2022 saw a succession of crises: a continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic; the war in Ukraine which, at the time of writing, continues to upend lives and livelihoods; worsening economic disparities; and the hottest year on record. It was a turbulent year for the world.
In times of crises such as these, we are reminded of the importance of collaboration and the resilience of our networks – we are indeed stronger together. The International Science Council (ISC) has achieved much that deepens and strengthens our global membership and networks in 2022. This report covers just some of the activities and achievements of the ISC during the past year, including updates on our key initiatives, events and partnerships.
The war in Ukraine dominated our outreach and engagement in the early months of the year. The scientific community acted quickly, sharing statements and resources through the Council’s homepage. ISC Members expressed grave concern over citizens’ wellbeing, and the severe impact that the war would have on the research and academic community. We were thus reminded of the importance of scientific freedom and responsibility, and solidarity in science. Working with partners, the ISC co-hosted the ‘Conference on the Ukraine Crisis: Responses from the European Higher Education and Research Sectors’, with the goal of providing recommendations that would assist academics, scientists, researchers and students who are at risk, displaced or refugees as a result of the war. This was a substantial part of the ISC’s work on science in times of crisis and science diplomacy.
While the acute crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic subsided in 2022, its impacts continued at both local and global levels. In May, the ISC released ‘Unprecedented & Unfinished: COVID-19 and Implications for National and Global Policy’. This deepened the ISC’s connection to the World Health Organization, resulting in a memorandum of understanding for future work, including a project on the social determinants of, and needed solutions to, the mental health and wellbeing of young people.
Our work at the multilateral level, including at the United Nations (UN) in New York, continues to unfold, and already shows impact. By implementing the recommendations of its 2021 report ‘ISC Strategy in the Intergovernmental System’, the Council grew closer to its goal of ensuring science remains at the forefront of international decision-making. As we build our influence at the UN, through the appointment of focal points for the Council in New York and Geneva and the launch of a Group of Friends of UN Member States on ‘Science for Action’, the ISC aims to harness the power of its Members in building a more sustainable, equitable and just world for future generations – in this critical decade of action on sustainability and the role of science therein. We will do this also through mobilizing ISC Members in support of the UN Secretary-General’s scientific advisory mechanism.
In 2022, the Council signed memoranda of understanding with the United Nations Environment Programme on environmental foresight, and with the United Nations Development Programme on the expansion of the Human Development Index as part of efforts to go ‘beyond GDP’. As we write, we are scoping an ambitious initiative on trust in science, together with the office of the UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications and several UN organizations. All these continuous efforts further strengthen our voice within the organs and organizations of the UN and, in turn, ensure that the multilateral system and its deliberations are reflective of scientific findings, and honour the universal principles of science: integrity, criticism and iterative thinking.
To reach new audiences and increase the Council’s visibility and credibility, the ISC launched in 2022 the ISC Fellowship, recognizing 123 individuals for their outstanding contributions to the promotion of science for the global public good. The ISC appointed the previous ISC Patrons as inaugural Honorary Fellows, and Irina Bokova as a new patron. The ISC Fellowship, the highest honour that can be conferred on an individual by the Council, will continue to grow in 2023, strengthening the ISC’s global representation through individual excellence. At the same time, the ISC opened its membership to young academies and associations, recognizing that the Council’s success as the global voice for and of science can only thrive when fostering an ecosystem of collaboration, resource sharing and partnership – through the engagement of young scientists who will carry the Council’s values into the future.
The year 2022 saw the return of physical meetings, including of the Secretariat, the ISC Governing Board and at the Membership level. We were delighted to organize networking activities at the EuroScience Open Forum, and to launch our Global Knowledge Dialogue series in South Africa at the World Science Forum. More than 120 Member representatives from 40 countries attended this dialogue, setting the scene for rich future dialogues in different regions, including our global meeting in Paris, France in May 2023, Asia and the Pacific in Kuala Lumpur in the third quarter of the year, and Latin America and the Caribbean in early 2024.
The global voice of the Council was strengthened by the launch of regional focal points during the year. The Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences was appointed to host the ISC Regional Focal Point for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Australian Academy of Science to host the Regional Focal Point for Asia and the Pacific. The Council also developed an agreement with Future Africa that will strengthen the presence of African science on the global stage, based on a pan-African consultative process facilitated by a consortium of African Members, with the goal of establishing an ISC regional focal point for Africa in 2025.
In 2022, the future of science systems was placed firmly on the ISC agenda. The Council interacted with actors such as science funders, science publishers and science journalists, and conducted dialogues with communities of researchers in multiple regions of the world. As outlined in the Council’s Action Plan 2022–2024, ensuring that the practice of science is sustainable and thriving within robust science systems is a critical mission for the ISC. In this regard, 2022 saw an impactful year for the ISC’s Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability, supported by its Technical Advisory Group. Good progress was made on developing a new scientific approach for sustainability, which supports the realization of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Commission will launch a report on this new approach at the High-Level Political Forum in New York in July 2023.
We hope you enjoy reading our Annual Report for 2022 and are compelled to strengthen the global voice of science through the many engagement opportunities the Council has to offer. We want to thank Mathieu Denis for guiding the ISC through this period as Acting Chief Executive Officer during the past year, guaranteeing that the Council is in a strong position to take forward our ambitious and impactful activities in 2023.