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Annual Report 2014

Message from the President

I am very proud to be President of the International Council for Science from 2014 to 2017. I think ahead to 2017 and the many challenges and opportunities that will confront us. But I also think back 60 years to 1957 when the International Council of Scientific Unions (icsu), as we were then known, led the International Geophysical Year (IGY). The IGY facilitated scientific interchange between East and West; Sputnik was launched as a contribution to igy and initiated a new way of seeing our planet: for the first time, Earth was observed from outside the atmosphere. The IGY also started the first coordinated global observational systems for greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone that provided the basis for scientific understanding of these important global issues.

IGY is a reminder of the unique role of the International Council for Science as an enabler of international research collaboration. It can bring together the global scientific community, connect with leading scientific and technological institutions and collaborate with funding  agencies to bring these programmes to reality. All this contributes to our mission to “strengthen international science for the benefit of society” and our long-term strategic vision for a “world where science is used for the benefit of all, excellence in science is valued and scientific knowledge is effectively linked to policymaking”.

In the decades following IGY the Council, with partners, has played a leadership role in developing and sponsoring the major global environmental scientific programmes that have addressed important societal concerns. Now we are merging some of these programmes into Future Earth, an integrated, inter- and transdisciplinary global research programme “to provide the knowledge required for societies in the world to face risks posed by global environmental change and to seize opportunities in a transition to global sustainability”.

Another key area for the Council is Science for Policy. In 2015, as the nations of the world seek  new agreements on climate change, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development that will guide the world’s future, science can and must be a partner in these processes, to make sure that decision-makers have the best possible evidence available.

Our Council has unique capabilities to convene this role for science, being the only non-governmental organization with membership of both international scientific Union Members and National Members. This gives us a strong mandate to speak for the international scientific community. To further improve links between science and policy, the Council has convened, in 2014, a meeting of science advisers to governments, and is supporting the establishment of a global network that aims to strengthen the practice in all parts of the world.

We will only be able to address future challenges if we involve the next generation of researchers, and I am very excited about the decision of the General Assembly to strengthen their involvement in the Council’s activities. I am fully confident that, building on our proven history of success, our research and policy activities will continue to strengthen international science and move towards making our long-term strategic vision a reality.

Gordon McBean, President

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