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Annual Report 2023

2023 has been a transformative year for the Council.

The International Science Council is proud to share its 2023 Annual Report, highlighting a year of transformative achievements setting the stage for future success.

Annual Report 2023

Foreword from the President and the CEO 

The year 2023 has been transformative for the Council, marked by a notable increase in the ISC’s profile, reflected in its enhanced global impact through collaborations with Members and partners.

In parallel, the Council has enhanced its governance through extensive consultations with Members, resulting in revised statutes and significant development and reorganization of the Secretariat. Led by the Working Group on Constitutional Revision, Members played a vital role in the constitutional reform process, demonstrating their vision and the ISC’s ability to adapt to evolving scientific and societal landscapes. These shifting landscapes, coupled with the challenges to science as a trusted source of knowledge, mean that the role of the ISC and its engaged membership is more crucial now than ever. Our efforts in reforming the statutes and creating an agile Secretariat have aimed to better position the ISC to effectively respond to these challenges.

We have strengthened our role and reach by establishing liaison mechanisms within the United Nations system through our New York presence and the launch of the UN Group of Friends on Science for Action. We’ve expanded partnerships with UN agencies such as UNESCO, UNEP and UNDP, enabling the mobilization of experts from our membership to support specific science-driven UN processes, strengthening the voice of science on the international stage.

By broadening our membership to encompass early and mid-career scientists, we have cultivated a more inclusive and dynamic ISC community. Furthermore, by reinstating our regional presence and forging partnerships in Asia and the Pacific through the Australian Academy of Science, in Latin America and the Caribbean via the Colombian Academy of Exact Sciences, and with Future Africa exploring roles for the ISC in Africa, we are better equipped to address local and global challenges with specialized regional expertise.
Our science coordination capacities underwent a significant overhaul, exemplified by the launch of the Centre for Science Futures and the appointment of Dr. Vanessa McBride as our new Science Director. The launch of the Centre, along with the active engagement of our Committee for Science Policy (CSP) has been pivotal in ensuring that our science coordination remains both responsive and forward-looking. The session highlighting the science priorities of the ISC’s Affiliated Bodies at the Mid-term Meeting of Members in Paris inspired a renewed effort for future collaboration from ISC Members.

Amid ongoing global conflicts and polarization, the ISC has remained steadfast in its principle of non-discrimination within the scientific community. Our Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) has been actively monitoring the impact of polarized views on science, ensuring that scientific endeavours remain free from instrumentalization by conducting seminal work on the positioning of science in times of conflict. The CFRS issued critical statements on freedom and responsibility in science, including an important joint statement with the InterAcademy Partnership on threats to the autonomy of academies of science as mechanisms for science advice.

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has been a focal point of our work. We undertook a systematic assessment of the impacts of AI and other emerging technologies on science and science systems, along with national measures related to AI. This included the launch of a series of regional workshops on science systems in the national context and the release of a framework for evaluating rapidly developing digital and related technologies. This framework addresses issues of AI governance, including large language models, filling a significant gap in the global discussion. This ongoing work aims to provide comprehensive insights and guidelines to navigate the complex landscape of technological advancements.

The ISC continued its convening role addressing core issues affecting the scientific publishing community, with the publication of papers on the “Key Principles for Scientific Publishing” and “The Case for Reform of Scientific Publishing.” The Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability launched its paper, “Flipping the Science Model,” at the High-level Political Forum, sparking widespread interest in joining the ISC’s call for doing science differently to attain a sustainable future.

In sad news for the ISC and in particular, the Colombian Academy of Exact, Natural and Physical Sciences and the Regional Focal Point for Latin America and the Caribbean (RFP-LAC), we acknowledged the sudden passing in September 2023 of Dr. Enrique Forero González. Dr. Forero served on the ISC’s inaugural Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science and was the Director of the RFP-LAC. He was known for his scientific integrity, constant intellectual curiosity and sense of humour, and his passing has left a major void in our scientific community.

Overall, 2023 has been a year of substantial progress and strategic enhancements for the ISC. Our expanded functions, revamped science coordination, constitutional reforms, proactive response to global challenges, and strengthened Secretariat position us well for the future as we enter the International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development. We look forward to continuing our mission with renewed vigour and commitment in 2024 and beyond, and we look forward to seeing Members in Oman in January 2025 for the General Assembly.

Forging a global science community

The ISC serves as a tool to ensure that the voice of science influences all those involved in science systems, including funders, research infrastructure, university consortia, science publishers, policy for science, public perceptions of science, hence also science journalists, and more. To achieve this objective, it is imperative that the active scientific community, alongside other essential stakeholders within the science ecosystem, coalesce to articulate and advocate with a unified and coherent voice.

