A brief history

The International Science Council (ISC) was created in 2018 from a merger of the International Council for Science (founded in 1931) and the International Social Science Council (founded in 1952).

Highlights from the history of the International Council for Science

 

Over the years, ICSU addressed specific global issues through the creation of Interdisciplinary Bodies, and of Joint Initiatives in partnership with other organizations. Important programmes of the past include the International Polar Year (2007-08), International Geophysical Year (1957-58) and the International Biological Programme (1964-74). Major current programmes include the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), DIVERSITAS: An International Programme of Biodiversity Science and the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP).

In 1992, ICSU was invited to act as principal scientific adviser to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro and, again in 2002, to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. Prior to UNCED, ICSU organized an International Conference on an Agenda of Science for Environment and Development into the 21st Century (ASCEND 21) in Vienna, in 1991, and ten years later, ICSU mobilized the scientific community even more broadly by organizing, with the help of other organizations, a Scientific Forum in parallel to the WSSD itself. ICSU also actively participated in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva, 2003 and Tunis, 2005.

More highlights from ICSU's history
Year

9 October 1899

Foundation of the International Association of Academies, Wiesbaden, Germany. World War I effectively ends this first attempt at grouping the world’s academies together.

9 October 1899

Foundation of the International Association of Academies, Wiesbaden, Germany. World War I effectively ends this first attempt at grouping the world’s academies together.

1919-31

International Research Council — inaugural meeting in Brussels, preparations for foundation of ICSU to include Scientific Unions as Members.

1919-31

International Research Council — inaugural meeting in Brussels, preparations for foundation of ICSU to include Scientific Unions as Members.

1931

ICSU founded in Brussels. Unions now full members

1931

ICSU founded in Brussels. Unions now full members

1947

Formal relations established with UNESCO

1947

Formal relations established with UNESCO

1957

Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) established

1957

Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) established

1957-58

International Geophysical Year, also the 3rd International Polar Year

1957-58

International Geophysical Year, also the 3rd International Polar Year

1958

Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) created

1958

Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) created

1960

Launch of the Scientific Committee on Frequency Allocations for Radio Astronomy and Space Science (IUCAF)

1960

Launch of the Scientific Committee on Frequency Allocations for Radio Astronomy and Space Science (IUCAF)

1962-7

Years of the Quiet Sun — A follow-up effort to IGY, which had been organized during a solar maximum, this programme aimed to undertake research during a solar minimum

1962-7

Years of the Quiet Sun — A follow-up effort to IGY, which had been organized during a solar maximum, this programme aimed to undertake research during a solar minimum

1964-74

International Biological Programme — inspired by the IGY, this was a decadal effort to coordinate large-scale ecological and environmental studies.

1964-74

International Biological Programme — inspired by the IGY, this was a decadal effort to coordinate large-scale ecological and environmental studies.

1966

Committee On Science & Technology in Developing Countries (COSTED) created (the precursor of the Regional Offices), Committee on Data (CODATA) established, Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) established

1966

Committee On Science & Technology in Developing Countries (COSTED) created (the precursor of the Regional Offices), Committee on Data (CODATA) established, Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) established

1967

Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP) (precursor of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)) founded (with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO))

1967

Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP) (precursor of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)) founded (with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO))

1980

WCRP succeeds GARP

1980

WCRP succeeds GARP

1985

The ICSU “Ringberg Conference” explores the future of science and ICSU’s role in it. It calls for a broadening of the disciplines involved in ICSU’s activities, specifically naming social scientists, engineers and medical scientists.

1985

The ICSU “Ringberg Conference” explores the future of science and ICSU’s role in it. It calls for a broadening of the disciplines involved in ICSU’s activities, specifically naming social scientists, engineers and medical scientists.

1985

Villach meeting: The joint UNEP/WMO/ICSU conference “International Assessment of the Role of Carbon Dioxide and of other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts” is remembered as a turning point in creating global awareness of climate change.

1985

Villach meeting: The joint UNEP/WMO/ICSU conference “International Assessment of the Role of Carbon Dioxide and of other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts” is remembered as a turning point in creating global awareness of climate change.

1987

Launch of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP).

1987

Launch of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP).

