Based upon the US challenge, Norway invited the eight Arctic nations to a meeting in Oslo in February 1987, at which a working group was set up to formulate a proposal for the establishment of an international body to serve the Arctic Science communities. The persons involved, Odd Rogne, Norway, Fred Roots, Canada and Jørgen Taagholt, Denmark presented their report "International Communication and Co-ordination in Arctic Science - A proposal for Action" by November 1987 (the RRT-proposal).

In the RRT-proposal the establishment of an international Arctic science committee was proposed as a non governmental body composed of national representatives appointed from nations which had proven experiences and knowledge in Arctic sciences, to serve as an overall umbrella for all the different initiatives taken to promote different fields of Arctic research. The proposed body should be established to promote international co-operation and co-ordination in Arctic scientific research in Arctic areas. The committee should serve the scientific interest of Arctic countries and provide a forum for discussions and co-ordination of the research interests of any country involved in Arctic science. It should as special responsibilities, include the facilitation of circumpolar studies and the linkage of Arctic research to a major advance in world science. The committee should be similar in structure and actions to existing international multidisciplinary scientific coordination committee of the International Council of Scientific Unions, ICSU.

Based upon experience the major scientific investigations frequently result in a recommendation for new regulations to promote a more well balanced Arctic development. Such regulations can only be introduced by politicians or governmental authorities. Accordingly, the RRT-report additionally recommends that representatives from the governments of the eight Arctic nations should discuss the feasibility of establishing a system for regular, structured discussions and liaison on Arctic science matters. Such discussions, comprising what might be called an Intergovernmental Forum on Arctic Science Issues, would supplement but in no way interfere with the several bilateral science arrangements presently in existence between Arctic countries. There should be no direct relationship between the proposed international Arctic Science Committee and the proposed International Forum on Arctic Science Issues. But the work of the Committee should provide information and substance to the issues considered by the Forum, and the latter should provide policy references to the former.

International Arctic Science Committee
The RRT-proposal was subject to long discussions among the Arctic countries at meetings in Stockholm and St. Petersburg in 1988 and to exchange of governmental notes between the Arctic and several non Arctic countries with long traditions for Arctic research. But at a final meeting in Canada in August 1989, International Arctic Science Committee, IASC, was officially established.

Prof. Magnus Magnusson, Iceland, in late 1993 succeeded Dr. Fred Roots, Canada, as president for IASC. At present IASC has its secretariat in Oslo, Norway, financed by the Norwegian Government, with Odd Rogne as executive secretary.

In contrast to the RRT-proposal, IASC comprises both the scientific body and the governmental forum. The main scientific body of IASC is the IASC Council, open for all countries with traditions and experience in Arctic sciences. The IASC Board has to ensure that IASC activities are consistent with regional interests and the Board has representation from the eight Arctic countries only. IASC Working Groups provide the main fora for the IASC to develop programmes and activities. A periodic Arctic Science Conference will serve as a mechanism for reviewing the status of Arctic science, for identifying key scientific questions and issues, and the promotion of cooperation. The administration of IASC is performed by the IASC Secretariat, which for a period of six years is provided by the Norwegian Government. The Danish representation in IASC is the Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland via its chairman, Dr. J.P. Hart Hansen.

Although a new organization, IASC, has established several Working Groups, some of which have already formulated status and work plans. Briefly some of them are mentioned below:

Working Groups on Arctic Marine Geology
Dr. Leonard Johnson, Office of Naval research, Washington DC, is chairman of an ad-hoc WG, which had its first meeting at the Danish Polar Center in Copenhagen in April 1993 and presented their proposal at the Abisco IASC meeting in 1993. It was then decided to establish an ordinary WG for the coming three years.

Working Groups on Arctic Glaciers
An ad-hoc WG has been established and had its first meeting in Cambridge, UK in September 1993. An ordinary IASC WG is expected to be established during 1994.

Working Groups on Arctic Human And Social Sciences
Dr. L. Hacqueboad, Arctisch Centrum, Groningen, The Netherlands, is chairman of an ad-hoc WG, and during 1993 IASC has decided to establish an advisory group within IASC for human and social sciences.

