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Home > About ICSU > Structure > Executive Board

Executive Board


Gordon McBean


From early 2013

McBeancropped.jpgProfessor McBean was born and educated in Canada and obtained a PhD in physics from the University of British Colombia (UBC), Vancouver. After an academic and research career that included serving as Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanographic Sciences at UBC, he was appointed Assistant Deputy Minister in Environment Canada, and was, from 1994 to 2000, responsible for climate, weather and air quality sciences and services in the federal government. He currently a Professor in the Departments of Geography and Political Science at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, and is Director of Policy Studies at the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction there. His research interests are in atmospheric and climate sciences, ranging in scope from natural phenomena, and the hazards they generate, to the policies of governments and responses of people to them.

Professor McBean is married to Patricia and has two children and four grandchildren.

For many years McBean has been involved in ICSU and ICSU-related affairs, including the Chair of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the planning of a new decade-long interdisciplinary research programme Integrated Research on Disaster Risk, whose Scientific Committee he chairs until 1 November. He is President of Global Change START International, an organization supporting regional networks and capacity enhancement in Africa and Asia, and notably in the context of ICSU’s international global change programme.

His service and achievements in the fields of climate change and natural hazards research have been recognized with the Orders of Canada (2008) and Ontario (2010). He is a Fellow of the: Royal Society of Canada; the American Meteorological Society; the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society; and received the Patterson Medal for distinguish contributions to meteorology by a Canadian.  As a lead author and review editor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he was a member of the team that was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

He is a member of: the UNESCO High Panel on Science for Development; the Canadian Commission for UNESCO; the IGU Steering Committee for the proposed International Year of Global Understanding; and the UN ISDR Science and Technology Committee.   He is also Chair of Board of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences and the Ontario Research Consortium on Climate Change.

During his time in government, he was an elected Member of the World Meteorological Organization Executive Committee and Vice-Chair of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research.  He was Chair of the Canadian National Committees for IUGG and SCOR and member of the IUGG Bureau and the Board for the International Institute for Sustainable Development.


Catherine Bréchignac


To early 2013

Catherine Brechignac

Catherine Bréchignac, is Permanent Secretary of the French national Académie des Sciences, and a member of the French national Académie des technologies, and President of "Palais de la Découverte” since 2004. After obtaining her PhD in 1977, she started a new field at the frontier of Atomic and Solid State Physics: the cluster physics as precursors of nano-objects. The study of nanoclusters ranging from a few atoms to several thousand atoms, which is a truly interdisciplinary study, provides a bridge between atomic and molecular and solid state physics

Her scientific achievements gained her a coveted “Académie des Sciences” prize in 1991, the CNRS Silver Medal in 1994, James Frank lecturer, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 2001, the Holweck Medal and prize from British and French Physical Societies in 2003, Doctor Honoris Causa of the “Freie Universität Berlin” in 2003, of “Georgia Tech Institute” (USA) in 2006, and of “Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne –EPFL” (Suisse) in 2007.

Catherine Bréchignac has been very influential in many ways in International Sciences and Science Policy: in France, as the founder of Cluster network (1991), as the Director of the Laboratoire Aimé Cotton (1989-1995), as the Scientific Director of the CNRS- Department of Physics and Mathematics (1995-1997), as the Director general of the CNRS (1997-2000), in Europe as chairperson of the European Union Research Organizations Head of Research Councils (1998-2000), President of “Institut d’Optique Graduate School” (2002-2006), and as member or chairperson of many committees such as Member of the Board of the European Physical Society (1989-1994), member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) (1990-1994), as well as member of editorial board of several scientific journals.


Malegapuru William Makgoba

Vice-President for Scientific

Planning and Review

Born in Sekhukhuneland in 1952, Professor Makgoba obtained his M.B. and Ch.B. degrees from the former University of Natal in 1976 with merit in Medicine, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Immunogenetics from Oxford University in 1983. A Fellow of the Royal Physicians of London and a Foreign Associate Member of the US National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, Prof Makgoba is an internationally-recognised molecular immunologist. Prof Makgoba has made ground-breaking contributions to scientific knowledge in his field. He was the first black South African to be selected to the prestigious National Institute of Health’s Fogarty Visiting Programme in the late 1980s. Working with Drs. Martin Sanders and Stephen Shaw and others at the National Cancer Institute, “were among the first to appreciate the importance of lymphocyte adhesion” and their pioneering discoveries profoundly influenced the disciplines of immunology and cell biology in four distinct but complementary areas:

1.  The seminal observation that antigen-independent adhesion mediated by specific molecular pathways of interaction of heterophilic membrane proteins is a hallmark of intercellular interactions in the immune system;

2.   The first described leukocyte adhesion pathway, CD2 binding to LFA-3, mediating antigen-independent T-cell adhesion and signaling;

3.   The second described leukocyte adhesion pathway, LFA-1 binding to ICAM-1 via multiple epitopes, mediating antigen-independent adhesion of T-lymphoid, B-lymphoid, and myeloid leukocytes, antigen-specific T-cell cytotoxicity, and signaling; and;

4.   The first comprehensive description of human memory and naïve T-cell subsets by differential coordinate expression of multiple adhesion molecules and other molecules, and differences in cytokine production. The demonstration that these changes in adhesion molecule expression and function are cardinal features of naïve to memory cell differentiation”.

