Annual Report 2016

The Annual Report for the year 2016 sums up our key achievements in the year.

5. Universality of Science

5.1 Freedom and Responsibility (CFRS)

Leiv Sydnes, Chair of CFRS, signing the L'Oreal Women in Science statement on behalf of CFRS.
Leiv Sydnes, Chair of CFRS, signing the L'Oreal Women in Science statement on behalf of CFRS.

The Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS) is ICSU’s custodian of the Principle of Universality of Science, which supports scientists’ freedom of movement, association, expression and communication, and promotes equitable and non-discriminatory access to science. In 2016, both the number and the variety of violations of the Principle considered by the committee increased. The committee paid special attention to gender issues in the context of fieldwork, mobility and internationalization. However, the committee’s attention to individual scientists whose rights are under threat also remained high.

Gender issues

The Principle of Universality of Science clearly covers gender equality and equitable access to all resources in the practice of science. In spite of this, many forms of gender-based harassment and discrimination against women, and occasionally men, are being reported. In order to shed light on such issues, a workshop entitled “Gender issues in field research: Mobility and internationalization of science” was held in Mexico City in April 2016, in cooperation with the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the ICSU Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. The potential for gender-based harassment in academic and research institutions was discussed, analysed and documented, along with the potential to harm the research community and undermine victims’ commitment to scientific research. The Chair signed the UNESCO & L’Oreal Women in Science Manifesto online on behalf of ICSU during the workshop, and all participants were encouraged to sign the document in their personal capacity. A visible outcome of the workshop was the advisory note on Mobility and Field Research in the Sciences: Gender Equality and Prevention of Harassment, which was published on the ICSU website on 25 November 2016, to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Individual cases

The committee considered 15 cases from around the world where the rights and freedom of scientists to conduct their work may have been restricted. Some cases have been ongoing for years, like that of Büşra Ersanli, a Turkish professor in political science arrested in October 2011. Her case has been going through the courts for more than four years without any clear outcome. Other cases are new, such as those of a number of Turkish academics and researchers who have been removed from their positions at universities following the failed coup d’état on 15 July 2016. ICSU published a statement about the situation in Turkey on its website on 28 July 2016.

Two individual cases were resolved to the committee’s satisfaction. First, the charges against Heinz Richter, a historian at the University of Mannheim in Germany, of racism in his depiction of Greek resistance during World War II were dropped. Second, Omid Kokabee, an Iranian physicist and a PhD student at the University of Texas, was granted parole from his 10-year prison sentence. The committee has followed his situation closely since he was arrested in 2011 during a trip to his home country.

New Secretariat

The location of the CFRS secretariat moved from the Swiss Academy in Bern to the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi in Wellington during the year. ICSU is most grateful for the six years Roger Pfister served as the Executive Secretary for CFRS, and the committee welcomed Roger Ridley as his successor at the meeting in October.

5. Universality of Science

5.2 Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa (LIRA 2030)

Training event on trans-disciplinary research in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2016.
Training event on trans-disciplinary research in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2016.
Training event on trans-disciplinary research in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2016.
Training event on trans-disciplinary research in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2016.
1 / 4 — Training event on trans-disciplinary research in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2016.

In 2016, as part of its mission to support integrated, solutions-oriented science globally, the International Council for Science signed a five-year agreement with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) for a 5 million euro programme to strengthen research capacity for sustainability in Africa. The programme, entitled Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa (LIRA 2030 Africa), will be delivered by ICSU in conjunction with its Regional Office for Africa (ICSU ROA), the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) and the ISSC.

The programme seeks to develop the potential of next-generation scientists in Africa in the production and communication of policy-relevant knowledge. The knowledge generated by the programme is expected to inform policy processes such as the Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It provides two-year collaborative research grants with a thematic focus on global environmental change, disaster risk reduction, sustainable energy, human health and well-being in urban environments and related nexus issues. ICSU’s co-sponsored international research programmes – Future Earth, Integrated Research on Disaster Risk, and Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment ­­­ –provide an overall thematic framing for the programme’s activities. The programme will also promote the integration of gender and poverty reduction concerns.

The grants are intended to support integrated and solutions-oriented research by reaching across disciplines, and engaging with other knowledge partners (e.g. civil society, policy makers, and private sector).

Activities also include training for early-career scientists on co-design and co-production, science communication, proposal writing and data management.

Annual events will be organized to promote scientific exchange and provide opportunities for South–South and North–South research collaboration. Outstanding early-career scientists will also have opportunities for career development through participation in international scientific committees and conferences, working groups and inter-governmental policy processes.

