This brief paper has two purposes. First, we gauge developments in the study of the Antarctic ice sheet over the last seven years by comparing the contents of this issue with the volume produced from an American Geophysical Union meeting, held in September 1998, on the West Antarctic ice sheet. We focus on the uptake of satellite-based observation; ice-ocean interactions; ice streams as foci of change within the ice sheet; and the time scales on which the ice sheet is thought to operate. Second, we attempt to anticipate the future challenges that the study of the Antarctic ice sheet will present. We highlight the role of the upcoming International Polar Year in facilitating a better coverage of in situ climatic observations over the continent; the pressing need to understand the causes and consequences of the contemporary changes observed in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica; and the need for improved physics in predictive models of the ice sheet.