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Report, Strategy, planning and review

Strategic Planning

2. Strategic Planning

2.1 Strategy Development

At the joint meeting of ICSU and ISSC in Taipei in October 2017, the members of the two Councils approved the high-level strategy of the new organization, the International Science Council. This strategy was the fruit of an intense period of development, exploration, consultation and drafting that lasted from the beginning of the year right through to the Taipei meetings.

The development process started with a high-level meeting of scientists and experts in Paris in January 2017 to discuss the future strategic orientation of a proposed new organization. The workshop, which kicked off with a lively discussion on opportunities and challenges facing the new body, was followed by a meeting of the Strategy Working Group. In the wake of these meetings, several rounds of feedback from members and the Council’s executive bodies gave rise to a final document that would be discussed and approved at the General Assemblies of the two Councils in Taipei.

The strategy emphasizes that the importance of scientific understanding to society has never been greater, as humanity grapples with the challenges of living sustainably and equitably on planet Earth. It stakes out a space for the Council to defend the inherent value and values of all science at a time when it has become harder for the scientific voice to be heard. It will strengthen international, interdisciplinary collaboration and support scientists to contribute solutions to complex and pressing matters of global public concern. It will advise decision makers and practitioners on the use of science in achieving ambitious agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015. And it will encourage
open public engagement with science.

The vision of the new Council, as stated in the High-Level Strategy, is to advance science as a global public good. Scientific knowledge, data and expertise must be universally accessible and their benefits universally shared. The practice of science
must be inclusive and equitable, also in opportunities for scientific education and capacity development.

According to its mission statement, the new Council will act as the global voice of science. That voice will:

  • Speak for the value of all science and the need for evidence-informed understanding and decisionmaking;
  • Stimulate and support international scientific research and scholarship on major issues of global concern;
  • Articulate scientific knowledge on such issues in the public domain;
  • Promote the continued and equal advancement of scientific rigour, creativity and relevance in all parts of the world; and
  • Defend the free and responsible practice of science.

2. Strategic Planning

2.2 Taipei Meetings

On 25-26 October, members of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) gathered for a Joint Meeting to vote on the proposed merger of the two organizations. Over the two days of intense discussions, members wrangled over, and debated, a number of contentious issues, notably on membership categories and voting procedures. At the end of the second day, members voted overwhelmingly (ICSU 97.6%, ISSC 90%) to merge and form the International Science Council in 2018.

The new organization will provide a strong foundation for advancing science across the disciplinary spectrum and in all parts of the world, and promoting its vital role in shaping humanity’s future on planet Earth. The new organization will be called the International Science Council (ISC). It brings together the current members of ISSC and ICSU, including 40 international scientific unions and associations, and more than 140 national and regional organizations such as academies and research councils.

The International Science Council will be launched at a founding General Assembly to be held in Paris, France in July 2018. It will provide leadership in catalyzing, incubating and coordinating international action on issues of major public concern.

The vote on 26 October paved the way for the start of the legal implementation phase which will involve the finalization of a merger treaty that establishes the name of the new body, its Statutes and its Rules of Procedure. Members of both Councils are expected to endorse this treaty in an electronic vote scheduled to take place in the first half of 2018, and a new, merged Secretariat will be put into place at ICSU’s current headquarters in Paris.

Timeline of the Merger

2015Exchange of letters between the ISSC and ICSU Presidents on the future relationship between the two Councils
November 2015Agreement reached on Terms of Reference for an ICSU-ISSC Working Group to explore closer institutional alignment, and possible amalgamation, between the two Councils.
January 2016First meeting of the joint ICSU-ISSC Working Group
April 2016Executive bodies of ISSC and ICSU follow the Working Group’s recommendation for the two Councils to merge, and recommend this course to the Council’s members
June 2016Joint meeting of the ISSC and ICSU Executives
October 2016Joint ICSU/ISSC General Assembly decides in-principle to pursue a merger
November 2016Call for nominations for the Strategy Working Group and the Transition Task Force
December 2016Strategy Working Group and Transition Task Force appointed by the Executives of ICSU and ISSC
January/February 2017Strategy Working Group and Transition Task Force meet
end February 2017Draft strategy submitted to Executives
end March 2017Draft strategy submitted to ISSC and ICSU members
May 2017Members submit feedback on draft strategy
30-31 May 2017Strategy Working Group meeting
June 2017Final strategy submitted to Executives of ISSC and ICSU
28-29 June 2017Joint meeting of the ICSU and ISSC Executives
July 2017Final strategy and final outputs of the Transition Task Force submitted to members
23-26 October 201732nd ICSU General Assembly and extraordinary ISSC General Assembly approve strategy and transition plans
3-5 July 2018First General Assembly of the International Science Council (ISC)

2. Strategic Planning

2.3 Forum of Funders

While governments, through national research funding agencies, are still the main funders of public research, science philanthropy, private science foundations, and development aid agencies are playing an increasingly important role in complementing public funding. Both groups share a common interest in supporting science for the effective implementation of Agenda 2030. To facilitate strategic exchange and synergistic collaboration across different funding communities, in 2017, as part of the LIRA programme, ICSU has collaborated with Future Earth in facilitating discussions amongst a core group of representatives of these funding communities about the possible establishment of a regular Global Forum of Funders. Its purpose would be to promote strategic exchange and synergistic collaboration across different funding communities around a common interest in supporting science for the effective implementation of Agenda 2030.

Two meetings between representatives of funding agencies were facilitated by ICSU in 2017. The first one was held on 12 May 2017 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and the second on 10 November 2017 in Sao Paulo, in conjunction with the Belmont Forum plenary. The key goals of these discussions were to define the ambition for the strategic partnership and to discuss plans for an initial Global Forum of Funders. All participants agreed that efforts to build a global partnership among funding agencies should be pursued, as such a partnership could contribute to building a global movement for science for society. It would send a strong message to the world on the importance of defending the value of science and emphasizing the critical role it plays in generating the knowledge required for tackling global societal challenges. The new partnership would provide a space for sharing information and insight as well as helping to understand how different types of funders work. Furthermore, the opportunity of this partnership is to demonstrate that global collaboration is possible and can be of great impact, despite national, legal and financial constraints. The partnership could also help remove barriers to organizing
research at a global level.

Partners agreed to to hold a first Global Forum of Funders in 2019, with planning taking place in 2018.

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