1989

Advisory Committee on the Environment set up to guide ICSU’s multidisciplinary work on the environment

1989

Advisory Committee on the Environment set up to guide ICSU’s multidisciplinary work on the environment

1990

ICSU accepts invitation to become principal scientific adviser to the UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992) and has a visible role at the event

1990

ICSU accepts invitation to become principal scientific adviser to the UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992) and has a visible role at the event

1990

Visegrad conference on International Science and its Partners continues the Ringberg effort to enlarge ICSU’s reach including to the private sector

1990

Visegrad conference on International Science and its Partners continues the Ringberg effort to enlarge ICSU’s reach including to the private sector

1991

Launch of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) (with UNESCO IOC, WMO, UNEP)

1991

Launch of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) (with UNESCO IOC, WMO, UNEP)

1991

ICSU organizes Conference in Vienna on An Agenda of Science for Evironment and Development (ASCEND 21)

1991

ICSU organizes Conference in Vienna on An Agenda of Science for Evironment and Development (ASCEND 21)

1992

INASP created as the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (with UNESCO, The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS))

1992

INASP created as the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (with UNESCO, The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS))

1992

Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) launched (with WMO, UNESCO IOC, UNEP)

1992

Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) launched (with WMO, UNESCO IOC, UNEP)

1996

International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) created – co-sponsored ICSU-ISSC, based on ISSC’s HDP created in 1990. ICSU becomes a co-sponsor of DIVERSITAS.

1996

International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) created – co-sponsored ICSU-ISSC, based on ISSC’s HDP created in 1990. ICSU becomes a co-sponsor of DIVERSITAS.

1996

Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) created (with WMO, UNESCO, UNEP, FAO)

1996

Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) created (with WMO, UNESCO, UNEP, FAO)

2002-2007

Regional Offices established in Africa, Asia & Pacific, Latin America & Caribbean

2002-2007

Regional Offices established in Africa, Asia & Pacific, Latin America & Caribbean

2007-08

Fourth International Polar Year

2007-08

Fourth International Polar Year

2008

Launch of Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR, with ISSC and UNISDR) and of the World Data System (WDS)

2008

Launch of Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR, with ISSC and UNISDR) and of the World Data System (WDS)

2011

Launch of Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment (with UNU & IAP)

2011

Launch of Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment (with UNU & IAP)

2012

Launch of Future Earth at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 as a merger of IGBP, IHDP and DIVERSITAS

2012

Launch of Future Earth at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 as a merger of IGBP, IHDP and DIVERSITAS

2014

Launch of the International Network on Government Science Advice (INGSA)

2014

Launch of the International Network on Government Science Advice (INGSA)

2015

Launch of the “Science International” partnership with ISSC, IAP and TWAS

2015

Launch of the “Science International” partnership with ISSC, IAP and TWAS

2017

Members vote overwhelmingly in favour of a merger of ICSU and ISSC

2017

Members vote overwhelmingly in favour of a merger of ICSU and ISSC

2018

ICSU and ISSC merge to become the International Science Council (ISC).

2018

ICSU and ISSC merge to become the International Science Council (ISC).

Highlights from the history of the International Social Science Council

The origins of the International Social Science Council (ISSC) lie in the aftermath of the Second World War, an era marked by the expectation that the social sciences would contribute directly to solving social problems. In September 1950 the World Congress of International Sociological and Political Science Associations advocated

“the development, as rapidly as possible, of an International Council for Social Research to serve as a clearing house, a centre of information and consultation, an instrument for facilitating co-operative and comparative studies”.

A year later, the 6th General Conference of UNESCO followed this up by passing the resolution which formally led to the founding of the ISSC, authorising the Director-General “…to establish an International Social Science Research council and an International Social Science research Centre for the study of the implications of technological change”, as well as to survey existing social-science research institutes

“…with a view to subsequent examination of the contribution of these institutions might make to the scientific solution of the most important problems of the present age and for the purpose of aiding their development and cooperation”.

It was clear from the start that the motive behind the creation of the ISSC was the expectation that the social sciences would contribute directly to the solving of social problems, and this mission informed all of the ISSC’s subsequent initiatives. The activities of the ISSC were guided by the principles of academic freedom, pursuit of excellence, equitable access to scientific information and data, unfettered conduct of science, open communication and transparency, accountability, and the use of knowledge for societal value. In addition, the Council supported the participation of women, minorities and others under-represented in social science research. Some highlights from the ISSC’s history are outlined below:

Some highlights from the ISSC's history, 1952 - 2018
Year

October 1952

Constitutive Assembly of the International Social Science Council held in Paris, France, followed a year later by the first General Assembly and elections of the Executive Committee. The ISSC’s first Secretary-General was French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and its first President Donald Young, a sociologist from the United States.