Working Groups on Arctic Global Change Programme
Prof. Gunter Weller, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, is chairman for this WG which in 1993 has produced and presented the Scientific Plan for a Regional Research Programme in the Arctic on Global Change. Finland has offered to host, organize, and provide necessary funding for a IASC Global Change Secretariat in Rovaniemi. The Arctic Global Change WG will conduct a meeting in April 1994 on the theme: Circumpolar Research on the Impact of Climate Change in the Arctic.

Russia / ISIRA
The development concerning Russian Arctic science has been so alarming that IASC has taken an initiative to investigate the possibilities of establishing a closer cooperation between Russia and the western world concerning Arctic sciences. An IASC ad-hoc meeting, The International Scientific Initiative in the Russian Arctic, ISIRA, was conducted at the Danish Polar Center in November 1993.

Arctic ozone depletion - causes and effects
IASC promotes multidisciplinary research projects within this field, and the Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland in co-operation with IASC and SCOPE will organize a seminar in April 1994 in Copenhagen for the purpose to formulating a work plan concerning the biological impact of Arctic ozone depletion.

The International Arctic Science Committee is still quite a new organization trying to build up international confidence which is needed to get all the existing Arctic research initiative placed under its umbrella. Hopefully it will succeed.

The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, (AEPS)
Increased awareness of anthropogenic ("man made") pollution in the Arctic led to the adoption of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy in June 1991 at a ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland, by eight Arctic countries (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, United States of America). The AEPS, sometimes referred to as the Finish Initiative or the Rovaniemi Process, so far has two ambitious intergovernmental programmes running, the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, CAFF, which deals with habitat protection and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, AMAP, which is monitoring pollutants - especially heavy metals, radionuclides and persistent organics in all compartments of the Arctic environment. In addition three programmes are prepared, the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Environment Programme, and the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Programme, and at the latest ministerial meeting which was held in Nuuk, Greenland, in September 1993 the planning of an additional programme on Sustainable Development was initiated.

The Danish AMAP Secretariat is located at the Danish Polar Center with Henrik Elling as head.

The Northern Forum
Parallel to the establishment of IASC the regional governmental Northern Forum has been established by the highest regional ranks of governors, premiers and chairmen from the northern regions of the world with its Northern Forum Secretariat in Anchorage in Alaska. The Northern Forum has a number of projects which are:

  • Environmental monitoring
  • Wildlife management
  • Northern sea route promotion
  • Human ecology
  • Environmental health and emergency response
    East-west and circumpolar air routes
  • Management of marine resources

The Barents Council
At a meeting in Kirkenaes, January 1993, the ministers of foreign affairs from Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden signed the "Kirkenaes-Declaration" including a decision to establish the Barents Council to promote discussions at ministerial level among the countries in the Barents region. Discussions and further co-operation are concerned with political, economical and environmental problems in the region. Local representatives from 8 districts (county-level), Lapland (Finland), Finmark, Troms, Nordland, Nordbotten, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk are present in a Regional Council, subordinated to the Barents Council.

Arctic Council
Based upon a proposal from Canada, efforts are being made to establish an Arctic Council. The purpose of the establishment of an Arctic Council is to create an international forum representing the Arctic region. Environmental problems will be in focus, but an Arctic Council also has to secure justice for the region's aboriginal people, just as the aboriginal people are represented in this council.

Arctic Science Organizations and Projects
In addition to several global scientific organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization, WMO, a large number of organizations or projects have a relation to Arctic science and research, some of them are listed below in alphabetic order to give an overview. Names of contact persons are given in brackets:

