5. Our global reach

The ISC greatly expanded its reach in 2019, appointing its first patrons, launching an in-depth consultation with members and developing a new vision for the ISC’s presence in different regions of the world.

First patrons appointed

As part of its Outreach and Engagement Strategy and in accordance with its statutes, the ISC seeks to engage the patronage of a diverse group of individuals from within and beyond the scientific world. This started in earnest in 2019, with Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, and Ismail Serageldin, Founding Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, appointed as the ISC’s inaugural patrons.

“We need science to empower citizens’ active engagement in finding the solutions to the climate emergency, especially from poor and vulnerable communities. There has never been a more important time for an organization with the global reach of the International Science Council, and I am delighted to be its patron.”

Mary Robinson, 7 June 2019

“This is a pivotal moment in history where the global scientific community must come together and respond sensibly and firmly to developments such as populism and post-truth. I am honoured to be a patron of the ISC and will advocate open and accessible science as a way of driving breakthroughs for the benefit of people everywhere, particularly in the Global South.”

Ismail Serageldin, 7 June 2019

Both patrons spent time with the ISC Governing Board and secretariat in the latter half of 2019, building their relationship with the Council by providing advice on priorities for its work, establishing contacts with key individuals in the United Nations and speaking on behalf of the ISC at global events. Mary Robinson represented the ISC in the UN Leaders Event on Nature and People during the Climate Summit in September. Ismail Serageldin contributed to ISC publications, writing the piece Confronting the Problems of Our Time, and established contact with internet pioneer Vint Cerf, who was appointed an ISC patron in early 2020. New patrons will continue to be appointed in 2020 and beyond.

Outreach and engagement

The ISC embarked on an ambitious plan in 2019 to hold a broad consultation with its individual members around the world. The goal is for all ISC members to have at least one strategic conversation with staff of the headquarters about their current relationship with the ISC, and future engagement opportunities that are relevant to their priorities and to the ISC Action Plan.

With the launch of the Action Plan in August, individual discussions with members started in November during the World Science Forum. Twelve ISC members took the opportunity whilst at the Forum to go through the guided conversation with the ISC’s Senior Communications Officer and members of the Governing Board. This ‘beta’ testing allowed for immediate feedback from Governing Board members, ensuring that the process would be fully operational for the start of 2020.

The results of these consultations will provide guidance to the ISC on its value proposition for members and promote actions between ISC members on the projects outlined in the Action Plan. The consultation will be rolled out to the regions in early 2020, with a preliminary report expected in the second half of 2020.

“During our discussion around the Action Plan, I was able to share our Union’s view that the area of healthcare and its links to the engineering and physical sciences is underrepresented. It has a lot of potential for scientific development in many areas, including the expected demand growth in the Global South. I hope the ISC can convene its broad membership around these issues.”

Magdalena Stoeva, Treasurer of the International Union for Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine

Our regional offices

The ISC’s regional offices work to secure an effective regional presence for the ISC, and to ensure that regional scientific communities are fully engaged in international collaboration.

Regional Office in Africa

In 2019, the Regional Office in Africa (ROA) focused on three interlinked priorities: support for ISC international programmes, engagement with policy-makers and other stakeholders, and building the ISC’s membership within the region.

The regional team supported efforts to increase the production of high-quality, inter- and transdisciplinary, solutions-oriented research on global sustainability by early career scientists in Africa through its involvement in the organization of the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa Annual Research Forum held in Dakar, Senegal.

A workshop for lecturers and professors from a number of South African universities was organized in collaboration Climate Change Education Across the Curricula Across the Globe (TROP ICSU). It introduced participants to digital educational tools and innovative teaching practices using climate-related examples, case studies, and activities, thus improving students’ understanding of climate change.

Through the African Future Earth Committee, ROA supported the establishment of a Future Earth Regional Office for Southern Africa, hosted by South Africa’s National Research Foundation.

In addition, ROA supported the INGSA-Africa Chapter to develop and reinforce the capacity of researchers, academics, government members and civil society on the concept of ‘science advice to governments’ for decision-making and the implementation of evidence-informed policies on the continent. This was achieved through sub-regional workshops and support for the development of a pilot survey on ‘The role of scientific knowledge in policy-making: Scientists/researchers and policy-makers’ perspectives’.