October 1952

Constitutive Assembly of the International Social Science Council held in Paris, France, followed a year later by the first General Assembly and elections of the Executive Committee. The ISSC’s first Secretary-General was French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and its first President Donald Young, a sociologist from the United States.

1953

The International Bureau for Research into the Social Implications of Technological Progress (BIRISPT) was created in 1953 as a research arm of the ISSC. It was led by Georges Balandier, a French anthropologist.

1953

The International Bureau for Research into the Social Implications of Technological Progress (BIRISPT) was created in 1953 as a research arm of the ISSC. It was led by Georges Balandier, a French anthropologist.

1962

The ISSC started publishing Social Science Information (SSI)/ Information sur les sciences sociales, a bilingual, pluri-disciplinary journal reporting on critical intellectual and institutional social science developments worldwide.

1962

The ISSC started publishing Social Science Information (SSI)/ Information sur les sciences sociales, a bilingual, pluri-disciplinary journal reporting on critical intellectual and institutional social science developments worldwide.

1963

The ISSC established the Coordination Centre for Social Science Research and Documentation – better known as the ‘Vienna Centre’ – to support cooperation and collaborations between Eastern and Western European social scientists on problems of shared relevance and interest.

1963

The ISSC established the Coordination Centre for Social Science Research and Documentation – better known as the ‘Vienna Centre’ – to support cooperation and collaborations between Eastern and Western European social scientists on problems of shared relevance and interest.

1965

Standing Committees were established for programmes of research in three new areas: comparative studies, data archives and environmental disruption.

1965

Standing Committees were established for programmes of research in three new areas: comparative studies, data archives and environmental disruption.

1972

The ISSC statutes were revised, making the ISSC a federation of international disciplinary associations, following the model of ICSU, and of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (CIPSH). The structural change increased membership, with the accession of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), the International Law Association (ILA), the International Geographical Union (IGU), the International Society for Criminology (ISC), the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), the World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) and World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).

1972

The ISSC statutes were revised, making the ISSC a federation of international disciplinary associations, following the model of ICSU, and of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (CIPSH). The structural change increased membership, with the accession of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), the International Law Association (ILA), the International Geographical Union (IGU), the International Society for Criminology (ISC), the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), the World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) and World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).

1973

The ISSC established the Conference of National Social Science Councils and Analogous Bodies (CNSSC, now the International Federation of Social Science Organizations, IFSSO) to facilitate cooperation between national social science bodies.

1973

The ISSC established the Conference of National Social Science Councils and Analogous Bodies (CNSSC, now the International Federation of Social Science Organizations, IFSSO) to facilitate cooperation between national social science bodies.

1973

Stein Rokkan was elected as ISSC President in 1973. Together with Secretary-General Samy Friedman, he initiated four new areas of thematic and structural work: World Models, to study and review computer models for forecasting long-term trends of change; Urban Networks, to advance comparative analysis of interactions among cities and the consequences of locational patterns for inequalities; World Social Science Development, a Committee of ‘Third World’ social scientists developing a set of joint activities, and Social Conditions, an advisory group identifying priority tasks for research and action in the social sciences.

1973

Stein Rokkan was elected as ISSC President in 1973. Together with Secretary-General Samy Friedman, he initiated four new areas of thematic and structural work: World Models, to study and review computer models for forecasting long-term trends of change; Urban Networks, to advance comparative analysis of interactions among cities and the consequences of locational patterns for inequalities; World Social Science Development, a Committee of ‘Third World’ social scientists developing a set of joint activities, and Social Conditions, an advisory group identifying priority tasks for research and action in the social sciences.

1988

In the context of growing public concern about the environment, the Human Dimensions of Global Change Committee (HDGC) was formed to study interactions between human activities and the whole Earth System.

1988

In the context of growing public concern about the environment, the Human Dimensions of Global Change Committee (HDGC) was formed to study interactions between human activities and the whole Earth System.

1992

The Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) was established in 1992, with support from the University of Bergen (UiB), Norway. CROP’s mission is to build independent and critical knowledge on poverty, and to help shape policies for preventing and eradicating poverty.

