Information and History


History of Collaborations Between SCOR and IAPSO

International organizations related to ocean science, as part of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and its predecessors have a long history, almost 100 years. Collaborations among these organizations has been important to ocean science worldwide and reflecting on past and current interactions may be instructive for the future.

The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) was established in Brussels, Belgium, on July 28, 1919 during the Constitutive Assembly of the International Research Council (predecessor of ICSU, which was created in 1931). At the 1919 meeting in Brussels, a Section of Physical Oceanography was formed, with Prince Albert of Monaco as its first President.  In 1967, IAPO became the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean (IAPSO) and at the 1991 General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, IAPSO made a minor name change, revising it to the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (plural).

SCOR’s development occurred later and in a more complicated evolution. In 1954, ICSU recommended that “a small committee be appointed to consider what problems of deep sea research, of a joint biological and geophysical nature, could usefully be studied in cooperation by the International Union of Biological Sciences and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics” (Wolff, 2010).  The five-person committee included two prominent IAPO officers, George Deacon and Harald Sverdrup, and was requested to report back to ICSU the following year.  (This committee came to be known as the ICSU Special Committee on Deep-Sea Research.) The committee reported that “we consider that an organization to promote cooperation in the oceanic sciences between IUBS and IUGG would be too limited.” (Wolff, 2010).  They recommended the establishment of a special committee of ICSU—the Special Committee for Oceanic Research—which would deal with aspects of oceanic science that could not be handled effectively by IAPO or by any other existing international body. The new committee should have representation from ICSU, IUGG (including IAPO); the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), and the International Geological Union (IGU). ICSU agreed with the recommendation to form the ICSU Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research.

The first SCOR meeting was held at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on 28-30 August 1957, (See more detailed SCOR history at One of the agenda topics was “the relationship between SCOR and other international organizations such as ICES, IAPO, IACOMS, etc.”  (Wolff, 2010).  At this meeting, SCOR approved the formation of its first five working groups (in 2014, SCOR had established 147 working groups).  These groups were largely focused on issues related to the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and the International Indian Ocean Expedition.  One of the first five groups (WG 4) was entitled “Physical Properties of Sea Water.”  (The groups were not fully launched until SCOR’s second meeting, in 1958.)  WG 4 was chaired by Håkon Mosby and other proposed members included Roland A. Cox, Carl Eckart, Arkadiĭ G. Kolesnikov, Karl E. Schleicher, Val Worthington, and Nikolai N. Zubov.  The group’s primary objectives were to appraise the accuracy of existing values of the physical constants and to encourage research leading to more accurate values. This was the first joint SCOR-IAPO working group.

SCOR and IAPO/IAPSO have continued a close working relationship since WG 4, including jointly sponsoring the following working groups and other activities:

