The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) was founded in 1961 in response to a need to coordinate geoscientific international research programmes on a continuing basis in between the International Geological Congresses which have been held every four years since 1875.
In Beijing, 1996, the IUGS Council mandated the Executive Committee to develop a strategic plan that would modernize the IUGS and help set its future scientific priorities. By 2000, the Council had approved a plan that redefined the Union’s mission: IUGS is to unite the global geological community in (i) promoting development of the Earth sciences through the support of broad-based scientific studies relevant to the entire Earth system, and (ii) applying the results of these and other studies to preserving the Earth’s natural environment, using all natural resources wisely, and improving the prosperity of nations and the quality of human life.
IUGS seeks to enhance the visibility of earth sciences and demonstrate the relevance of the earth science in global environmental planning. In pursuit of this IUGS has proposed to launch an International Year of the Earth in cooperation with UNESCO and other UN organizations that will serve as a vehicle for communicating the importance of the earth and earth sciences.
The International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP) has been co-sponsored by UNESCO and IUGS since 1972. Currently, IGCP involves 140 nations and thousands of geoscientists. Sixty per cent of nations involved in IGCP have been classified as developing. The programme has been widely regarded as a highly effective vehicle for the transfer of geoscience information and training from the developed to the developing world. This serves to fulfil the Union’s objective for capacity building.
IUGS and its sister organization under ICSU, IUGG, continue their sponsorship of ICSU’s Scientific Committee on the Lithosphere (SCL) which focuses on the dynamics, origin and evolution of the Earth’s deep crust and upper mantle (lithosphere) and pays special attention to the continents and their margins.
Special scientific interests and disciplines are represented in the Union through its Affiliated Organizations, that is, large autonomous international associations which share with IUGS an interest in planning and undertaking certain scientific activities and meetings of mutual benefit.
With its membership representing 115 countries and regions, 8 commissions, 4 working groups and 38 affiliated organizations, IUGS is one of the largest and most active scientific associations in the world.