Salvatore Aricò, Chief Executive Officer of the International Science Council

In 2023, the ISC significantly strengthened its membership and regional engagement, promoting global scientific representation and collaboration.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretariat actively fostered relationships with ISC Members globally and regionally, organizing major in-person events and multiplying engagement opportunities. These efforts yielded rich collaborations throughout the year, including the convening of all Members at the ISC Mid-term Meeting of Members, regional collaboration in the Global Knowledge Dialogue (GKD) for Asia and the Pacific held in Kuala Lumpur, in partnership with the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and the Australian Academy of Science.

A significant aspect of these efforts involved solidifying the Council’s regional presence and promoting regional partnerships through its Regional Focal Points (RFPs). Building upon the establishment of its Liaison Committee in 2022, the Latin American and Caribbean RFP held its inaugural meeting in the Dominican Republic in March 2023. It also played a significant role at the SRI meeting in Panama. In July, the ISC signed a landmark agreement with the Australian Academy of Science for five years to host the ISC RFP for Asia and the Pacific, with the support of a generous grant from the Australian Government. Its Advisory Council was inaugurated later in the year.

In Africa, where RFP developments are underway, the ISC, alongside Future Africa, convened a Science Forum in South Africa, aiming to lay the groundwork for new pan-African science initiatives that would strengthen the voice of African scientists globally.

In a bid to actively engage scientists, as well as national and regional scientific institutions, ISC Members nominated focal points to collaborate with and strengthen the RFPs. This collaborative approach at the global and regional level aims to foster a dynamic ecosystem of scientific engagement across disciplinary and geographical borders, thereby ensuring Members’ needs and priorities are effectively captured and reflected in the Council’s strategic agenda.

In 2023, the Council also made a priority of enhancing the representation of Early and Mid- Career Researchers (EMCRs) in its membership and activities. Seventeen Young Academies and Associations became Members of the ISC. Together with ISC Member the Global Young Academy (GYA), the Council launched the Young Academies and Associations Forum – an informal virtual space for EMCRs to exchange ideas, learn and collaborate. The inaugural Forum, held during the Kuala Lumpur GKD, convened over 50 EMCR scientists to address their key challenges and propose recommendations and actions.

The need to increase EMCR representation in leadership positions within science organizations was also a key issue discussed at the Mid-term Meeting of Members. To promotetheir participation in significant global science events, the ISC supported several EMCRs, in particular from the Global South, to take part in the Future Earth SRI conference in Panama and in the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Open Science Conference in Rwanda.

Finally, in 2023, the ISC appointed 100 new ISC Fellows, in recognition of outstanding contributions to promoting science as a global public good. The Fellowship is the highest honour that can be conferred on an individual by the ISC. Together with the 123 individuals that were appointed in 2022, the new ISC Fellows will support the Council at a critical moment for science and sustainability as we enter the UN’s International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development (IDSSD) in 2024.

The need to increase EMCR representation in leadership positions within science organizations was also a key issue discussed at the Mid-term Meeting of Members. To promote their participation in significant global science events, the ISC supported several EMCRs, in particular from the Global South, to take part in the Future Earth SRI conference in Panama and in the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Open Science Conference in Rwanda. 

Finally, in 2023, the ISC appointed 100 new ISC Fellows, in recognition of outstanding contributions to promoting science as a global public good.  The Fellowship is the highest honour that can be conferred on an individual by the ISC. Together with the 123 individuals that were appointed in 2022, the new ISC Fellows will support the Council at a critical moment for science and sustainability as we enter the UN’s International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development (IDSSD) in 2024.

Mid-term Meeting of Members

Three hundred delegates from the ISC membership and Affiliated Bodies gathered in Paris for the ISC’s ‘Capitalizing on Synergies  in Science’ Mid-term Meeting of Members— the first all-member event since the ISC’s creation in 2018. The three-day in-person dialogue focused on strengthening member relationships, addressing global science developments, and exploring the evolution of science systems to adapt to new challenges.

Global Knowledge Dialogue 

The ISC continued its GKD series, which started with the African scientific community in 2022. In 2023, regional delegates from Asia and the Pacific gathered in  Kuala Lumpur to foster scientific representation and collaboration. The Council continued its collaboration with its Member, the Organization for Women Scientists in the Developing World (OWSD), to ensure representation by women at the GKDs. In 2024, the initiative continued with a meeting in Chile to mobilize the Latin American and the Caribbean science communities.

Pacific meeting  

The ISC partnered with the National University of Samoa, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and the Richard Lounsbery Foundation to facilitate a regional discussion on “Science in the Pacific” in Apia, Samoa. More than 60 regional scholars gave strong support to an ambitious plan to co-design and establish a Pacific academy of sciences and humanities.

