Re: EC Bases
I'm not certain of the actual criteria required, or steps needed, it wouldn't be too difficult to research if you wanted to know.
If a country really wants to get involved with genuine research in Antarctica then it pretty much can as long as it is proper research and not just a "presence" gathering weather data say which there is plenty of and doesn't even need a base these days as it can be done with automatic weather stations.
Maintaining an Antractic base is very expensive however and there are economies of scale, so it's difficult to get started. There are many countries that are involved in Antarctica, but not many are involved regularly and at a high level.
The scientific community has a long tradition of sharing research findings freely in publicly published scientific journals, many of the research findings are freely available on the web, but the detail tends to be only found in print. Printing research is expensive, so journals that do so tend to have pay-for sites to cover their considerable costs. Like other books - freely available (in the book stores) isn't the same as free.
As to what can and can't be researched - it comes down to the impact on the environment - and it's pretty strict. 20 years ago for instance, I know of a researcher who wanted to kill 5 penguins for his research. He was given permission, but had to submit it in writing long in advance and justify why he wanted to do this. Compare this to wanting to kill 5 common birds (the penguins were and aren't anywhere near endangered) anywhere else in the world.
Since then the rules have tightened up a lot - from a pretty high basis to start with.