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Home > About ICSU > Structure > Interdisciplinary Bodies

Interdisciplinary Bodies

ICSU participates in international science initiatives in two ways: by establishing its own Interdisciplinary Bodies or by lending its support to Joint Initiatives that have multiple sponsors/partners.

Initially established by ICSU General Assemblies, Interdisciplinary Bodies focus on specific areas of international research that are of interest to all or many ICSU Members. Their roles vary depending on the area of science and on the related needs of the international science community, but usually combine operational and policy/advisory functions. They are designed to become self-sufficient and independent in terms of day-to-day operations and financing. Most Interdisciplinary Bodies have their own Secretariat.

Joint Initiatives, co-sponsored by ICSU and other international organizations (e.g. from the UN system), are an important means of bringing together a range of partners to address a particular issue or area. One of the key features of these collaborative programmes is the ability to consider the issue from the broadest possible perspective while minimizing overlap and duplication of effort.

Thematic Organizations

These bodies have been set up to address specific themes and to provide a platform to convene scientists with common interests across disciplinary borders, to plan and organize international scientific initiatives and to offer advice in a policy context. They differ from the other groupings in this section in that they that they do not plan and implement very large international research programmes nor do they carry out assessments. However, their work is critical to the larger research community.

Global Environmental Change Programmes

ICSU’s Global Environmental Change Programmes recognize the Earth as a complex system, regulated by physical, chemical and biological processes—and influenced, as never before, by human factors. While each Programme focuses on a particular area (e.g. biogeochemical cycles, climate change, biodiversity, and how humans impact and adapt their environments), their collaborative efforts through the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) are addressing global issues such as food, water and carbon. ESSP is expected to provide significant results of high relevance to science for sustainable development.

Monitoring and Observations

Global observing initiatives are critically important to policy-relevant science at national, regional and international scales. Moreover, the need to integrate data from ocean, terrestrial and climate systems is increasingly evident. ICSU’s Monitoring/Observation Programmes facilitate data collection and foster the development of international standards and methodologies that support universal equitable access.

Data and Information

As virtually all international science depends on the production, use and integration of data and information, ICSU is keenly interested in all aspects of this issue. Today’s environment raises new challenges related to standardizing the collection, analysis and dissemination of data, as well as to intellectual property rights and data access. Some of ICSU’s Data and Information bodies are specific to a particular scientific domain; others are concerned with broad issues that affect the entire scientific community.

by Jacinta Legg

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