This section covers all the R&D&I activities in Spain that are carried out in the polar regions, the Arctic and Antarctic. The Spanish authority responsible for coordinating all these activities is the Spanish Polar Committee.

Spanish Polar Committee

The Spanish Polar Committee (CPE) is the Spanish authority responsible for coordinating Spain's R&D&I activities in the polar regions. Royal Decree 852/2020 of 22 September regulates its composition and operation.

The CPE is currently assigned to the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities through the General Secretariat for Research, which holds the Committee Chair as the National Polar Authority. In addition, the CPE is made up of a series of members represented by the different ministries and institutions involved in Spain's polar activity; and a Technical Secretariat, which is responsible for promoting, coordinating and overseeing the activities determined by the Committee or those assigned to it by the National Polar Authority.


Antarctica comprises all the territories located south of the 60th parallel south. It extends for an area of 14 million km2, of which 98 % is covered in ice with an average thickness of 3 km. It has the most extreme climate on Earth with the lowest recorded temperature, it is the windiest place on Earth, it has the lowest recorded rainfall, and it is the highest continent on earth with an average altitude of 2 000 m. It is home to around 80 % of the planet's fresh water. There are no indigenous populations in Antarctica.

Activities in Antarctica are governed by the Antarctic Treaty, initially signed by 12 countries in 1959, which establishes a system of conservation for the continent. This Treaty recognises the interest of all humankind that Antarctica should always and exclusively be used for peaceful purposes and that it should not become the scene or object of international discord. It also recognises the importance of the contributions made to scientific knowledge as a result of international cooperation in scientific research in Antarctica.


The Arctic is an area adjacent to the North Pole formed by the Arctic Ocean and the surrounding land. It is estimated that 4 million people live in it, including populations indigenous to the Arctic and other inhabitants. The Arctic is mostly an extensive ocean covered by an ice floe, surrounded by land with very low population density and permafrost. Due to its nature, the Arctic region is a unique area and a sensor of climate change. Climate change is making the Arctic's temperature increase 3 times faster than in the rest of the planet.

The Arctic belongs to the eight States with areas of sovereignty beyond the Arctic Circle: Canada, Denmark (through Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States of America. These countries meet at the forum promoting cooperation called the Arctic Council.

Polar science

Scientific research in polar regions is particularly relevant due to the global significance of the processes and discoveries taking place there. They are considered privileged observatories in many areas of knowledge. Observing, learning about and understanding the geological, biological, oceanographic and atmospheric processes that occur both in the Arctic and Antarctica are critical to advancing the knowledge of global processes on Earth. International cooperation is essential for the development of polar science.

Ongoing institutional support and the development of scientific projects in polar regions dates back to the 1980's. Initially, the Spanish scientific community's interest was focused on Antarctica, mainly due to access to Spain's facilities in the region, but the last decade has seen a diversification of research in the Arctic, mainly supported by international cooperation projects. Currently, numerous Spanish scientific projects are being carried out in various Antarctic and Arctic locations.

Bases, vessels and operations

The Spanish Antarctic bases and research vessels are the infrastructure that Spain has in place to support and develop polar research. Both the bases and the vessels form part of the national map of Unique Technical and Scientific Infrastructure (ICTS). The term ICTS refers to cutting-edge R&D&I infrastructure that, individually or by coordinating several facilities, provides services for the development of cutting-edge research of the highest quality, as well as for the transmission, exchange and preservation of knowledge, the transfer of technology and the promotion of innovation.

Spanish polar activities are carried out primarily in Antarctica, although there is also activity in the Arctic. Operations in Antarctica are usually carried out during the southern summer (November-March). International cooperation is essential for the development of polar activities

Polar data

The open access movement and the creation of infrastructure to support the use of scientific information by the scientific community has taken into consideration the importance of accessibility to research data. These data are recognised as a source of knowledge that is independent of publications, which can generate new knowledge and can be used in an interdisciplinary manner. 

Act 14/2011 of 1 June on Science, Technology and Innovation refers to the standardisation of data management in repositories in order to facilitate preservation, access and distribution (Article 37).

Polar data, especially data from Antarctica due to the obligation arising under Article III of the Antarctic Treaty, has instructions on deposits and reuse of data available in subject repositories. Data management has to be coordinated to guarantee its preservation and use, and to ensure interoperability.

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