Representing science in the multilateral system

Let’s all remember Target 16.8 of SDG 16: Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance”. This inclusive participation requires all countries to have access to the latest scientific evidence, but also ensuring that this science is diverse, open, and draws from local knowledge.

María Estelí Jarquín, member of the ISC Standing Committee for Outreach and Engagement 2022-2025 

In 2023, the ISC membership significantly increased its capacity to integrate science in multilateral policy processes, especially within the United Nations (UN) and other multilateral systems. 

Operating at the nexus of science and policy, the ISC integrates scientific knowledge into international policy-making to ensure policies incorporate scientific insights and address the needs of the scientific community. As part of this commitment, the ISC vigorously champions the creation of a policy framework that nurtures scientific research and empowers scientists, thereby equipping them to tackle societal challenges effectively.

To enhance its capacity to provide scientific advice for global policy processes, the ISC established a dedicated Global Science Policy Unit. This unit oversees relations with UN agencies, manages ISC representation in UN processes and co-leads projects with UN entities. The appointment of a UN Liaison Officer in New York in September further facilitates ISC representation and fosters closer working relationships with UN partners and Member States.

As co-chair of the UN Scientific and Technological Community Major Group, the ISC fosters dialogue on science, technology and innovation cooperation to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), providing inputs to the UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF). Through this position, the Council also pushes for increased diversity in science at the policy level by facilitating participation in UN events for its Members, Affiliated Bodies and partners.

In 2023, the ISC co-convened a plenary session within the official programme of the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Forum for the first time, supported by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President and the Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom and South Africa as co-chairs of the Forum. During this session, the ISC emphasized the importance of genuine engagement and the critical need for a higher level of ambition

to accelerate SDG implementation, requiring a more scaled-up application of science, technology, innovation and engineering to accelerate progress towards these goals.

During the HLPF, the ISC collaborated in organizing the inaugural UN Science Day – in partnership with the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) – providing a critical platform for decision-makers, scientists and stakeholders to discuss science-based solutions and strategies for addressing the slow progress on the SDGs. As a result, the ISC and its partners issued a statement by ISC Fellows to advocate for the urgent acceleration of SDG progress by harnessing scientific evidence and action. This initiative strengthened collaboration with UNDP and the office of the UN President of the General Assembly, positioning the ISC in taking a lead role encouraging transformative science action at the 2023 SDG Summit.

Group of Friends on Science for Action

In 2023, a significant development was the ISC’s initiation and support of the launch of a UN Group of  Friends (GoF) on Science for Action, jointly led by Belgium, India and South Africa. The ISC acts as a joint-Secretariat to the GoF, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The GoF serves as an informal coalition of countries advocating for the integration of science in UN General Assembly deliberations and across the UN system. This milestone enables the ISC to work directly with UN Member States, fostering relationships that support scientific evidence in national and global decision-making.

UNEP-ISC Foresight Project

In 2023, a significant development was the ISC’s initiation and support of the launch of a UN Group of  Friends (GoF) on Science for Action, jointly led by Belgium, India and South Africa. The ISC acts as a joint-Secretariat to the GoF, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The GoF serves as an informal coalition of countries advocating for the integration of science in UN General Assembly deliberations and across the UN system. This milestone enables the ISC to work directly with UN Member States, fostering relationships that support scientific evidence in national and global decision-making.

New and strengthened UN ties

In 2023, the ISC signed a letter of intent to collaborate with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Nations University (UNU). Major efforts also went into operationalizing recent MoUs, notably with the World Health Organization (WHO), with a pilot  project looking at the determinants of youth mental health. ISC Members were invited to nominate experts to join the project’s Oversight Panel, with an emphasis on the participation of younger experts from diverse disciplines and contexts.

Promoting the use of science in policy-making

What’s happening in the polar regions has a global impact. It is crucial that policy-makers understand and take the actions needed. Momentum is building to make those policy changes, amid a growing global sense of urgency, but more needs to happen, quickly.

Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, and Special Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) representative, at the One Planet Polar Summit.

The ISC plays a unique and pivotal role in integrating scientific excellence and science-policy expertise across diverse fields and global regions through its broad membership networks. ISC Members have access to several opportunities, including nominating their experts to participate in key science–policy dialogues, showcasing their achievements on a global scale, and building connections within the ISC network and with other networks.

In 2023, the ISC significantly increased the engagement of its Members in global policy processes across regions and disciplines. As a result, ISC Members and Affiliated Bodies contributed valuable scientific insights to numerous high-level global policy consultations, including significant events such as the UN Water Conference, the Mid-Term Review of

the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution and the dialogues on Global Sea Level Rise in the UN General Assembly.

