Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

The New International Science Council:  A Global Voice for Science

by Manuel Limonta, director of ICSU ROLAC

“Complex global problems span the natural and social sciences and that solutions to such problems demand a joint approach of the two”1, that is how, in the article Blurring Interdisciplinary Boundaries, Gordon McBean – ICSU’s president; and Alberto Martinelli – ISSC’s president define the imperative of facing current and ambitious Sustainable Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations (UN). This so-long awaited merger tumbles down the traditional barriers between social and natural sciences, opening a new gate of opportunities to achieve more ambitious and integral goals for the ultimate benefit of society through science.

The merging process was certainly not an easy process and many steps were taken in order to arrive to a final decision. It all began in 2015 with an exchange of letters between the ISSC and ICSU presidents on the future relationship between the two Councils, action which rapidly led the two organizations to initial agreements and meetings for the merger. Then, in the ICSU’s 31st General Assembly, at Auckland in 2016, both the ISSC and ICSU decided in-principle to pursue a merger. Soon after setting such important foundation, a working group was established to initiate an early draft strategy which was later presented to ICSU and ISSC executives, and members in order to get feedback on such strategy. Then, a final strategy was submitted to executives and members of the ISSC and ICSU, only after having several meetings and discussions on the subject.

On October 25-26, right after and in the frame of ICSU’s 32nd General Assembly in Taipei, both merging organizations called their membership, which adds up to more than 40 international scientific unions and associations and around 140   national and regional organizations, to carry out final discussions, debates and forums before casting a final vote on key issues such as Approve the Draft High-Level Strategy; Agree on proposal for development of a new dues structure; Agree on the Draft Statutes for Rules of Procedure; Vote for or against the merger; Vote for the preferred name of the new organization, and alike.

ICSU’s press release on the merger2 quotes, Alberto Martinelli, President of ISSC, who said: “This vote comes at a crucial moment for science. Now more than ever before, a powerful and credible voice is needed to advocate the value and values of all science to society. The unified science council will champion all the sciences and their role in responding to today’s global challenges.” Then, in the same release Gordon McBean stated “I am immensely proud that our members have voted to endorse this historic merger which carves out a new space for our proud historic legacy – to be the global voice of all sciences in a digitally connected world.”. Then, after the counting of the votes was revealed, it was announced that members of ICSU and ISSC overwhelmingly voted to merge – by 97.6% and 90% respectively. 

Out the long, but needed process, a new organization has arisen: The International Science Council (ISC) which will definitely have a whole new level of capacities, resources, and networks derived from their new extended membership. Going back to the article quoted in the first paragraph, both McBean and Martinelli state that the International Science Council will have to face important challenges, such as creating   an impact-oriented agenda focused on science for policy and policy for science; Establishing and consolidating partnerships; addressing problems across the natural and social sciences. In addition to these challenges, the ISC will continue efforts initiated by ICSU and ISSC in areas such as disaster risk reduction, urban health and sustainability.

The International Science Council will be officially launched at a founding General Assembly   in   Paris, France in July 2018. The mission of the ISC will be to serve as the worldwide voice for science, providing leadership in initiating, fostering and arranging global initiatives on issues of genuine open concern. To conclude, I allow myself to quote Elisa Reis3, member of the ICSU ROLAC’s regional committee, who in our Newsletter, Issue 01/2017 said “ICSU and ISSC [now the ISC] seek to make the path-break move towards an integrated view of science will certainly open new venues for the production of knowledge towards a better life for humankind”.

Our ROLAC is hosting a very important meeting in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on April 9-11, 2018 to inform and discuss with representatives (sciences academies and others) of all the countries of our region about this merger. Heide Hackmann, General Director of ICSU, will be guiding this important discussion.

In these three days, the three regional offices of ICSU (ICSU Africa, Asia Pacific and ROLAC) will meet also in Cartagena and under the guidance of Heide Hackmann, to discuss important issues related to the work of these offices under the new International Science Council.

  1. Martinelli, A and McBean, G (2017) Blurring disciplinary boundaries, Science AAAS, Volume 358(6366):975-975, November 24, 2017, accessed on 12/12/17, retrieved from
  2. The International Science Council (2017) World’s leading bodies of social and natural sciences to merge in 2018, becoming “International Science Council” [Press Release] Retrieved from
  3. Reis, E (2017) Strengthening the Scientific Dialogue for a Better World, ICSU ROLAC, Newsletter Issue 1/2017.