A growing number of regional scientific bodies and networks, with varied and sometimes overlapping missions, are already dedicated to advancing science in their own regions. Any ISC presence here must add distinctive value. It must help to bring synergy to, rather than fragment, the work of other regional actors, and it must ensure that regional and global scientific efforts are more effectively connected, and that regional scientific communities are fully engaged in developing and delivering global scientific strategy and action.
A vision for the ISC’s presence in the regions
The ISC Governing Board has considered a range of possible approaches to securing an effective regional presence for the ISC, and agrees on the merits of a model in which the Council has a single global secretariat with headquarters (HQ) in Paris and branches in different parts of the world.
In this model, the HQ and its branches would work as one team to deliver the global ISC strategy and its related action plans. They would share responsibilities for implementing a single portfolio of priority actions and would work with a single outreach and engagement strategy, presenting a coherent brand and communicating with one voice in all regions of the world. In addition to leading on the implementation of certain ISC projects and programmes, branches would lead on regional partnership development and policy engagement, complementing the Council’s work at the global level. They would extend the ISC’s membership base and scientific networks in the regions, and support active membership participation in ISC activities.
Unlike the ISC’s existing regional offices – in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean – ISC branches would not develop separate strategic plans for specific regions of the world. In addition, the ISC HQ and its branches would operate under a common governance and management system. Whilst the possible establishment of regional advisory structures, or of regional membership-driven working groups, would not be excluded, both HQ and the branches would be accountable to the ISC Governing Board and, through the Board, to the ISC General Assembly as a whole.
This vision of a distributed global secretariat meets the need for the ISC to strengthen the engagement of its members, particularly in the Global South, in shaping relevant and impactful global priorities and actions. It will ensure alignment between the work of the Council’s HQ and its regional structure, and enrich the secretariat’s capacity to deliver on the ISC Action Plan. By creating opportunities for global projects and programmes to be led from ISC branches around the world, the Council will give international visibility to scientific capacity in different world regions, and foster more evenly distributed leadership for global science.
In the coming two and a half years the ISC will work towards the creation of a single, distributed global secretariat. Key actions to be completed in this period include:
Action 1: Transition existing regional offices into regional branches
The Council will maintain its existing institutional presence in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. It will work closely with the staff of these offices, and with their hosts and funders, on developing and implementing feasible plans for their transition into ISC branches by January 2022.
The transition process will include opportunities for discussion with existing regional committees and members, including regional bodies such as the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) and the Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils (AASSREC).
The transition plans will include mechanisms to ensure that future branches are fully integrated into the ISC secretariat, adequately resourced, and effectively governed. The possibility of relocating future regional branches or redefining their geographical scope may be considered. As part of the transition process the ISC will enable a realignment of current regional office activities and capacities towards the priorities of the current ISC Action Plan.
Action 2: Strengthen the ISC presence in other parts of the world
The ISC is aware of the importance of extending its engagement with under-represented parts of the world and with particular groups of developing countries. In the coming two and a half years, the Council will take initial steps towards establishing a presence in the Middle East and amongst the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The longer-term ambition would be to have ISC branches in place to represent and connect these groups of countries to the Council.
In the case of SIDS, resource constraints and the associated difficulty of securing local hosting will require the ISC to identify less resource-intensive means of engaging. The intention is to establish a small but effective SIDS Liaison Committee. It would consist of no more than five individuals, including representatives of relevant scientific organizations. They would be invited to work with the ISC in developing stronger membership relations and engagement, as well as new partnerships with the SIDS scientific community.
Action 3: Support other regional groupings of ISC members
The ISC welcomes the support and strategic input of other regional membership groupings, such as the informal, self-organized European Group of ISC members (see http://euro-isc.org).
The ISC will continue to engage with the European Group and any other emerging groupings of members to ensure that their interests and priorities are properly represented in the ISC’s Action Plans, and to foster their participation in the design and delivery of ISC projects and programmes.