1992

The Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) was established in 1992, with support from the University of Bergen (UiB), Norway. CROP’s mission is to build independent and critical knowledge on poverty, and to help shape policies for preventing and eradicating poverty.

2008

The Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Programme (IRDR) was launched by the ISSC, ICSU and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). IRDR is an integrated research programme focused on dealing with the challenges brought by natural disasters, mitigating their impacts, and improving related policy mechanisms.

2008

The Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Programme (IRDR) was launched by the ISSC, ICSU and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). IRDR is an integrated research programme focused on dealing with the challenges brought by natural disasters, mitigating their impacts, and improving related policy mechanisms.

2009

The first World Social Science Forum took place in Bergen, Norway, on the topic ‘One Planet: Worlds Apart?’

2009

The first World Social Science Forum took place in Bergen, Norway, on the topic ‘One Planet: Worlds Apart?’

2010

The World Social Science Report on ‘Knowledge Divides’ was published. The Report reviews how social science knowledge is produced, disseminated and used in different parts of the world.

2010

The World Social Science Report on ‘Knowledge Divides’ was published. The Report reviews how social science knowledge is produced, disseminated and used in different parts of the world.

2012

The World Social Science Fellows programme was launched with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The aim of the programme was to foster a new generation of globally networked research leaders who would collaborate in addressing global problems with particular relevance for low- and middle-income countries. Between 2012 and 2015 over 200 early-career scientists were selected to participate in a series of seminars, conferences and networking events on urgent global challenges.

2012

The World Social Science Fellows programme was launched with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The aim of the programme was to foster a new generation of globally networked research leaders who would collaborate in addressing global problems with particular relevance for low- and middle-income countries. Between 2012 and 2015 over 200 early-career scientists were selected to participate in a series of seminars, conferences and networking events on urgent global challenges.

2012

Launch of Future Earth at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 as a merger of IGBP, IHDP and DIVERSITAS.

2012

Launch of Future Earth at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 as a merger of IGBP, IHDP and DIVERSITAS.

2013

The 2013 World Social Science Forum took place in Montreal, Canada, on the topic of ‘Social Transformations and the Digital Age’.

2013

The 2013 World Social Science Forum took place in Montreal, Canada, on the topic of ‘Social Transformations and the Digital Age’.

2013

The 2013 World Social Science Report was co-published with the Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The topic was ‘Changing Global Environments’. The Report issued an urgent call to the international social science community to deliver solutions-oriented knowledge on pressing environmental problems.

2013

The 2013 World Social Science Report was co-published with the Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The topic was ‘Changing Global Environments’. The Report issued an urgent call to the international social science community to deliver solutions-oriented knowledge on pressing environmental problems.

2014

The Transformations to Sustainability programme was launched with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The programme aims to support inter- and trans-disciplinary research led by social scientists to contribute knowledge on social transformations towards sustainability.

2014

The Transformations to Sustainability programme was launched with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The programme aims to support inter- and trans-disciplinary research led by social scientists to contribute knowledge on social transformations towards sustainability.

2015

The 2015 World Social Science Forum gathered around 1000 participants in Durban, South Africa. The topic was ‘Transforming Global Relations for a Just World’.

2015

The 2015 World Social Science Forum gathered around 1000 participants in Durban, South Africa. The topic was ‘Transforming Global Relations for a Just World’.

2016

The 2016 World Social Science Report was produced by the ISSC in collaboration with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). The topic was ‘Challenging Inequalities: Pathways to a Just World’.

2016

The 2016 World Social Science Report was produced by the ISSC in collaboration with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). The topic was ‘Challenging Inequalities: Pathways to a Just World’.

2017

ISSC Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger with ICSU during a joint meeting in Taipei.

2017

ISSC Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger with ICSU during a joint meeting in Taipei.

2018

A new phase of the Transformations to Sustainability programme developed by the ISSC, the Belmont Forum of research funders and the NORFACE network of social science funders was launched. It will fund twelve international projects for three years.

2018

A new phase of the Transformations to Sustainability programme developed by the ISSC, the Belmont Forum of research funders and the NORFACE network of social science funders was launched. It will fund twelve international projects for three years.

2018

ISSC merged with ICSU to become the International Science Council (ISC).

2018

ISSC merged with ICSU to become the International Science Council (ISC).