Additionally, scientists affiliated with ISC Members were able to attend and actively participate in such events, thanks to the ISC facilitating their accreditation and registration with the UN. This inclusive approach enabled ISC Members and Affiliated Bodies to promote their research agenda on a global scale and provide valuable policy recommendations within their areas of expertise.

At COP28, the ISC and its Affiliated Bodies bridged the science policy gap for urgent climate action. The WCRP and Future Earth played active roles in mobilizing the broader scientific community around initiatives such as the Kigali Declaration and the ‘10 New Insights in  Climate Science.’ The ISC also co-hosted an official side-event alongside its Member, the Royal Society, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), exploring ways of better understanding economic impacts of climate change and accelerating science-based climate action globally.

At COP28 the ISC additionally placed a high priority on amplifying the voices of young researchers by supporting their engagement in UN events. Notably, the ISC highlighted  insights from early-career climate researchers in underrepresented regions, thereby ensuring diverse scientific perspectives in the global discourse on climate sciences.

At the Polar Summit in Paris, France, renowned scientists, including from SCAR and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), alerted policy-makers to the unexpectedly rapid pace of change, with the dramatic consequences of extreme climate and weather events unfolding in the Arctic and the Antarctic regions. Scientists were looking for new ways to break through the political impasse and make the case for urgent change. The next International Polar Year (IPY) in 2032–33 (the design of which starts in 2025) will be a key opportunity to take stock of our changing poles and encourage vital research and action.

Mobilizing expertise on water-related issues

The 2023 UN Water Conference was the first of its kind in almost 50 years, aiming to mobilize global action for water resilience and security. With a delegation of over 40 representatives, the Council ensured a strong representation from the scientific community and showcased its capacity to quickly mobilize its networks to deliver on science for policy. Drawing from a policy brief compiled by ISC experts and issued ahead of the event, the ISC provided evidence-based and independent scientific guidance to decision-makers, drawing upon the diverse expertise of its membership in natural and social water-related challenges.

Tackling global plastic pollution

Due to a significant interest among ISC Members and Affiliated Bodies, the ISC is actively engaging in the ongoing negotiations to develop a legally binding instrument to  end plastic pollution. This effort aims to ensure that independent, multidisciplinary science strengthens and guides the instrument’s development. In 2023, prior to the third negotiation meeting (INC-3), the ISC developed a policy  brief advancing a strong science– policy–society interface to support implementation of the binding instrument, including a set of principles and functions to guide the scope, objectives and institutional arrangements of such a scientific mechanism.

Reframing Trust in Science for Multilateral Policy

The ISC’s Centre for Science Futures addressed the pressing issue of declining trust in science and rising misinformation in its working paper ‘The Contextualization  Deficit: Reframing Trust in Science  for Multilateral Policy.’ Drawing on empirical evidence spanning 15 years, the paper proposes updates to the science–policy interface model and offers a practical framework for stakeholders to identify systemic requirements at global, regional or local levels. Presented in collaboration with the UNESCO UniTwin Chair on Communication for Science as a Public Good, the paper debuted at the 2023 Science Journalism Forum, engaging science journalists and relevant stakeholders.

Promoting international science cooperation and setting global science priorities 

The world needs science – all science, packaged into actionable knowledge, ready to be acted upon to solve practical and pressing issues. Just as the global community has used “big science” approaches to build the CERN and the Square Kilometre Array, it is more than time to apply a similar mindset to properly address sustainability challenges.

Irina Bokova, ISC Patron and Co-chair of the Global Commission for Science Missions for Sustainability 

The ISC advocates for an urgent shift towards a collaborative, mission-led and actionable science model in addressing pressing societal and existential challenges.

The ISC plays a pivotal role in fostering global scientific collaboration and shaping the international scientific agenda. Notably, its Affiliated Bodies serve as platforms for bringing together scientists from various disciplines, coordinating global and interdisciplinary scientific research programmes and providing policy guidance. These joint initiatives, supported by the ISC and other international organizations, including from the UN system, are critical for advancing scientific priorities and addressing the world’s most pressing issues.

In 2023, several Affiliated Bodies released strategic plans to shape global research across various fields. The Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) introduced long-term programmes in solar terrestrial physics, while the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and SCAR launched initiatives to enhance global climate observations and provide an open-access geological mapping database for Antarctica. The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) started a small satellite programme to help low- and middle- income countries engage in space-based research with minimal investment. Additionally, Future Earth hosted the world’s largest transdisciplinary sustainability event in Panama, attracting over 2,000 leaders and experts. The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) convened more than 1,400 participants at an Open Science Conference in Rwanda, culminating in the Kigali Declaration which emphasized urgent climate action and the societal benefits of climate research.

