This document sets out the International Science Council’s (ISC) goals for action over the next two and a half years. Its most important purpose is to form a practical framework for the ISC’s work, in all of its key functions, until the end of 2021. It therefore gives effect to the Council’s vision and mission, contained in the high-level strategy published on the occasion of the Council’s launch in 2018. In addition, it will serve as a basis for active engagement with ISC members, and as a point of departure for dialogue and cooperation with partners and funders who share our objectives.

The Action Plan is intended to be a living document, allowing the ISC the flexibility to respond to new and emerging opportunities, and to adapt to ongoing strategic reflection and development. It will also provide a basis for continual monitoring and progress reporting to members and other stakeholders.

At the heart of the Action Plan is a selection of projects and programmes that are relevant to all scientific fields and all parts of the world. Some of these are already in progress; others are ready for development. Many encompass and build on ongoing ISC activities, including the Council’s portfolio of international research programmes, scientific committees, networks, data bodies and observing systems.

Process of development

The Action Plan was initiated at the October 2018 meeting of the ISC Governing Board. At that meeting, members of the Board identified four domains of critical importance for contemporary science. A review of existing activities was also undertaken to explore how these domains were already being addressed. Following this initial phase of priority setting, Governing Board Working Groups were established to develop, with support from the Council’s headquarters team, plans for the Council’s work on science, on freedom and responsibility in science, on outreach and engagement, on finance and fundraising, and on the future of the ISC’s existing regional structures. The process of science planning included consultation with members on a series of projects and programmes, which have since been further reviewed by external experts. This eight-month planning period concluded during the June 2019 Governing Board meeting.


Our success in implementing the ambitious plans set out in this document will depend on the support and involvement of all the Council’s members and partners. The implementation process will be overseen by the Governing Board, assisted by four specialized Standing Committees which have recently been appointed on the basis of nominations from members. Their respective remits are for: Science Planning, Freedom and Responsibility in Science, Outreach and Engagement, and Finance and Fundraising. Each of the Committees convenes a rich set of expertise and networks, and is chaired and vice-chaired by members of the Board, providing close alignment with the Board’s activities.

Call to action

The Action Plan effectively launches the ISC’s global call to action – a call that aims to motivate and activate our growing membership to engage in the ISC’s projects and programmes listed under our four domains of impact – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; The Digital Revolution; Science in Policy and Public Discourse; and The Evolution of Science and Science Systems. The ISC seeks partnerships with members, with other international scientific organizations, with funders and with stakeholders in the public and private sectors who are inspired by the actions presented in the Plan and who want to join us and who share the ambitions captured in our global call.

The next three years will be crucial for the Council. One year on from the merger of its two predecessor organizations (ICSU and ISSC) and the launch of the ISC, we need to harness the support behind the merger in order to deliver on its promise to build a stronger global voice for science. In what may be a challenging environment for science, we as scientists have the responsibility to deliver knowledge that can help find solutions to the complex problems facing societies worldwide. The Council’s Action Plan is commensurate with the challenges we face, and is designed to make our unique contribution as the global voice for science. It represents a first step, and, indeed, a commitment to our vision of science as a global public good. We look forward to working with you to make that vision a reality.

Daya Reddy

International Science Council
September 2019

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