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ICSU Grants Programme

Nine projects received grants in 2013. A total of 260,000 euros was awarded. The projects will send final reports to ICSU by 30 June 2014.

Project List of 2013 Grants Programme








(link to the summary page)


IRDR, Mexico ROLAC Landslide networking for disaster studies, capacity building, partnership and engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean

Mathematics of climate change, related natural hazards and risks

IUGS, IUGG, Mozambique

G@GPS Africa: Long term recharge of large ground water basins

IUPsyS China:CAST,Chinese Psychological Scoiety, CADS, Univ of Jena


Building individual and organizational capacity for psychological intervention after disasters in the asia and pacific region

The description of materials on the nanoscale


IUBS, Switzerland

The CBD Nagoya Protocol
Identifying Ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables for measuring changes in marine ecosystems
An inter-union initiative on multi scale systems biology



LANDSCAPE-LAC: Landslide Networking for Disaster Studies, Capacity Building, Partnership and Engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean

Landslide disasters have major impacts in developing countries due to the social vulnerability of communities and the absence of integrated risk research. This project recognizes the importance of integrated landslide research for disaster risk, and particularly the necessity to promote capacity building for young scientists in Latin America by shifting the disaster paradigm to recognize the “unnaturalness” of disasters. In recent decades landslide disasters in Latin America, triggered by both precipitation and earthquakes, have increased considerably. Therefore, scientific contributions towards reducing the vulnerability of exposed communities to landslides are urgently needed. The objectives of the project include: (1) Development of landslide regional networks with commitment for understanding risk as a socially constructed process; (2) Engagement of young scientists in integrated landslide risk research; (3)Inducing a scientific multi- and trans-disciplinary approach for integrated landslide risk research; (4) Development and implementation of capacity building; (5) Contributing to the dissemination and application of IRDR methodologies by carrying out two workshops on forensic landslide disasters investigations (FORIN); and (6) Strengthening collaboration on integrated landslide disaster risk research in Latin America.


LANDSCAPE-LAC focuses on the need to develop and implement integrated landslide research for disaster risk from a multi- and trans-disciplinary approach recognising that scientific achievements must be visibly useful for societies. Understanding risk and investigating the natural and social dimensions of disasters are critical processes for disaster risk reduction. Consequently, integrated risk research is regarded as a key factor for sustainable development, since disasters have increasingly become an obstacle to development, particularly in vulnerable countries exposed to such hazards. As such, strengthening capacity building and promoting disaster risk research on landslides would help to increase resilience and awareness in the Latin-American region.

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Mathematics of climate change: related natural hazards and risks

The project is to hold an international, multidisciplinary educational and capacity-building workshop "Mathematics of Climate Change, Related Natural Hazards and Risks", as part of the world initiative "Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013" (www.mpe2013.org). The event will be hosted by Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas (CIMAT) in Guanajuato, Mexico from July 29 to August 2, 2013, as a satellite activity to the first Mathematical Congress of the Americas (http://www.mca2013.org). It is the first event jointly co-organized by the three international Unions, IMU, IUGG and IUTAM, in cooperation with ROLAC, WCRP, IRDR, NAS, ICIAM and AMC.

The workshop will allow networking and capacity building across the scientific communities of geodesy and geophysics, theoretical and applied mechanics and mathematics around central themes of climate research, environmental change, and sustainability. It will establish fresh working ties and research projects among the scientists within and outside of Americas at the interface of different academic disciplines.

The workshop will allow a selected group of post-doctoral students and young researchers, mainly from Central and South America, to learn from and interact with the leading internationally recognized experts in different aspects of the rapidly growing, multifaceted field of Global Environmental Change and Sustainability. The lectures will present the modern developments in mathematics and mechanics and their applications in the Climate Science, as well as the mathematical challenges arising from problems in geosciences.

The workshop will focus on the modern approaches towards predictive understanding of the climate change, the effects of changing climate on other natural hazards, the related risks and socio-economic implications, with particular emphasis to the hazards of Central and South Americas. The workshop will address the three main themes: i) Methodology of the climate and natural hazards research; ii) Climate change and environmental hazards; iii) Socioeconomic implications of climate change and extreme hydro-meteorological hazards.