An advisory committee was appointed in June 2016 to define the programme’s scientific strategy and to make research funding decisions. The committee includes natural and social scientists from Africa, stakeholder representatives and leadership representatives of all partners involved.

The first call for pre-proposals was launched in July to identify up to 10 collaborative research projects across Africa (to the value of up to 90,000 euros each over two years) to build understanding of the “Energy–Health–Natural Disasters” nexus in African cities.

Thirty-five pre-proposals were short-listed from a total of 165 applications, and representatives of those pre-proposals from 16 countries across Africa attended a training event on trans-disciplinary research in Nairobi, Kenya in October. The event included modules on research co-design and co-production, science communication, open data management and proposal writing.

Researchers then submitted full proposals which were reviewed by the advisory committee. In January 2017, the advisory committee selected nine interdisciplinary projects for funding.

The nine projects awarded funding this year
Title of Project
Lead Investigator

Assessment and characterization of volcanic and flood hazards and their health implications in the cities of Goma (Democratic Republic of Congo), Buea and Limbe (Cameroon)

Mabel Nechia Wantim, University of Buea, Cameroon

Assessment and characterization of volcanic and flood hazards and their health implications in the cities of Goma (Democratic Republic of Congo), Buea and Limbe (Cameroon)

Lead Investigator

Mabel Nechia Wantim, University of Buea, Cameroon

Towards healthy communities: citizen science for improved air quality in Nairobi (Kenya) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)

Osano Philip, Stockholm Environment Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

Towards healthy communities: citizen science for improved air quality in Nairobi (Kenya) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)

Lead Investigator

Osano Philip, Stockholm Environment Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

Delivery of clean air strategies for mitigating household air pollution and associated respiratory illnesses in urban informal settlements in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Lilongwe (Malawi)

Ng’weina F. Magitta, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Delivery of clean air strategies for mitigating household air pollution and associated respiratory illnesses in urban informal settlements in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Lilongwe (Malawi)

Lead Investigator

Ng’weina F. Magitta, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Reducing human exposure to combustion-derived pollutants in urban areas of the Lake Victoria watershed; Improvement of indoor air quality in selected urban communities of Kampala (Uganda) and Mwanza (Tanzania)

Kenneth Arinaitwe, Makerere University, Uganda

Reducing human exposure to combustion-derived pollutants in urban areas of the Lake Victoria watershed; Improvement of indoor air quality in selected urban communities of Kampala (Uganda) and Mwanza (Tanzania)

Lead Investigator

Kenneth Arinaitwe, Makerere University, Uganda

Biogas-supported decentralized water treatment system for communities in Diepsloot (South Africa) and Chambishi (Zambia) townships: A feasibility study

Keneiloe Sikhwivhilu, MINTEK, South Africa

Biogas-supported decentralized water treatment system for communities in Diepsloot (South Africa) and Chambishi (Zambia) townships: A feasibility study

Lead Investigator

Keneiloe Sikhwivhilu, MINTEK, South Africa

Health effects of indoor air pollution from cooking stoves in Kigali (Rwanda) and Dar er Salaam (Tanzania)

Kabera Telesphore, University of Rwanda

Health effects of indoor air pollution from cooking stoves in Kigali (Rwanda) and Dar er Salaam (Tanzania)

Lead Investigator

Kabera Telesphore, University of Rwanda

Co-designing energy communities with energy poor women in urban areas (Kenya, Uganda and South Africa)

Ambole Lorraine Amollo, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Co-designing energy communities with energy poor women in urban areas (Kenya, Uganda and South Africa)

Lead Investigator

Ambole Lorraine Amollo, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Limiting the health hazards of fossil fuel generators’ use in Lagos (Nigeria) and Dakar (Senegal) with traditional knowledge

Eze Kevin, University of the Sahel, Senegal

Limiting the health hazards of fossil fuel generators’ use in Lagos (Nigeria) and Dakar (Senegal) with traditional knowledge

Lead Investigator

Eze Kevin, University of the Sahel, Senegal

Mitigating risks to flood-related waterborne diseases in Abidjan (Ivory Cost) and Kampala (Uganda)

Kouamé Parfait Koffi

Mitigating risks to flood-related waterborne diseases in Abidjan (Ivory Cost) and Kampala (Uganda)

Lead Investigator

Kouamé Parfait Koffi

5. Universality of Science

5.3 Science International

Science International was launched in 2015 as a series of regular meetings by ICSU in collaboration with the InterAcademy Panel, the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and The World Academy of Science (TWAS).  In 2016, Science International published the Accord – “Big Data in an Open Data World” – and launched a campaign for endorsements.