In addition to advancing thematic research agendas, the ISC has advocated strongly at the Annual meeting of the Global Research Council, the UN STI Forum and the HLPF for a shift towards a collaborative, mission-driven and actionable science model to tackle urgent societal and existential challenges.

The traditional science model, marked by intense competition and fragmented funding, does not adequately address our most urgent societal and existential needs. To promote sustainability, science must become more collaborative, mission-oriented and actionable wherever it is applied. This necessitates a new global science model capable of supporting transdisciplinary and mission-driven research effectively and sustainably.

In its ‘Flipping the Science Model’ report, released at the HLPF, the ISC Global Commission proposes establishing a network of Pilots for Science Missions for Sustainability. These pilots will focus on mobilizing coordinated, collective science-based actions to address complex sustainability challenges at the global, regional and local levels. The Science Missions model represents the ISC’s strategic response to the significant disparity between the scale of global challenges and the current frameworks and funding mechanisms for scientific research. This disconnect is particularly evident in the unequal capacity to generate critical scientific knowledge, especially in regions most in need, such as in the Global South.

Flipping the Science model 

The ISC’s groundbreaking report, unveiled at the 2023 UN HLPF, ‘Flipping the Science Model: A  Roadmap to Science Missions for Sustainability,’ outlines a visionary model for transdisciplinary and mission-led science. It seeks to elevate the collaboration between science, policy and society to new heights, tailored for our unprecedented era. The goal is to render knowledge fully actionable, integrated and engaged, aiming for solutions that match the scale of humanity’s most critical challenges. The proposed mission-led science model was featured in ‘Nature’ as an approach for aligning science funding with the SDGs. To test the model, the ISC will launch a global call for Pilot Science Missions for Sustainability in 2024.

 ⭐ STI4SDGs Roadmaps in Africa

To present its science mission model for mobilizing science and research funding for sustainable development, the ISC was invited to the workshop on STI4SDGs Roadmaps in Africa. The ISC called for transformative action, mobilizing scientific experts and advocating for a re-evaluation of current scientific practices and funding approaches for sustainability.

 ⭐ International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development 

The ISC is proud to have engaged its Members in supporting the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development throughout the year. This support included the sharing of valuable analytical resources and, critically, a collaboration with ISC-GeoUnions. This partnership featured the regular ‘ISC Distinguished Lecture  Series,’ which contributed to the Year by addressing issues such as ‘Energy Sustainability for Net Zero’ and ‘From Fire to Space: How Basic Sciences Lead and Shape Our Paths Toward Sustainable Development.’

Defending and promoting science freedom and responsibility

Freedom and responsibility in science is fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental wellbeing. However, these rights can be undermined when politically motivated government interference in institutional autonomy occurs, leading to a chilling effect on the practice of scientific endeavour at a time when the world is racing to find solutions to global existential crises.

Anne Husebekk, ISC Vice-President for Freedom and Responsibility in Science

The ISC has worked with partners to safeguard scientific freedoms and responsibilities, responding to the concerning trends of declining academic freedom and diminishing trust in science. 

The Council’s Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) serves as the custodian of the Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science. Operating at the nexus of science and human rights, the Committee is dedicated to safeguarding the freedoms inherent to scientific pursuit and ensuring that scientists uphold their responsibilities.

The CFRS is mandated to consider and respond to threats to science systems and individual scientists whose freedoms and rights are restricted. In 2023, the Committee responded to cases in Greece, Ukraine, Israel, Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Sudan, Argentina, Nicaragua, USA, Fiji and Australia, as well as to cases with global scope. At the end of 2023, the Committee was actively monitoring a total of 35 cases.

Recent years have witnessed a concerning decline in scientific freedom – a trend confirmed in 2023, which can be partly attributed to a growing polarization at political and social levels in many countries. Responding to these challenges, CFRS embarked on a review of the ISC Principles of Freedom and Responsibility of Science and is in the process of formulating a definition of the ‘Right to Science’.

In collaboration with UNESCO, the ISC organized a conference to explore the concepts of scientific freedom and responsibility, leveraging existing normative standards and analyses, including UNESCO’s 2017 Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers and the ISC CFRS’s 2021 discussion paper. The conference also addressed challenges posed by rapid scientific and technological advancements. These discussions aimed to identify strategies to strengthen governmental and institutional efforts, particularly in the context of declining trust in science.

Additionally, as part of a global drive to seek regional perspectives, the CFRS organized a dedicated session on the sidelines of the ISC GKD for Asia and the Pacific region in Kuala Lumpur. This workshop explored region-specific trends, challenges, successes and opportunities pertaining to the advancement of freedom and responsibility in science in the region.

