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Annual Report 2009

Message from the President

Science has an important role to play in addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing society—ecosystem change and human well-being, hazards and disasters, climate change, and human health. International scientific cooperation is a critical element in addressing these challenges. ICSU fosters such cooperation by planning, initiating and nurturing programmes on behalf of our Members—often in partnership with other organizations—harnessing the skills of many thousands of scientists across disciplinary and international boundaries to respond to urgent global issues. The International Polar Year 2007–2008 (IPY) is one such programme.

In February 2009, I had the pleasure of addressing the IPY community during a celebration at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. During my speech, I made three key points: First, ICSU’s Members are immensely proud of the success of IPY and appreciative of the efforts of all who contributed. Second, ICSU, primarily through its constituent bodies and programmes, will remain engaged in polar science in the long-term and will work to ensure a lasting IPY legacy. And finally, using the IPY as an example, it is an opportune time to drive home a core ICSU principle that data, scientists and knowledge should freely flow across borders.

The surge of activity and attention during IPY invigorated a new generation of researchers and brought global attention to the poles. Many new partnerships have been forged and many lessons have been learnt. Society cannot afford to let this momentum lapse and the next couple of years are particularly critical to ensuring the IPY legacy. For its part, ICSU will continue to be engaged in at least three aspects of international polar research: research coordination, observations and data management. We will also continue to build and maintain partnerships, and engage early-career researchers.

The International Polar Year is a shining example of ICSU’s role in planning and implementing international science programmes and fostering the ongoing collaborative effort needed to strengthen international science for the benefit of society.

Catherine Bréchignac

ICSU President 2008-2011
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