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G@GPS Africa: Long term recharge of large groundwater basins

Human civilisations depend on the stability of groundwater resources to survive dry or unreliable climates. Large groundwater aquifers are buffered against short-term effects of climate variability, but are impacted over longer time frames through major climate changes.

The recharge history of a given groundwater resource is vital in order to forecast its vulnerability under increased water extraction and future climatic changes. The project G@GPS - Africa aims to:

  • Develop methods to study ages and recharge climate of groundwater in data-poor aquifers.
  • To establish collaboration between scientists in developing countries and high-standard laboratories specialised on palaeoclimate parameters and groundwater age determinations. The project G@GPS - Africa thereby extends an already existing palaeogroundwater network to include groundwater aquifers where the amount of data is limited. 3) Discuss how numerical groundwater modeling can contribute to the understanding of groundwater dynamic in data-poor aquifers.
  • Investigate how high-resolution terrestrial palaeoclimate records can be used to better interpret groundwater datings.
  • Present data from transborder aquifers, with particular focus on aquifers in dry areas.

G@GPS - Africa organise a training course and workshop in Maputo in October 2013. The training course will address points above. A field day in the Maputo Groundwater Basin includes a discussion sampling procedures and other field methods suitable for palaeorecharge studies.

Data for old groundwater components and old seawater intrusion in many large basins at all continents will be presented at the workshop.

The results from the project will be published as manuals for studies of old groundwater. The training course will give the basis for a M.Sc. course with focus on isotopes and dating methods given at the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique. Lectures presented at the workshop will be published in international peer-reviewed journals.

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Building individual and organizational capacity for psychological intervention after disasters in the asia and pacific region

Natural and man-made disasters have tremendous consequences for destruction of physical infrastructure and social institutions, often leading to displacement of populations. These conditions have short or long-lasting effects on psychosocial adjustment and wellbeing. It is known that the psychological consequences vary remarkably, depending on a host of vulnerability factors and also including a shielding called resilience. Very recently, however, new insights have been gained in how disasters and resulting experiences affect the development across the lifespan, especially of children and adolescents. It is a new combination of genetic, neurocognitive, and psychological processes that explain better than before which individual or family living in which circumstances will show maladjustment when hit by disaster. The most innovative approach is epigenetics which demonstrates how experiences modulate DNA activities, with influences on the stress processing system, resulting in lasting effects on further development.

Such research and its application will be the core of a workshop for scientists and practitioners of the younger generation, from countries in the Asia-Pacific region particularly prone for disasters. The aim is to build capacity in this new field. The workshop brings together an international faculty of experts from various disciplines, basic and applied, with participants from countries of the region that share risks for a range of disasters, but differ in the level of infrastructure and socio-political organization, as well as in cultural beliefs and practices. This variation is reflected in the framework of the project that differentiates disaster-related experiences by the empowerment provided by the context. Furthermore, as vulnerabilities and resilience processes differ as a function of developmental stage (age), regional constraints (urbanization), and past history of dealing with stressors and their mark in the human system, interventions need to be targeted not to the “average victim,” but to particular subgroups. The dissemination of the new scientific insights to the field is best achieved by scholars and practitioners who have ongoing exchange with research, and toward this end a network among participants and a mentoring relationship with faculty will be established. It is expected to result in better practice and new research lines.

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The description of materials on the nanoscale

To support research on and exploitation of nanomaterials, CODATA and VAMAS have establsihed an international working group to develop the requirements for a unified description system for materials on the nanoscale as well as the minimum information categories required to describe such materials. The requirements are being developed with input from a broad range of scientific disciplines, as represented by ICSU unions, and diverse user communities. This work will enable standards developers, regulators, and researchers to describe nanomaterials uniquely, accurately, and unambiguously. This projects represents one of the largest inter-union programmes supported by ICSU. Experts from chemistry, phsyics, materials science, toxicology, pharmacology, materials science, biology, medicine, and the environmental sciences representing over 20 countries are working together for the first time to provide a consensus set of equirements that must be met for a nanomaterials description system to be effective and useful.