The New Zealand government has actively supported the CFRS since 2016. This support continues with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment supporting CFRS Special Advisor Gustav Kessel, based at the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi.

⭐  2nd Conference on the war in Ukraine 

The ISC, ALLEA and the Ukraine scientific community organized a 2023 virtual conference on the war in Ukraine, bringing together over 530 participants. The three- day event mobilized the scientific community to evaluate the protection and support efforts implemented during the past year while assessing ways forward for enhanced support and post-conflict reconstruction. Following the discussions, the partners released the 2023 edition of the conference report, highlighting new considerations based on the worsening situation in Ukraine.

⭐  Podcast series on freedom and responsibility in science in the 21st century 

What do freedom and responsibility mean today, and why do they matter to the scientific community? This 2023 ISC podcast series explores the 21st-century issues tied to freedom and responsibility in science over six episodes. Expert guests, such as Soumya Swaminathan and Courtney C. Radsch, explored critical topics including building trust in science, using emerging technologies responsibly, combating mis- and dis-information and the intersections between science and politics.

⭐  Joint IAP-ISC statement

Throughout the year, the CFRS actively engaged in various initiatives aimed at raising awareness about the importance of scientific freedom and responsibility and promoting efforts to enhance their implementation. As part of these efforts, the ISC and the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) issued a joint statement expressing profound concern over increasing state interference in the autonomy of national academies of science and urging governments worldwide to adopt legal frameworks protecting national academies from such interference.

Empowering the science community to embrace changing practices 

Through advocating for reform in scientific publishing, promoting Open Science and transdisciplinarity, the ISC is fostering an enabling environment for science as a global public good. 

A resilient and inclusive research system is essential for advancing scientific knowledge and effectively addressing global challenges. However, this system faces mounting pressure from various stakeholders, including funders, governments and the publishing industry, as well as intensifying competition.

The ISC envisions science as a global public good. Achieving this vision requires an enabling environment and a paradigm shift in the conduct, dissemination and evaluation of science. To this end, the ISC is actively tackling structural aspects by improving knowledge accessibility, fostering collaboration, upholding ethical standards and advocating for diversity and inclusion.

Building on the 2021 General Assembly where ISC Members endorsed eight essential  principles for modern scientific publishing, the ISC released ‘The Key Principles for Scientific Publishing,’ along with a companion paper, ‘The Case for Reform of Scientific Publishing’. This second paper evaluates the extent to which the outlined conditions for modern scientific publishing are being met, aiming to initiate a discussion on possible actions the ISC could take to realize its ambitious principles in building open knowledge systems. These papers underscore the shortcomings of scientific publishing, particularly within the commercial sector, and emphasize the urgent need to prioritize knowledge as a global public good over the ‘publish or perish’ culture.

In 2023, the ISC continued to emphasize the critical need for a substantial shift towards transdisciplinary research to effectively address complex global challenges, particularly those outlined in the UN 2030 Agenda. The ISC report ‘A Model for Implementing  Mission Science for Sustainability’ by the Global Commission’s Technical Advisory Group, underpinning the ‘Flipping the Science Model’ report, makes the case to adopt a transdisciplinary research approach, which integrates diverse knowledge systems. This requires science institutions to implement new models of funding and assessing research and researchers to reduce the structural barriers to transdisciplinarity.

Furthermore, the ISC and its Committee on Data (CODATA) have collaborated closely with UNESCO and the World Data System (WDS) on the promotion of Open Science and the accessibility of scientific data. Together, the partners organized a one-day symposium at International Data Week in Salzburg, Austria, aimed at exploring current and emerging cooperative frameworks in science, digitalization and ethics to advance the implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science.

Reviewing research evaluation 

The ISC’s think tank, the Centre for Science Futures, in collaboration with the GYA and the IAP, conducted a review of current research  evaluation systems. This review includes an examination of recent actions, responses and initiatives undertaken by various stakeholders, illustrated through several case examples from around the world, with the goal to contribute to ongoing debates and address open questions regarding the future of research evaluation.

Fostering transdisciplinary science 

As science systems rapidly evolve, there is an increasing recognition of the need to bridge the gap between scientists in natural and social sciences and non-academic stakeholders who contribute valuable insights to complex challenges. This necessitates the adoption of a transdisciplinary research approach, which integrates diverse knowledge systems. The ‘Looking at the Future of Transdisciplinary Research’ paper by the ISC’s Centre of Science Futures examines the evolution of science leading to the emergence of transdisciplinarity and identifies key considerations for its successful application in shaping the future of research. 