AEPS - Arctic Environment Protection Strategy
AGASP - Arctic Gas and Aerosol Sampling Programme (N. Z. Heidam, DMU)
AIDJEX - Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment
AITMP - Arctic Ice Thickness Monitoring Project
AIWEX - Arctic Internal Wave Experiment
ALERT - Arctic Long-term Environmental Research Transacts
AMAP - Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Henrik Elling, DPC)
AOPB - Arctic Ocean Buoy Programme
AOSB - Arctic Ocean Sciences Board ( DPC & Preben Gudmandsen, DTH)
APEX - Arctic Polynya Experiment / AOSB
ARCSS - Arctic System Science (USA/NSF)
ATERP - Arctic Terrestrial Environmental Research Programmes
CAFF - Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna
COPE - Common Property and Environmental Policy in Comparative Perspective
EASOE - European Arctic Ozone Experiment
ECOPS - European Committee on Ocean and Polar Sciences
EPOCH - European Programme on Climatology and Natural Hazards (N. Reeh, GGU)
EPPEP - Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Environment Programme
GISP - Greenland Ice Sheet Project (US/NSF & Geophysical Inst., KU)
GSP - Greenland Sea Project (DPC & Preben Gudmandsen, DTH/EMI)
GRIP - Greenland Ice-Core Project (Claus Hammer, Geophysical Institute, KU)
IABP - International Arctic Buoy Programme
IAPP - International Arctic Polynya Programme /AOSB
IASC - International Arctic Science Committee
IASSA - International Arctic Social Sciences Association (Susanne Dybbro, AaU)
ICC - Inuit Circumpolar Conferences
ICPM - International Commission on Polar Meteorology
ICSI - International Commission on Snow and Ice
ICSU - International Council of Scientific Unions
IGBP - International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (Henning Thing, DPC)
IGS - International Glaciological Society
IPA - International Permafrost Association
ITEX - International Tundra Experiment (DPC & P. Mølgård, Pharm. Inst.)
IUCH - International Union for Circumpolar Health
MAB - Man and Biosphere Programme
MIZEX - Marginal Ice Zone Experiment
NAD - Nansen Arctic Drilling programme (Naja Mikkelsen, DGU)
NARF - Nordic Arctic Research Forum (Lise Lyck, KVUG)
NCAP - Nansen Centennial Arctic Programme
NEW - North East Water (polynya) / APEX/AOSB
NEWLAND - Land based research parallel to NEW
NOW - North Water (Thule polynya)
NSN - Northern Sciences Network (DPC)
NSSR - Nordic Society for Space Research
ODP - Ocean Drilling Programme (H.C. Larsen, GGU)
OMAE - Offshore Mechanics & Arctic Engineering
PAMEP - Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Programme
PIPOR - Programme for International Polar Ocean Research (P. Gudmandsen , DTH)
POAC - Port and Ocean Engineering under Arctic Conditions
POLARTECH - Polar Technology Conferences (Karsten Secher, DPC)
POLEX - Polar Experiment/GARP
PONAM - Polar North Atlantic Margins Programme (ESF, S. Funder Geol. Museum)
SEAS - Study of European Arctic Shelf (ESF)
SCOPE - Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment
ZERO - Zackenberg Ecological Research Operations (Henning Thing, DPC)

Today the regional Arctic communities are part of an international system and their development is dependent on international issues in a broad spectrum of disciplines ranging from international trade agreements, market prices, socio-economical trends, technological developments, and environmental concerns to emotional issues.

A well-balanced sustainable development demands multi-discipline scientific analysis, but as seen above, it is very difficult today to get an overview of the complex situation concerning Arctic research projects and research organizations involved.

As formulated in 1875 by Karl Weyprect, there still is a need for a co-ordinated systematic collection and use of scientific data. An important local highly qualified scientific activity might be of no value if it is not conducted in agreement with an internationally accepted format needed for comparative studies and for fulfilling its role as a small part of a circumpolar effort. The Arctic research activity today is not based on small groups of scholars who are just observing with their eyes. Today advanced equipment and sophisticated scientific gear is frequently needed, which again requires costly platforms for the investigations, platforms that might be an ice strenghened ship, an aircraft, or a helicopter, a rocket, or a satellite. The logistic support for modern Arctic research is complicated and costly, and the economic conditions of Arctic research demand co-ordinated utilization of this support.

It is my hope that the International Arctic Science Committee might be able to gain confidence and fulfil the need for co-ordination, co-operation, and multidisciplinary approach, both for maximum use of the logistic facilities and with respect to formulating standards, so the resulting scientific data can be cross utilized to the widest possible extent.