The Accord proposes 12 principles to guide open access to publicly funded big data. It states that open data is critical to assure the rigour of research findings because it would provide researchers worldwide with the opportunity to replicate experiments and observations – basically revisiting and double-checking the research results and verifying conclusions. For least-developed countries, open data provides an opportunity to participate more fully in the global research enterprise.

The list of endorsers now comprises more than 100 organizations, including many regional and national science academies, representing Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, the Caribbean, Colombia, Ethiopia, Hungary, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, South Africa and Switzerland, among others. International scientific organizations have also endorsed the accord, including the unions on mathematics, pure and applied chemistry, soil sciences and toxicology. Among the other endorsers are universities, university libraries, research institutes and civil society groups.

Many endorsing organizations have detailed their future plans in support of the Accord’s principles.

For example, ISRIC World Soil Information, a global centre for soil data, is planning a wide range of open datasets and web services that will be helpful to solving food insecurity, climate change, environmental degradation, water scarcity and threats to biodiversity. The International Mathematical Union is planning to use its Committee on Electronic Information and Communication to draw attention to the importance among mathematicians of open data. Mathematicians are especially critical for developing ways to analyse and organize large amounts of data, such as data-mining.

The Network of Academies of Science in Countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (NASIC) hosted a discussion on open data at its October 2016 conference in Malaysia. The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) planned to advertise its endorsement of the Accord to its scientific community of nearly 10,000. The Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) agreed to promote the Accord’s principles across the region.

An initiative to establish an African Open Science Platform to promote the value and leverage the potential of open data for science was launched by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, at the Science Forum South Africa 2016. The Africa-wide initiative will promote the development and coordination of data policies, data training and data infrastructure. It is conceived as an integrated set of arrangements that provides a policy, capacity-building and infrastructural framework for enhanced accessibility and impact. The initiative will also focus on the creation of national open science fora through which policies and coordination can be discussed and established.

The pilot phase is supported by the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST), funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF), directed by CODATA, the Committee on Data of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and implemented by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).

Talks are also underway for data initiatives in the Latin American region. The inauguration of the ICSU Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) at a high-level ceremony involving several government ministers held in El Salvador included thematic presentations from ICSU representatives and others. There was also a seminar dedicated to “The Open Science Imperative: Challenges and Opportunities”. Geoffrey Boulton, President of CODATA and Jorge Tezon, Manager of Scientific and Technological Development from CONICET in Argentina, made presentations.

5. Universality of Science

5.4 Working with the Regions

Opening of the new ICSU Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in San Salvador.
Opening of the new ICSU Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in San Salvador.
Opening of the new ICSU Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in San Salvador.
1 / 3 — Opening of the new ICSU Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in San Salvador.

Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

In 2016, the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) developed a new activity on epigenetics. In October, a planning group met in Kuala Lumpur to develop a science plan on epigenetics and its relation to urban health in the region. The plan will review the epigenetic landscape in urban health, document what is known about triggers and epigenetic modifications and identify emerging research areas. This will include research on genetic products change, biochemical pathways and their relations to diseases in rapidly expanding urban populations.

The launch of Future Earth Korea in April was a milestone in the development of Future Earth in Asia. ROAP laid the groundwork for this development at the 5th ICSU ROAP Regional Consultation in Asia and the Pacific in 2013. ROAP also played a key role in the establishment of the UMS Sustainable Initiatives for Marginal Seas of East and South Asia (SIMSEA) Research Node, which will play a role in the development of the Future Earth Oceans Knowledge – Action Network. In October, ROAP organized the SIMSEA Regional Symposium in Manila.

ROAP also organized the 5th International Workshop on Psychological Intervention after Disasters (PIAD) in Manila in November, on behalf of ICSU Member the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS). The workshop explored psychological research and practice concerning disasters and how people and communities deal with the effects of disasters on their biopsychosocial well-being.

September 2016 marked the end of ICSU ROAP’s hosting agreement with the Government of Malaysia. The process of renewing the contract is currently ongoing. At the end of the year, Mohd Nordin Hasan, the founding Director of ICSU ROAP, stepped down from his post, after having served the Office since 2006.

Regional Office for Africa

The Regional Office for Africa (ROA) saw a number of staff movements in 2016, including the departure of Edith Madela-Mntla as Director in June. A new director will be recruited in early 2017, and in the interim Daniel Nyanganyura has been acting as director.

Through the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa (LIRA 2030) programme, the Office will recruit in early 2017 a Project Coordinator to manage and organize this programme’s activities.

There were a number of governance meetings held during 2016, including a mid-GA National Members and Scientific Unions’ Meeting in Johannesburg in June.