LIRA research programme 

The ISC-led research funding programme, ‘Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa’ (LIRA 2030 Africa), adopted a unique approach to studying urban sustainability challenges through transdisciplinary research. The programme ended in 2023, and two reports highlighting key achievements and lessons learned from advancing and practicing transdisciplinary science in Africa were published. The insights gained were recognized and promoted across multiple platforms. These included a ‘Nature’ article, a chapter in ‘The Handbook of Transdisciplinarity: Global Perspectives,’ along with presentations at the 2023 Annual meeting of the Global Research Council and recognition in the Swiss Academy report as a flagship programme in sustainability research and innovation. 

Equipping the scientific community to help define and navigate science futures 

The story behind the Centre started with thinking about what science needs in order to thrive. We have created a team to operate as a think tank inside the ISC that will focus on emerging trends in science and policy for science issues, to gather evidence, develop resources, and conduct foresight exercises relevant to our Members, providing them with the insights they need for the future.

Mathieu Denis, Head of the Centre for Science Futures 

In 2023, the ISC inaugurated its think tank, the Centre for Science Futures, to assess emerging trends in science and promoting new approaches to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of science. 

In its ongoing commitment to support the advancement of science, the ISC established the Centre for Science Futures to effectively position itself amidst the transformation of science systems. Operating as a think tank within the ISC, the Centre aims to deepen our understanding of emerging trends in science and research systems, offering actionable options and tools. Serving ISC Members, the global scientific community and policy-makers, the Centre prioritizes interdisciplinary and global perspectives, providing science-based guidance on initiatives related to the future of science and the global scientific ecosystem.

To transcend the confines of the traditional academic sphere, the Centre for Science Futures actively pursued collaborations with the private and university sectors. These collaborations aimed to cultivate new networks embracing a broader spectrum of scientific expertise and harness resources, expertise and cutting-edge technology from industry leaders such as Nvidia and the Metaverse Institute. Following its inauguration, the Centre signed an official partnership agreement with Sciences Po Paris, cementing the university as a founding partner of the Centre.

During the Digital with Purpose conference – a platform focused on leveraging technology to address sustainability challenges – the Centre’s head, Mathieu Denis, addressed issues on the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) on science organizations and research systems, emphasizing that the question is no longer if AI is changing science, but rather how it is doing so.

To meet these evolutions, the ISC collaborated with its Members to enhance their digital capabilities. At the request of ISC Members stemming from the ISC Mid-term Meeting, the Secretariat organized a practical workshop to create a safe space for AI experimentation in everyday work. Owing to the high number of interested participants, a second session in partnership with the International Union for Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine (IUPESM) and the International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP) was arranged, drawing a total of over 5,000 registrants.

Evaluating rapidly developing digital and AI technologies 

Artificial Intelligence, synthetic biology and quantum technologies are prime examples of innovation, informed by science, emerging at an unprecedented pace. It can be challenging to systematically anticipate not only their applications, but also their implications. Ahead of the AI Safety Summit 2023, the ISC released a discussion paper on a framework for evaluating AI and rapidly developing digital technologies and informing the multiple global and national discussions taking place related to AI. 

AI for science workshop 

In collaboration with the Australian Academy of Science, the Centre for Science Futures convened thought leaders and experts with national mandates in AI for science on the sidelines of the GKD in Kuala Lumpur. Delegates from 12 countries across the Asia-Pacific region gathered for a timely discussion and exchange of insights on formulating national approaches, priorities, identified issues and strategies pertaining to AI in their respective countries. Building on the momentum generated by this workshop, the Centre is releasing a series of reports on Preparing Science Systems for AI. 

Podcast on science-fiction 

In this six-part podcast series, produced in collaboration with the journal ‘Nature’, the Centre for Science Futures explores the intersection of science fiction and science, featuring perspectives from leading authors like Kim Stanley Robinson and Vandana Singh. The series, which is the most listened-to podcast series of the ISC, delves into the creative process behind crafting plausible future scenarios. It discusses inspirations and views on scientific and technological advancements, with topics ranging from climate change and food security to the impacts of AI.

Financial report

In 2023, the International Science Council (ISC) underwent significant strategic and operational changes. As detailed in this annual report, key developments included establishing a UN liaison in New York, launching the Centre for Science Futures, supporting early- and mid-career scientists, and strengthening the secretariat with a new Science Director.

While concluding two long-running, grant-funded programmes, namely Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) and Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa (LIRA 2030), the ISC secured new funding aligned with its expanded ambitions. A major success was a 1.9 million USD grant from the NSF for sustainability activities and increased funding from the Frontiers Foundation for the ISC’s promotion of participation in the Frontiers Planet Prize from the Global South. The new partnership on strategic foresight with UNEP brought in a notable project grant, and a generous grant from the Sasakawa Foundation complemented by a grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation enabled us to coordinate and finance the meeting on an academy of scholars in the Pacific region.