Prof Makgoba was instrumental in demonstrating the importance of adhesion molecules in T cell function through a series of what are now regarded as classic publications.

These seminal and pioneering discoveries resulted in explosive expansion of knowledge of leukocyte adhesion, immunologic memory, direct intercellular interactions, and direct intercellular signaling in health and many disease states and laid the groundwork for research on major global epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. This work is considered to be his most significant scientific contribution to molecular immunology, and continues to inform basic research, diagnosis and treatment and is still highly cited to date.

At the Royal Postgraduate Medical School,  University of London he led the team that was the first to demonstrate circulating isoforms of the adhesion molecule ICAM-1 which has become the basis for the development of immunoassays for monitoring inflammatory responses during disease activity and treatment. This research, and his earlier studies of adhesion molecules in T cell recognition have added significantly to the understanding of human immune responses and the pathophysiology of many diseases. The discovery that changes in adhesion molecule expression is a cardinal feature of naïve to memory T cell differention affects how immune cells traffic through the body and how these differentiated cell types could be target for treatment of a wide variety of diseases in a number of fields such as autoimmunity, infectious diseases, cancer immunology, cardiovascular medicine, neurology, dermatology and gastroenterology. This work has led to the development of three drugs for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis. In 1987 the late Sir Raymond Hoffenberg, former president of Wolfson College, Oxford and the Royal College of Physicians described Prof Makgoba’s research as “unquestionably outstanding” and the Professor himself as “one of the best of the younger investigators in the UK.”

He served for eight years at the Medical Research Council of South Africa, as its first black Board Chairperson and then as its first black President. During his tenure at the MRC, he was instrumental in the transformation of the organisation, health research nationally, and the development of the South African HIV/AIDS strategy, and headed up the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI). He was appointed Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of SAAVI from 1999 to 2002 and was co-editor and a signatory of the Durban Declaration on HIV/AIDS. During this time he was an outspoken critic of AIDS denialists. Best known for his vociferous appeal in 2000 as President of the Medical Research Council for the provision of antiretrovirals to the poor and vulnerable in South Africa, and for his fierce criticism of ‘AIDS denialism and AIDS denialists’ and for defending  the freedom of scientist and the integrity of science.

Professor Makgoba joined the former University of Natal, now known as the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as its Vice-Chancellor in 2002 and under his leadership, the institution has grown to become one of the top five research-intensive universities in the country. He was also responsible for the leadership and promotion of the university’s AIDS research programmes, one of the largest based at a single institution in Africa. His work has enabled UKZN to attract large amounts of funding for HIV/AIDS and TB research from organisations such as the Welcome Trust, the National Institute of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation..

Professor Makgoba has received numerous prestigious awards and distinctions in recognition of his work including  the UK’s National Health Service Distinction Meritorious in 1991; the Gold Award for Outstanding Leadership in Medical Research in 2001; the Science-for-Society Gold Medal 2003; and the VC Golden Award in 2004; the Golden Jubilee Award of the Colleges of Medicine SA “in recognition of his contribution in the field of immunlogy and reasearch  and in particular also in transforming research in South Africa while President of the MRC and for his role in transforming Higher Education in South Africa” 2005; the World Medical Association’s recognition as “ one of 65 of the Most Caring Pyscians of the World” 2006; and the Imperial College Faculty of Medicine in recognition of outstanding contributions to “medical research, international public health and university administration” 2007. On 1st September 2011, Prof Makgoba received the NRF’s President Lifetime Archiever Award.

He has served on a number of international and local advisory panels including the UNAIDS/WHO Vaccine Advisory Committee, the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Global Vaccine Enterprise. He is a prolific publisher of papers, many of which are considered classic publications and authored and co-edited a number of books on topics of science and human relations. One of his papers published in The Lancet was selected for permanent display by the British National Science Museum to “popularise science in the 21st century”and the other cited over a 1000 times has been recognised as one of 17 core scientific papers that  formed the precursor for “Modern Structural Biology”.

Professor Makgoba is a member of the National Planning Commission of South Africa and Special Advisor (Science) to the Minister of Science and Technology.


Sergio Pastrana

Vice-President for External Relations

Sergio Pastrana

Sergio Jorge Pastrana was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1950. He graduated from the School of Letters and Arts of the University of Havana on History of English Literature and Culture in 1975, and he has done postgraduate studies at the Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Cuba. His interests on international cooperation relate to the history of early international contacts of the Cuban scientific community, and its influence on the building of a national scientific capacity in Cuba, a subject on which he has published and lectured, both in Cuba and abroad.

Pastrana has been involved in the establishment and coordination of international programs of cooperation of the Academia de Ciencias de Cuba since 1975. He has been a Secretary to the Cuban National Committee for ICSU since that year.  Since 1983 he was appointed as head of the Department for Academic Cooperation of the Cuban Academy.