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Access and Benefit Sharing in Latin America and the Caribbean: A science-policy dialogue for academic research

Partners: DIVERSITAS, ICSU Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC), Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) and International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS)

In 2010 the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Nagoya Protocol that aims at regulating the access to trans-boundary biological material (including genetic resources) and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their utilisation. Its Article 8a calls for facilitated access for non-commercial biodiversity research. Currently, biodiversity scientists face many barriers when conducting research with material (e.g. biological samples) from abroad. In many cases this is due to a lack of understanding of the respective concerns and needs of researchers and policy makers. This project aims at bridging this gap by bringing together researchers and policy-makers from Latin America and the Caribbean to engage in an insightful dialogue in order to discuss current obstacles regarding access to biological material, clarify the needs of academia and government agencies, and build mutual trust. Participants will elaborate joint recommendations to support the implementation of national and/or regional ABS regulations that suit the needs of users and providers of biological material with a view to better conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, while allowing the generation of urgently needed biodiversity knowledge for the benefit of society.

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Identifying Ecosystem Essential Ocean variables for measuring changes in marine ecosystems

SCOR, SCAR, APECS, and IMBER will work together to plan and convene a workshop designed to identify and evaluate potential Ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables (eEOVs) that would be monitored through an enhanced Global Ocean Observing System. The focus of the workshop will be the Southern Ocean and the results will apply directly to the Southern Ocean Observing System, but the process could be a model for other regions. Understanding has grown that changes in ocean climate and acidification could result in altered dynamics of marine ecosystems which, in turn, will need to be considered in decisions about how to maintain ecosystem health, services, and robustness/resilience to future change. Sustainable marine ecosystem management will require indicators of the underlying status of marine ecosystems, and new means to monitor such indicators. The workshop will result in two publications, one for the natural science literature and the other for the marine policy literature. The workshop will be the first and foundational phase of a long-term activity.

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WCRP Latin America and Caribbean

The CORDEX Latin America and Caribbean (CORDEX-LAC) project aims to develop a capacity building effort in the region to translate regional climate downscaled data into meaningful sustainable development information. CORDEX represents an unprecedented opportunity for the region to gain an understanding of regional climate responses to global climate change, by exploiting the experience and lessons learned of similar CORDEX activities conducted in Africa and Asia. CORDEX currently has no facility in the region to bridge the gap between regional climate data and its impact on societal areas such as water, energy, health and agriculture. This proposal represents a necessary and timely opportunity to initiate such an effort through two capacity building workshops.

The immediate objective of this proposal is for a fast tracked initial assessment of the various CORDEX climate models outputs and Vulnerability, Impact and Adaptation (VIA) studies, regionally focused and prioritized to South America, Central America and Caribbean userknowledge needs by developing an interdisciplinary community of collaborations around the exceptional opportunity of a common CORDEX South and Central America –wide experimental design. The group trained through this capacity building and education action would become regional experts to further train and advise a future expanded effort on CORDEX analysis and interpretation of regional climate change responses and related VIA aspects.

This proposal targets the science policy/interface by developing an innovative framework at the interface between different disciplines and by stimulating the exchange and dissemination of climate information to concerned stakeholders. This project, through two main capacity building workshops, represents a first building block of a necessary and timely opportunity to analyze regional climate data for more systematic sustainable development and impact studies.

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An inter Union initiative on multi scale systems biology

An ICSU Inter-Union symposium on Multi-scle systems biology symposium will be held on July 28-30, 2013 at Chicheley Hall, Chichely, UK as a satellite symposium to the IUPS 2013 congress in Birmingham. Specific focus areas include:

Systems Biology Approaches to Cell Signalling

  • Systems Biology of Immunology and Infection
  • Systems Biology Approaches to Drug Discover and Pharacogenomics
  • Systems Biology in Neuroscience and Multi-Scale Modeling of Behavior
  • Physiome approaches to personalized medicine and Therapy
  • Systems Modeling in Population Biology
  • Systems Biology and the Environment

The meeting will explore beyond the physiome to populations and environments and to the potential for systems biology to be applied to complex problem in human health and healthcare delivery. It will feature lectures from scientifically and geographically diverse world leaders in the field and posters by early career investigators and scientists from developing nations. Its overall objective is to promote international inter-union cooperation in the field of Systems Biology and its application to improving human health and well-being. The goals of the meeting are: (1) to explore opportunities for systems biology approaches to find new solutions to challenging problems in healthcare delivery and environment; (2) promote interdisciplinary cooperation among the nine participating ICSU Unions; and (3) to provide a unique opportunity for early career investigators and scientists from developing nations to exchange scientific ideas and to hear from world leaders in the field in a highly interactive forum.

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by Vivien Lee

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