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Annual Report 2002

Message from the President

New challenges, increased expectations create new demands for S&T community

A food crisis in Zimbabwe generates debate on the safety of genetically modified food crops. Climate warming causes the collapse of the Antarctic’s Larsen B ice shelf. Terrorist attacks, political uncertainties, and natural disasters bring safety and security issues to the fore.

The most dramatic events of 2002 demonstrate how society and science cross paths at critical junctures—moments in history that have a direct impact on individual well-being, on local, national, and regional development, and on international issues.

But consider that, in the same year, scientists mapped the genome sequence of rice, one of the world’s most important food crops. Recognizing that policy decisions have helped reduce chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emissions, scientists used new data to model the ozone layer over the Antarctic and now predict a speedier recovery of the region’s stratosphere. Scientists also unveiled rescue robots that can find, treat, and help extract survivors in unstable environments.

Without question, we live in challenging times. As professionals, as parents, as individual persons, we grapple with increasingly complex decisions. And, as the collective need for sound information rises, so does the public demand for science to provide guidance.

At the International Council for Science (ICSU), we believe science spans the breadth of these needs. Science has the capacity to identify problems and help develop solutions. It carries the potential to spur economic growth through innovation. It actively seeks to disseminate information that can support decision making. At the same time, we are keenly aware that the rapprochement of science and society exacts new demands, including the identification of common goals and shared responsibilities. In this context, I believe the real challenge to our community is to make science a driving force in the transition to a more sustainable and equitable world.

I sense that science is in the discovery phase of a new era—an era characterized by intense curiosity as new questions arise and new groups join forces to explore the future. Personally, I believe the most effective way forward lies in establishing a social contract between science and society. To increase the reach and relevance of international science, scientists have an obligation to direct their energies toward providing society with knowledge that will enable a transition to sustainability.

Knowing its rich history, I am excited by ICSU’s renewed energy. In highlighting the achievements of 2002, we focus on the foundation we are creating for the future. I wish to acknowledge the visionary leadership of ICSU Past-President Professor Hiroyuki Yoshikawa who, by strengthening ties between science and other sectors of society, enabled ICSU to better understand and respond to critical issues.

In light of the challenges and expectations before us, I believe we can—and must—harness the full potential of science to help all sectors of society make choices that are informed, objective, and forward looking. ICSU is taking important steps to ensure it can play a strategic role in that critical process.

Professor Jane Lubchenco

ICSU President 2002-2005
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