In October 2017, the members of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) took the momentous decision that the two councils should merge to become the International Science Council. We now face the challenge of making this decision a landmark in the organization and functioning of international science. At its founding General Assembly in July 2018, the new organization will assert the international scientific community’s commitment to working across disciplinary boundaries in generating and applying the integrated knowledge that is urgently needed to address the complex, inter-related problems of the modern world for the benefit of all societies.
The mission of the International Science Council is to be the global voice for science. It will convene the intellectual resources of its unique membership of national members around the globe, and unions and associations of scientists across all the science disciplines, to advance all the sciences, in all parts of the world, as a global public good. As President and Executive Director of ICSU we are privileged to be a part of this process, and we would like to thank the members of the ICSU-ISSC Strategy Working Group and Transition Task Force for guiding the merger process, and all our members for their support and commitment to this historic development.
It is appropriate, in ICSU’s last Annual Report, to look back with pride at our impressive history. Some of the milestones in that history and the powerful and creative ways in which our community has responded to major challenges for both science and society and the inspiring individuals that have led those efforts, and we address them in sections 1.2 and 6.1, respectively. This legacy is the bedrock on which the International Science Council will be built. We will continue to draw on our key partnerships and major international initiatives established during previous decades to provide the foundations for advancing a global science agenda underpinned by rigour, relevance and responsibility. Our initiatives such as the co-sponsored international scientific programmes on climate change (WCRP), disaster risk (IRDR), urban health and wellbeing (UHW) and sustainable development (Future Earth) continue to deliver the knowledge that underpins international policy processes like the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals. Our committees and networks work with dedication to coordinate international efforts, including data for science and technology and the provision of scientific advice to inform policy at all levels of government.
Notwithstanding the intense preparation for the October 2017 merger decision, ICSU has continued to deliver excellence and impact in its core areas of work. It is worth drawing attention to some of the highlights.
ICSU published another landmark report in 2017 to help guide the implementation phase of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the best available science. The new report, “A Guide to SDG Interactions: From Science to Implementation”, applies a quantitative scale to determine the extent to which SDGs reinforce or conflict with each other. It offers a planning framework to help countries implement and achieve the 17 goals and the 169 targets that sit underneath them. The report has been widely disseminated and praised by both scientific and policy communities as a unique and important contribution to understanding and managing the integrated, indivisible nature of the SDGs.
In 2017 the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa (LIRA2030) programme, which ICSU manages in collaboration with ISSC and NASAC, announced its first set of project awards. The programme supports early-career scientists to undertake collaborative, transdisciplinary research, and the nine projects selected in 2017 all seek to generate solutions-oriented knowledge on major challenges facing African cities. It is exciting to see a new community of engaged young researchers emerging from the programme and LIRA2030 is working with them to further develop research leadership in and for Africa.
ICSU also continued to support the disaster risk reduction processes resulting from the 2015 World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR). As co-organizers of the UN Science and Technology Major Group, ICSU was represented at the 5th
Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and in the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction. The Science Committee of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Reduction (IRDR) programme promoted interactions between the scientific community, policy makers and society towards achieving the 2020-30 targets of the Sendai Framework. In November 2017, together with UNISDR, IRDR and the Science Council of Japan, ICSU organized and led the Global Forum on Science and Technology for Disaster Resilience 2017, resulting in the Tokyo Statement 2017 — science and technology action for a disaster-resilient world.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the outstanding scientists who have over the years served on our boards and advisory committees, been the leaders of our unions and members of national committees, and who have selflessly dedicated their valuable time to the success of the organization. We will carry their legacy forward and build upon it for the future. We would like to thank our Members for their support of the merger process and their valuable input into the design of the new Council. Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to all of our Secretariat staff, who have worked hard to support the merger process and on implementing our yearly programme of work.
Gordon McBean, President
Heide Hackmann, Executive Director
1.2 History Highlights of ICSU
|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.|
|1931||ICSU founded in Brussels. Unions now full members|
|1947||Formal relations established with UNESCO|
|1957||Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) established|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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.|
|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|
|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|
|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)|
|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)|
|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)|
|2002-2007||Regional Offices established in Africa, Asia & Pacific, Latin America & Caribbean|
|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)|
|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|
|2014||Launch of the International Network on Government Science Advice (INGSA)|
|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|
|2018||ICSU and ISSC merge to become the International Science Council (ISC).|