Fourteen African National Members were represented at this latter event, as were eleven International Scientific Unions, the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) programme and ASSAf (the host organization of ROA). Regional committee meetings were held in Pretoria in March and September.

In September, ROA organized in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa a seminar on the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 on the themes of sustainable energy, disaster risk reduction and global environmental change in Africa. The book “Natural and Human-Induced Hazards and Disasters in Africa”, which was coordinated by ROA, was launched at the seminar.

The second African Future Earth Committee meeting was held in Pretoria in December and brought together most committee members with representatives of the Future Earth global secretariat, Science Committee and South Africa’s Department of Science. Discussions focused on the architecture of Future Earth in Africa and the science agenda in the region.

The Steering Committee of the Africa chapter of the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) met on the sidelines of the 2nd Science Forum of South Africa (SFSA) in December. Committee members Dr M. Oladoyin Odubanjo and Dr Tolullah Oni made presentations on “Defining the Principles and Guidelines of Science Advice”. At the end of the Forum, INGSA was honoured with the Forum’s Science Diplomacy Award.

Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

In 2016, the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) moved from Mexico to El Salvador. At an official ceremony, El Salvador’s Education Minister, Carlos Mauricio Canjura Linares, welcomed the establishment of the Regional Office as “a breakthrough for education and science” in the country. Under the agreement signed by ICSU and the government of El Salvador, the Office will be hosted in that country for the next five years, starting in August 2016. Activities of the Office continued to focus on biodiversity, mathematics education, disaster risk reduction, sustainable energy, urban health and open data.

On biodiversity, ROLAC organized a Symposium on Biocultural Heritage in Mexico City in June. On mathematics education, the Regional Office and the Ministry of Education from the Dominican Republic organized a workshop in March. ROLAC staff also took part in workshops and meetings during the year related to disaster risk reduction, sustainable energy and Agenda 2030.

At the same time as the official opening ceremony in August for the new office in San Salvador, ROLAC organized a workshop on open data in El Salvador. A workshop on Urban Health entitled “Current and Future Opportunities for Urban Health situation in El Salvador” followed in October. In November, ICSU ROLAC and TWAS ROLAC jointly organized the first Young Scientists conference in El Salvador, which brought together 700 people.

Finally, ROLAC staff took part in a number of events including the 13th General Conference and 26th TWAS General Meeting in Vienna, Austria, the ICSU/Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the Conduct of Science workshop on Gender issues in field research in Mexico, the International Union of Soil Sciences Inter-Congress Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda and the 100-year anniversary of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

5. Universality of Science

5.5 Communications

In 2016, the Council rolled out a new logo and brought to a close work on a new visual identity, and led the coordination of an ambitious science-policy engagement initiative at the UN’s biggest ever conference on housing and sustainable urban development, Habitat III, in Quito, Ecuador. The communications team also provided support to the communication of the transition work towards a potential merger of ICSU and the ISSC.

In April, Road to Paris sunsetted its operations on the occasion of the signing of the Paris Agreement. In the 22 months it ran, it proved that audiences can be engaged around complex scientific topics through interesting journalistic content. The project saw rapid social media growth, at times growing at twice the rate of ICSU’s own institutional account. It also served as a vehicle to support the launch of the 2015 Review of Targets for the SDGs, where an article about the report written by a science writer provided an easy entry-point to the complex subject matter both for journalists and for general audiences. Insights gained during the Road to Paris project will inform development of the new ICSU website, due to be launched in 2017. The website will be mobile-ready and provide a fit-for-purpose platform for engaging content that is increasingly accessed via social media.

It will also be the final piece in the rollout of the new ICSU visual identity, with the new logo and a new look already used across ICSU’s publications.

Habitat X Change

In partnership with Future Earth and the Urban Complexity Lab at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Germany, ICSU developed a customized space at the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador – Habitat X Change. The space offered events and networking around science, urbanization and data visualization. The three partners together defined a shared purpose, which was translated into a visual identity for a common space, social media channels, activities, events and products. This led to a programme of 17 events focused on science-policy and visualization over the course of six days.

In the ICSU track Cities and Science, the Urban Health and Wellbeing programme coordinated an event on healthy cities. The two other events were on the science–policy–practice nexus, including one developed in partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

Habitat X Change also featured an installation built by the University of Applied Sciences, Potsdam which showcased several data visualizations on three different cities: Cape Town, Bogota and Singapore, allowing visitors to discover the different ways these cities are developing.

ICSU co-organized two press conferences at Habitat III and provided overall communications support to many of the partner events, in particular Future Earth’s launch of the Anthropocene magazine in Habitat X Change and at a side event in partnership with the Guardian and Citiscope.

Share this: