In late 2021, ISC Members were informed that Heide Hackmann had decided to step down from her role as Chief Executive Officer of the International Science Council. She had held this position since the creation of the Council in 2018, having previously served as Executive Director of the ISC’s two predecessor organizations: the International Social Science Council (ISSC), from 2006 to 2015, and the International Council for Science (ICSU), from 2015 to 2018.

Reflections from Heide Hackmann, inaugural Chief Executive Officer

‘Preparing for the 2021 General Assembly gave us an opportunity to reflect on the immense amount of work that has taken place since the launch of the International Science Council in 2018. In October 2021, when we met online together with member representatives from around the world, Patrons of the ISC, and representatives of the organizations that we have built new partnerships with over the past few years, it was clear how much we had achieved since the founding ISC General Assembly in Paris three years earlier. 

The ISC was launched with the ambition for the natural and social sciences to come together to form a new organization that would create a unified and therefore stronger global voice for science, better equipped to address major issues of global concern to both science and society. The Governing Board and Secretariat were tasked with giving substance to that vision, working together with Members to develop new projects and new ways of working. We were called upon to deepen and expand the networks and convening power of the Council, and to undertake new projects that would amplify the vision and mission of the Council globally. The major reports produced during the past three years, such as Rethinking Human Development, the Hazard Definition and Classification Review, and Opening the record of science: making scholarly publishing work for science in the digital era were developed through new international steering groups and partnership agreements, including with UNDP and UNDRR. The work of the Global Forum of Funders and establishment of the Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability further demonstrates how the Council has expanded its reach to advance science that has the potential to create real impact on the most challenging and pressing issues facing policy-makers and societies today.  

Implementing a new portfolio of projects at the same time as maintaining the Council’s long-standing support for a diverse range of networks and programmes has been both challenging and rewarding. We have professionalised the functions of the secretariat, strengthening the team without significant expansion. This was especially necessary when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing us to shift our ways of working and adapt to the new and urgent questions requiring scientific input. The effects of the pandemic on scientific research and science systems are far from over, and I am confident that the Council will be ready to be at the forefront of understanding and responding to this evolving challenge in years to come. When the Council was launched in 2018, we couldn’t have imagined how far the world would have changed in just three years’ time, but responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that open, inclusive and international scientific collaboration is essential, and that scientific knowledge has a unique role to play in addressing global challenges of this proportion.  

My new position takes me back to my homeland to work for the future of science in Africa. I hope it will be possible to continue my engagement with and support for the ISC in the shared enterprise of promoting science as a global public good.’ 

Heide Hackmann, inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the ISC, 2018 – 2022

Heide Hackmann stepped down from her role as CEO in February 2022. In recognition of her remarkable contribution to international science, the ISC Governing Board is establishing the Heide Hackmann Science Policy and Diplomacy Fellowship, which will be launched in 2022. 


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