Through the ISC’s role as co-convenor of the UN’s Scientific and Technological Major Group, the Office worked to ensure that the voice of the African science community is included in the 2019 STI Forum statement. Furthermore, the Office contributed to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)’s continental and regional STI policy design and implementation. The Office also emerged as an important partner with the Department of Science and Innovation of South Africa, UNECA and other stakeholders in reaching out to the region during the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. Through two workshops organized with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and relevant stakeholders in Southern Africa and East Africa, the Office galvanized the individual efforts of African scientists and indigenous knowledge practitioners to showcase the health-promoting and disease-preventing properties of African food plant and insect species, and thus encourage their value-added production and consumption. With the endorsement of the workshop recommendations by the RECs, a compendium of beneficial plant and insect species from each sub-region is being compiled as a resource for intervention measures to improve human health and well-being.

Regional Office for Asia Pacific

With the publication of the ISC Action Plan, the Regional Office for Asia Pacific (ROAP) embarked on new initiatives and ramped up its engagement with members of ISC and regional organizations during 2019.

2019 marked the beginning of ROAP’s involvement in ‘open science’, a new priority area. The Office began scoping the topic of open science for the Asia Pacific region and participated in discussions on open data and open science within different fora.

The Regional Office for Asia Pacific (ROAP), together with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Young Scientist Network and Global Young Academy, organized a workshop on the responsible conduct of research, bringing together more than 45 early career scientists.

In continuing ROAP’s emphasis on disaster risk reduction, together with the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) International Centre of Excellence (ICoE) Taipei, the Office organized four ‘Advanced Institute’ meetings and also co-sponsored a capacity-building workshop in Fiji on the IPCC’s role, activities and findings, together with the Asian Network on Climate Science Technology and IRDR ICoE-Southeast Asia Disaster Prevention Initiative. At the workshop, ROAP assembled a panel of representatives from Small Island Developing States to deliberate on bridging the science and technology divide in the Pacific Islands.

Support for ISC members included a capacity-building activity with the International Astronomical Union (IAU), an ASEAN Astronomy Workshop for Teachers held in conjunction with the annular solar eclipse and IAU’s celebration of its 100-year anniversary.

ROAP also hosted the final meeting of the Regional Committee for Asia and the Pacific, which provided the oversight of ROAP’s activities in recent years. One of the important innovations implemented under the Committee was a Small Grants Programme, which provided nominal funding, awarded on a competitive basis, for regional activities in ROAP’s priority areas. An announcement for 2021 applications will be made in August 2020 through ISC Asia Pacific members.

In the context of engaging ISC member stakeholders, ROAP visited Nepal and Fiji to strategize collaboration on disaster risk reduction and climate change, and to discuss greater engagement with the ISC. In the case of Nepal, a disaster risk reduction workshop is planned for 2020. ROAP continued to work on mobilizing the scientific community from low-income countries, and in 2019, 17 early career scientists from these countries were sponsored to attend various workshops in the region.

Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Regretfully, the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) has been closed as a result of a financial decision by the government of El Salvador.

In 2019, ROLAC took forward a number of different actions to provide a wider leverage and understanding of disaster risk reduction. Some of the actions included participation in important regional and global meetings such as the conference ‘Towards a More Resilient Central America’ (Panama), organized by the World Bank, the Central American Integration System and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction; and the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (Switzerland) organized by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and hosted by the Government of Switzerland. To mark the launch of the book Forensic Investigations after Disasters by the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR)-Forensic Investigations of Disasters (FORIN) project, ROLAC organized an experts’ exchange on the reduction of vulnerabilities and the increase of resilience against the hazards of natural origin in Latin America, in Cuba.

In the context of a growing urban population, the Regional Office continued its work to advance urban health. ROLAC’s Urban Health Working Group (composed of more than 14 governmental institutions, regional and international actors, the Urban Health and Wellbeing programme, and others) organized the International Urban Health Workshop for Latin America and the Caribbean (El Salvador). At this workshop, representatives from 19 countries, and around 18 international organizations, exchanged knowledge and experiences in implementing actions and initiatives to improve urban health.

Photo: NASA

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