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Introduction: Science for Policy

ICSU works at the intersection of science and policy, to ensure that science is integrated into international policy development and that relevant policies take into account both scientific knowledge and the needs of science.

At the COP21 climate talks in Paris in December 2015, ICSU co-organized a major press conference with leading scientists commenting on the draft outcome document. Photo: ICSU

Science for Policy

ICSU’s work on science for policy focuses on three main areas:

  • providing scientific advice, coordinating and facilitating the participation of scientists in policy processes and international conferences
  • providing advice on how policy processes should be created or modified to best receive and utilise available scientific knowledge
  • creating scientific research programmes that will improve collaboration between scientists, policy-makers and other stakeholders in the generation of scientific knowledge

UN policy fora

Much of ICSU’s work on science for policy takes place at the international level, working with the United Nations (UN), predominantly through the ‘Major Groups’ model of participation, in which ICSU works as organising partner for the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group.

Current activities:

Previous activities:

Review of Targets for the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, ICSU published a landmark report, the Review of Targets for the Sustainable Development Goals. The work of more than 40 researchers from a range of fields across the natural and social sciences, it is the first scientific assessment of the 169 targets that are intended to operationalize the SDGs. The authors find that the SDGs offer a "major improvement" over their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, of the 169 targets beneath the 17 draft goals, just 29% are well defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, while 54% need more work and 17% are weak or non-essential. On its release, the report received widespread coverage in international media.

Read more about this report.

Road to Paris blog

In the 18 months prior to the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, December 2015, ICSU operated the Road to Paris website, a stand-alone media product emerging from the scientific community. The site followed three major international policy processes that concluded in 2015, disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change. Its content was designed to augment the existing media coverage of these processes from a scientific point of view. Just before COP21, a collection of the most read and most shared articles on the website was published in a magazine format. Entitled Twelve things we've learned on the Road to Paris, the magazine was distributed from the ICSU booth at COP21 and is also available for download from our Publications section.

Visit the Road to Paris site.

Science Advice to Governments network

In 2014, ICSU co-organized the first international conference on science advice to governments. As a legacy of this event and together with the Chief Science Advisor to New Zealand's Prime Minister, Sir Peter Gluckman, ICSU has to set up an international network of practitioners of science advice to governments. This network aims to be the world’s premier forum on the use of scientific evidence in informing policy at all levels of government. It will provide thought leadership and practical guidance for the development of advisory systems worldwide, organize flagship events, capacity building workshops and will foster collaboration between practitioners, academics, policymakers and other relevant stakeholders.

Read more about ICSU's work on science advice.

ICSU’s interdisciplinary Programmes

ICSU’s programmes also do work in this area:

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