•    Working Group 10 on Oceanographic Tables and Standards (see Lee, 1984; Morcos et al., 1990) – SCOR and IAPO (with ICES and UNESCO)—This group, better known as the Joint Panel on Oceanographic Tables and Standards (JPOTS), was formed in 1962.  Its purpose was to standardize some of the important oceanographic tables, such as the those relating chlorinity, salinity, density, conductivity, and refractive index.  As new, more accurate, measurement techniques became available, the equation of state of seawater had to be refined.  Upon the recommendation of JPOTS, the Practical Salinity Scale and 1980 International Equation of State of Seawater were adopted in 1982 by oceanographers internationally.  SCOR and IAPSO are combining their efforts to update the equation of state of seawater, through the work of SCOR/IAPSO Working Group 127 (see below).
•    Working Group 15 on Photosynthetic Radiant Energy – SCOR and IAPO (with UNESCO)
•    Working Group 21 on Continuous Current Velocity Measurements – SCOR and IAPO (with UNESCO)
•    Working Group 27 on Deep Sea Tides – IAPO and SCOR (with UNESCO)
•    Working Group 28 on Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions – SCOR and IAPSO (with IAMAP)
•    Working Group 34 on Internal Dynamics of the Ocean – SCOR and IAPSO
•    Working Group 35 on Methods of Quantitative Ecology of Coral Reefs – SCOR and IAPSO
•    Working Group 38 on Ocean Processes in the Antarctic – SCOR and IAPSO (with SCAR)
•    Working Group 42 on Pollution in the Baltic – SCOR, ICES, IAPSO, IABO
•    Working Group 43 on Oceanography Related to GATE – SCOR, IAMAP, IAPSO
•    Working Group 46 on River Inputs to Ocean Systems – SCOR, ECOR, IAHS, ACMRR, UNESCO, CMG, IAPSO, IABO
•    Working Group 48 on The Influence of the Ocean on Climate – SCOR and IAPSO
•    Working Group 49 on Mathematical Modelling of Oceanic Processes – SCOR and IAPSO
•    Working Group 50 on Biological Effects of Ocean Variability – SCOR, ACMRR, IAPSO, IABO
•    Working Group 53 on Evolution of the South Atlantic – SCOR, CMG, ICG, IAPSO, IABO
•    Working Group 55 on Prediction of El Nino – SCOR, IAMAP, IAPSO, ACMRR
•    Working Group 57 on Coastal and Estuarine Regimes – SCOR, IAPSO, ECOR, UNESCO
•    Working Group 58 on Arctic Ocean Heat Budget – SCOR, IAPSO
•    Working Group 64 on Oceanic Atoll Drilling – SCOR, CMG, IAPSO, UNESCO
•    IAPSO/SCOR Working Group 121 on Ocean Mixing
•    SCOR/LOICZ/IAPSO Working Group 122 on Mechanisms of Sediment Retention in Estuaries
•    SCOR/IAPSO Working Group 127 on Thermodynamics and Equation of State of Seawater
•    SCOR/IAPSO Working Group 129 on Deep Ocean Exchanges with the Shelf
•    SCOR/IAPSO Working Group 133: OceanScope
•    SCOR/WCRP/IAPSO Working Group 136: Climatic Importance of the Greater Agulhas System
•    SCOR/IOC Committee on Climate Change and the Ocean

•    SCOR/IAPSO Working Group 145: Chemical Speciation Modelling in Seawater to Meet 21st Century Needs (MARCHEMSPEC)


SCOR reformed its Executive Committee in 19__ to include the presidents of IABO, IAPSO, and IAMAS as ex officio members.  IAPSO representatives have attended nearly every SCOR annual meeting in the past 20 years.

IAPSO has been the most frequent co-sponsor of SCOR working groups since SCOR was formed, but there was a hiatus in IAPSO participation in SCOR working groups between WGs 64 (late 1970s) and WG 121 (formed in 2002) for unknown reasons.  The most recent working groups with IAPSO have involved joint approval of the terms of reference and memberships.  SCOR and IAPSO jointly submitted proposals and received grants from U.S. agencies for conferences of Working Groups 121 and 129.  (It is difficult for IAPSO to equally fund projects because it cannot charge dues and depends on a relatively small financial allocation from IUGG.) Two recent joint working groups, WGs 127 and 129, resulted from a process in which IAPSO identified important topics, stimulated the development of working group proposals, and co-approved group memberships and terms of reference with SCOR. SCOR does not limit its physical oceanography working groups to ideas suggested by IAPSO and IAPSO works with other organizations, but it is clear that the SCOR-IAPSO partnership has advanced important physical oceanography topics in ways that would have been difficult for either organization to achieve alone.  The past interactions provide a model for the future of SCOR cooperation with IAPSO, as well as with other ICSU associations and unions.

SCOR has also participated with IAPSO by holding its meetings in conjunction with IAPSO assemblies, in 1970, 2001, and 2005. Many joint IAPSO-SCOR working groups have held special sessions at IAPSO assemblies and/or have held their regular meetings in conjunction with an assembly.

Lee, A.  1984.  The ICES Hydrography Committee: A review of its activities since 1945.  Rapp. P.-v. Réun. Cons. Int. Explor. Mer. 185:7-29.
Morcos, D., A. Poisson, and O. Mamayev. 1990. Joint Panel on Oceanographic Tables and Standards: 25 Years of Achievements under the Umbrella of International Organizations. Pp. 344-356 in Ocean Sciences: Their History and Relation to Man. Proceedings of the 4th International Congress on the History of Oceanography W. Lenz and M. Deacon (eds.). Deutsche Hydrographische Zeitschrift. Hamburg, Germany.
Wolff, T.  2010.  The Birth and First Years of SCOR (Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research).