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World’s top bodies representing the social and natural sciences vote to pursue a merger, forming a single organization representing all social and natural sciences by 2018

At a landmark joint General Assembly of two leading international science councils, their members voted to merge, launching a process to form a single global entity that represents all social and natural sciences.

Oslo, 24 October 2016 – At an extraordinary General Assembly of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and a General Assembly of the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the two organizations’ members voted overwhelmingly that the two organizations should merge. This in-principle decision followed a recommendation by the two organizations’ executives, setting the two councils on a trajectory to become one by October 2018.

For the plans to go ahead, the majority of both councils’ voting members needed to vote in favour. 76% of the ICSU members and 87% of the ISSC members voted in favour of a merger of the two organizations, thereby setting the merger process in motion.

Alberto Martinelli, President of ISSC, said: “This is a historic moment for science. The decision for ISSC and ICSU to merge is the logical conclusion of an increasing collaboration between the two councils, and is in line with the course of developments in science over the past decades. By creating a unified international science council, we are removing many institutional obstacles and blazing a trail for unprecedented levels of cooperation among scientists and stakeholders everywhere, to better respond to global challenges.“

Gordon McBean, President of ICSU, said: “ICSU has long been a champion for excellence in both disciplinary and transdisciplinary science, and seeks to bring that excellence together to address global challenges. Today’s vote confirms support for this approach and I want to thank our Unions and National Members for their support. As a unified body, we will be in a stronger position to confront the challenges of the twenty-first century. With a broadened membership base the new organization will be the inclusive global voice of science that we want it to be.”

Today’s vote was an in-principle agreement to merge the two councils, and to establish a Transition Task Force to develop detailed transition plans, including legal requirements, new statutes and governance structures for the merged organization. The Task Force proposal will be put to a vote during a joint meeting of ICSU and ISSC Members in October 2017 at the 32nd ICSU General Assembly in Taipei. If the two organizations’ members endorse these plans in 2017, the transition will be implemented and overseen by the ISSC and ICSU executives, with a founding General Assembly of the new organization tentatively planned for October 2018.

The merger will follow the recommendation of a joint working group on the relationship between the two Councils which worked between December 2015 and June 2016. Their final report recommended a merger, and this was subsequently unanimously endorsed by the executives of both organizations. Today’s decision will lead to a new, fit-for-purpose 21st century international scientific organization that provides a unified, global voice for social and natural sciences, and a single institutional structure to enable and advance science for the future.

As part of today’s meeting, the ICSU Members also voted to extend the mandates of their ICSU Executive Board, which would usually have expired in October 2017, until October 2018. In June, ISSC Members had already agreed to extend the term of office of the organization’s current Executive Committee until completion of the merger process.

The meeting was generously hosted by the Research Council of Norway, a member of the ISSC.

About the organizations:

International Council for Science (ICSU)

ICSU is a non-governmental organisation with a global membership of national scientific bodies (122 members, representing 142 countries) and international scientific unions (31 members). ICSU mobilises the knowledge and resources of the international scientific community to strengthen international science for the benefit of society. []

International Social Science Council (ISSC)

ISSC is a membership-based non-governmental organization, and the primary global body representing the social sciences, including economic and behavioural sciences. Its mission is to strengthen social science to help solve global priority problems. Through its members and programmes, the ISSC reaches hundreds of thousands of individual social scientists working across a wide range of disciplines and representing all parts of the world. []


Lizzie Sayer, Communications Officer at ISSC.

Denise Young, Head of Communications at ICSU.

Correction: This press release was updated to correct a typo. The percentage of ICSU members who voted in favour of the merger was 76%, not 78%.

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