Regarding expenditure, an intense programme of work allowed the Secretariat to utilize a significant portion of the accumulated reserves, following the recommendation of the auditors to reduce reserves in line with the ISC’s non-profit status. A Mid-term Meeting of Members was organized in May 2023, in response to strong demand from the Members. Several budget lines contributed to the cost of organizing this major event and in making sure that the ISC membership in all its diversity was well represented, with the ISC supporting nearly 60 bursaries for ISC Members, principally in low- and middle-income countries (amounting to about 20% of the total cost of the meeting).

Additionally, significant funds were invested in finalizing the work of the ISC Global  Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability; producing seminal work in the area of science in times of crisis and conflict; establishing the liaison function with the UN and ISC engagement with global policy processes; supporting the coordination of the science agenda through the work of the ISC affiliated bodies; managing the nascent ISC Fellowship; and launching the Centre for Science Futures.

The accumulated deficit and the use of the reserves to the end of 2023, and the projections at the end of 2024, fully respect the 2022–2024 budget approved by the membership at the 2021 General Assembly. A modest gain in the ISC investment portfolio reduced the deficit, with a final result in 2023 of a loss of 1,178,559 EUR.

The general (i.e. available) reserves at the beginning of 2024 consequently stood at 772,388 EUR, with the intention to bring these down still further in 2024, while keeping the use of reserves over the three-year budget cycle within the boundaries agreed by the General Assembly in 2021.

The structural reserves of the ISC (1.5m EUR) remain untouched.

Balance sheet 2023

Assets Euros 
Bank & cash balances     1,933,543    
Marketable securities     2,441,282    
Grants to be received        271,390    
Others assets        162,883    
Fixed assets          68,399    
Total assets     4,877,497    
Liabilities  Euros 
External funds allocated     1,442,323    
Sundry creditors & accruals        919,769    
Provision / Retirement        243,017    
Total liabilities     2,605,109    
Reserves  Euros  
Mandatory reserve     1,500,000    
General fund / Retained earnings     1,950,947    
Total reserves     3,450,947    
Net Result 2023–   1,178,559    

Statement of income and expenditure

Income Euros 
Membership dues  
Members Organisations               2,834,237    
Members Unions and Associations                  237,756    
Affiliates Members                    18,935    
Provision Arrears –               187,176    
Earmarked funds  
New Zealand support for CFRS Activities (including dedicated/unspent funds from 2020)                  120,379    
Host Country (France) support                  100,000    
Academia Sinica support to International Center of Excellence (including dedicated/unspent funds from 2020)               1,467,882    
Sweden/SIDA support to LIRA Programme dedicated/unspent funds from 2020                  123,738    
Canada/IDRC support for INGSA activities  (including dedicated/unspent funds from 2020)                    67,176    
USA / NSF grant                  351,590    
Sweden/SIDA and NORFACE support for T2S activities (including dedicated/unspent funds from 2020)                    24,202    
Frontiers Research Foundation Grant 2022-2023                  345,457    
University of Bergen / SRP Prize                      5,000    
UNEP for Developing & Implementing a Strategic Foresight trajectory                  133,546    
Sasakawa Foundation                  103,361    
Lounsbery Foundation                    13,465    
Other income                    32,580    
Cancellation other provisions                  318,122    
Gain on previous years                  160,777    
ISC Sustainable Investment Portfolio                    42,884    
Total income               6,313,911    
Expenditure Euros 
GA,GB,Officers meetings, administrative support and activities                   179,788    
Advisory Committees                  154,682    
Fellowship                    44,468    
ISC Regional Structures                  350,360    
SCIENCE Acitivities  
ISC funding programmes (SIDA support)                    99,339    
ISC Projects & Programme                  193,667    
ISC Engagement in UN and Other Global Policy Processes                  224,323    
ISC co-sponsored international research programmes & affiliated bodies                  415,430    
SCIENCE : ISC Endorsed / Sponsored Events, Initiatives and Prizes                  131,760    
Other : General ISC Representation, Networking and Partnership Development                    95,709    
Dedicated Funds to support the ISC activities (carry over from 2023 to be used in 2024)               1,518,310    
CENTRE FOR SCIENCE FUTURES                    87,263    
COMMUNICATIONS: Corporate communications, Branding, Publications, Outreach activities…                  494,742    
ISC HQ salaries, external consultancy               3,074,617    
Finance and Office                  196,155    
IT and Online meeting platform                  117,111    
Loss on arrears                    69,001    
Loss on exchange                         105    
Portfolio charges & losses                    45,640    
Total expenditure               7,492,470    
Excess of expenditure over income      –   1,178,559    
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