From 1992 to 1996 he was the Representative of the Government of Cuba to the Implementing Committee, and eventually to the Executive Council, of the Inter American Institute on Global Change Research (IAI). From 1994 to 1996 he was appointed as Deputy Director for International Cooperation at the Ministry for Science, Technology, and Environment of the Republic of Cuba.

Since 1996 he has been the Foreign Secretary of the Cuban Academy of Sciences. He has served in different commissions and boards for Cuban scientific institutions and societies, and presently he is a member of the Advisory Commission on International Relations of the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba. Since the year 2010 he has been Executive Director of the Cuban Academy of Sciences.

A full member of the Cuban Academy, Pastrana is a member of the Caribbean Academy of Sciences since 2000, and he was made Honorary Member there in 2010. In the same year he was also elected as a Foreign Member of the Academy of Sciences in Guatemala. He is also a member of the Board of the Caribbean Scientific Union, an organization of all academies of sciences of the Wider Caribbean Basin. He is a representative of the Cuban Academy of Sciences to the Global Network of Academies (IAP) since 2003, where he has been directly involved in the groups coordinating initiatives on Biosecurity and Genetically Modified Organisms, and as part of the Membership Committee since its establishment in 2003. Since the following year, 2004, he has also been a national representative to the Inter American Network of Academies of Sciences (IANAS).

Within ICSU he has served as an Ordinary Member of the Executive Board in the period 2005-2011. In that capacity he has also served as a member of the Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, and as a member of the Committee on Finance.


David Black


David Black was born in Wollongong, Australia and after working at Monash University from 1965-1982 was appointed to the Chair of Organic Chemistry at UNSW in 1983.  He graduated BSc and MSc at the University of Sydney and was awarded an Overseas Scholarship of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to undertake a PhD in Cambridge (with Lord Todd).  He was then a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Columbia University (with Tom Katz) before taking up his appointment at Monash University.  He has spent periods of study leave at the ETH Zürich in 1968-9 (with Albert Eschenmoser), Würzburg University in 1974 (with Siegfried Hünig) (as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow) and Cambridge University in 1980 (with Alan Battersby).  He has also held Visiting Professorships at the Science University of Tokyo (1988), the University of Auckland (1992), Göttingen University (1994), Innsbruck University (1999) and Kobe Pharmaceutical University (2000) and given numerous invited lectures at international conferences and major universities.  He has won the Rennie Medal (1970), H. G. Smith Medal (1993), the A. J. Birch Medal (2003), and the Leighton Medal (2004) of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI), and in 1990 was the Liversidge Lecturer of the Royal Society of New South Wales and also the Royal Society of Chemistry Lecturer.  He was President of the RACI in 1998, and was Chair of the National Committee for Chemistry from 1999-2003.

He has been a committee member of the Division of Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) (1994-2003), and was Secretary (2000-2001) and  Vice President (2002-2003).  He was elected Secretary General of IUPAC from 2004-2007, and subsequently re-elected for a second four-year term.   From 1993 until 2007, he was Leader of the Joint Selection Team for Australian Development Scholarships for Indonesian postgraduate students.  At UNSW he was Head of the School of Chemistry from 1987-1990, and acting Dean of the Faculty of Science from January to July 1987.  He was Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Science and Technology and then the Faculty of Science from 2000-2003.

His research, described in more than 280 publications, has led to the synthesis of new types of organic molecules and the discovery of new synthetic methodologies, especially in heterocyclic chemistry.  He has also written a monograph (with J M Swan) entitled "Organometallics in Organic Synthesis".


Hans Rudolf Ott

TreasurerHans Rudolf Ott

Hans Rudolf Ott was full professor of physics at the ETH Zurich from 1986 to 2005. During 1988-91 he was the founding head of the condensed matter division of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) at Villigen, Switzerland, and he chaired the international research committee of this institution from 1992 to the end of 2008. From 2001 to 2005, he chaired the physics department of the ETH Zurich. Still leading a small research team there, his research interests were and are focussed on properties of condensed matter at low temperatures, including superconductivity, electronic-, transport- and magnetic phenomena in highly correlated electron- and low-dimensional spin systems, phase transitions and properties of non-periodic solids.

He is an ISI highly cited scientist. In 1989, he was awarded the Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize for Condensed Matter Physics, and in 1990 he received the International Prize for New Materials of the American Physical Society. From 1988 to 2007 he served terms as an editor for Physica C (Superconductivity), Review of Modern Physics and The European Physical Journal B. He is an Honorary Member of the Swiss Physical Society and the Zurich Physical Society, a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Foreign Member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences. From 1997 to 2006, he was a member of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation and chaired its section for Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences during 2004-2006. From 1999 to 2005, he was a member of the Standing Committee for Physical and Engineering Sciences (PESC) of the European Science Foundation. From 1997 to 2005, he was chairman of the Condensed Matter Division of the European Physical Society. He has been the President of the Platform Mathematics, Astronomy and Physics of the Swiss Academy of Sciences since 2007,  and President of the Albert Einstein Society Berne since 2008.

He has served as Treasurer of ICSU since 2008.

by Jacinta Legg

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