About the International Science Council in 2020 - 2021

About the International Science Council in 2020 - 2021

The International Science Council (ISC) was created in 2018 as the result of a merger between the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC). It is a non-governmental organization with a unique global membership that brings together 40 international scientific Unions and Associations and over 140 national and regional scientific organizations including Academies and Research Councils.

ICIAM was an associate member of ICSU, and automatically became an affiliated member of ISC. For years ICIAM has been trying to understand how to participate in ISC in the best possible and most efficient way; it is not easy to understand how. While in ICSU, ICIAM participated in the General Assemblies, even if as an associate member it did not have the right to vote, and the same has been happening with ISC since 2018. ICIAM created a committee to organize or structure its participation in ICSU’s or ISC’s activities. The first chair was T. Mitsui. After some years, B. Keyfitz joined him in the management of the committee and since 2019 I have been involved in this task. The committee has been trying to follow the policy of ISC, understanding the main activities and as much as possible, participating in online meetings and answering polls and requests sent to members. 

In the past, ICSU launched calls for projects, to which the members could apply, and that is how ICIAM was able to participate in the ‘Gender Gap’ project, which was mainly funded by ICSU and later by ISC. But since 2018 such calls are no longer launched. ISC works in a different manner, setting up a broad range of co-sponsored international research programs, networks and committees; the ISC’s activities span a broad range of issues, from global sustainability, poverty, urban health and wellbeing and disaster risk reduction, to data, observing systems and offering science advice to governments.

The ISC’s activities focus on three principal areas of work:

  • Science-for-policy: to stimulate and support international scientific research and scholarship, and to communicate science that is relevant to international policy issues.
  • Policy-for-science: to promote developments that enable science to contribute more effectively to major issues in the international public domain.
  • Scientific freedom and responsibility: to defend the free and responsible practice of science.

A very detailed action plan for the years 2019-2021 has been published and is available at ISC’s website. The documents produced by ISC are rich and interesting. Debates are also proposed online, for instance recent very interesting debates on scientific publishing which were an addition to the preliminary document prepared by experts in the topic.

Members are asked to contribute in the debates and also to nominate experts to be part of the different panels and working groups. ICIAM has not been very successful recently in making significant contributions, mainly because it is not easy to propose experts in our community, people who are ready to spend time working in those panels on the proposed topics, where it is not always easy to contribute as mathematicians. Some time ago, the ICIAM president asked all ICIAM members for suggestions of experts in the main subjects of interest for ISC. Some names were proposed and in the near future they should be either added to the ICIAM ISC committee or contacted as potential experts. But the input from the members was not as wide as expected. People who are interested in a more detailed picture of the projects ISC is involved in (and particularly how their budget and sponsorship arrangements work) might consult an article in ICIAM DIANOIA by B. Keyfitz ("About the International Science Council", ICIAM DIANOIA, Volume 8 Issue 1.)

Let us hope that in the future ICIAM will be able to have a more efficient participation in this international body which is the voice of Science in places like the UN and plays an important role in the International Network for Government Science Advice.

Maria J. Esteban Past-President of ICIAM and current chair of the ISC Committee of ICIAM



Maria J. Esteban

Maria J. Esteban is a senior researcher at CNRS and works at the University Paris-Dauphine. Her research area includes nonlinear partial differential equations, especially variational methods. Her term as President of ICIAM ended October 1, 2019.