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BISO Home > About the Board on International Scientific Organizations > BISO Involvement with the International Council for Science

BISO Involvement with the International Council for Science
National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was a founding member of the International Council for Science (ICSU), a non-governmental organization created in 1931 to advance, serve, and enable science. ICSU provides a wide spectrum of scientific expertise, enabling members to address major international, interdisciplinary issues. Membership in ICSU is divided into two categories: national members (multidisciplinary scientific academies or research councils) and scientific union members (international, disciplinary organizations).

For more information on the membership of BISO, please consult the BISO membership webpage.

BISO represents the NAS as the U.S. national member of ICSU and fulfills its membership responsibilities through:

  • sharing information about ICSU programs and activities with the U.S. scientific community,
  • sending the U.S. delegation to the triennial General Assembly of ICSU,
  • responding to requests from ICSU,
  • nominating individuals to serve on committees and as officers of ICSU,
  • alerting ICSU to important new issues, and
  • monitoring the activities of ICSU.
ISCU Flagship Programs
ISCU has several flagship programs. These include:
Integrated Risk and Disasterprogram sponsored by ICSU, the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) to examine transdisciplinary methods in researching how science is used to shape social and political decision-making in the context of hazards and disasters.  A brochure describing IRDR can be viewed here.  Additionally, IRDR has published The Forensic Investigations of Disasters (FORIN) Project: A Conceptual Framework and Guide to Research. FORIN is an IRDR research program that focuses on "uncovering root causes of disaster."

Led largely by ICSU’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Urban Health and Wellbeing: A Systems Approach
examines the changing urban environment in terms of health, urbanization, design of cities, and systems science. , Franz Gatzweiler (Executive Director), Yong-Guan Zhu (IUE Director), and Yi Zhang (Science Officer) describe how the program approaches the particular challenges of sustaining growing urban communities around the world. In this YouTube introduction
ICSU’s Principle of the Universality of Science ( embodies freedom of movement, association, expression and communication for scientists as well as equitable access to data, information and research materials. Important responsibilities for scientists are also included. The National Academies addresses these responsibilities partly through BISO’s International Visitors Office.
Future Earth originally began as an ICSU initiative. While ICSU still maintains a role, Future Earth is now a semi-independent program. Further details can be found on our Future Earth page and on the Future Earth website ( 

ICSU and ISSC Pursue Possible Merger
Given the complexity of many of the problems facing today’s world, one of the major recommendations in ICSU’s 2014 external review was greater involvement of the social sciences with the physical sciences. In early 2016, ICSU and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) began exploring a possible merger. In late July, ICSU circulated several documents to members for review and comment. These included “Enabling and Advancing Science for the Future” and a draft planning framework. Following conversations with a number of interested individuals and organizations, the BISO Board held a conference call in mid-September to review and discuss concerns. Comments were incorporated into a letter sent to both ICSU and ISSC.  

ICSU and ISSC held an Extraordinary General Assembly on October 24 in Oslo, Norway. The GA included both ICSU and ISSC members and coincided with ISSC’s triennial General Assembly. The major question before the delegates was whether to approve in principle a merger of ICSU and ISSC. For the plans to proceed, a majority vote of both organizations’ membership was needed.   In-principle approval was granted by 76% of the ICSU members and 87% of the ISSC members. This allows the merger process to begin. 
As next steps, a Transition Task Force and a Strategy Working Group will be appointed. The Transition Task Force will develop detailed transition plans, including legal requirements, new statutes and governance structures, while the Strategy Working Group will focus on the mission, vision, and objectives for the merged organization. The recommendations of the Transition Working Group and Strategy Task Force will be presented for adoption at the ICSU General Assembly in October 2017. BISO will continue to consult and work closely with the BISO Board (which consists of representatives from most of the U.S. National Committees) and U.S.-based union officers throughout this period.
Science International: Speaking with One Voice
ICSU’s 2014 external review also recommended that (ICSU) and several closely-allied organizations, including the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), and The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS) find a way of speaking with a common voice on important themes. Science International ( was the result. It is a platform through which the four organizations can speak with one voice.
The first Science International accord was released in December 2015 and addresses big data/open data.  It proposes 12 principles to guide open access to big data. A four-page summary of Open Data in a Big Data World can be found here. For the full version, click here.
Providing International Science Advice to Governments
In September 2016, ICSU was involved with the 2nd International Science Advice to Governments conference in Brussels, Belgium. More than 600 policymakers, practitioners and scientists from 72 countries discussed the needs and opportunities associated with providing scientific advice and evidence into the policy process. The conference was organized by the International Network on Government Science Advice (INGSA), which operates under the auspices of ICSU, and the European Commission. A report of the conference can be found on the ICSU webpage at
ICSU Advisory Note Issued Addressing Gender-based Harassment in the Practice of Science
ICSU released an advisory note calling for “more effective strategies to promote gender equality and equitable access to all resources in the practice of science, notably in the area of field research, and to remove barriers to the full participation in science by women.” The advisory note “Mobility and Field Research in the Sciences: Gender Equality and Prevention of Harassment” is available here.
The statement grew out of a workshop organized by ICSU’s Committee on the Freedom and Responsibilities of Science (CFRS), the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and ICSU Regional Office of Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) on “Gender Issues in Field Research: Mobility and Internationalization of Science”. The workshop was held in Mexico City in April 2016.
As ICSU noted in its press release (, “gender-based harassment can limit mobility of women researchers, and contribute to the under-representation of women in senior careers, as scholars and as leaders in science and industry. Such barriers have the potential to harm the integrity of the research community, relationships amongst its practitioners, and victims’ commitment to scientific research and scholarship.”
This advisory note is closely related to and based on ICSU’s Statute 5 on the Principle of Universality of Science.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number IIA-1332689. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

ICSU General Assembly Photo Credit: Bruce Alberts with the U.S. Delegation; Early Career Scientists Panel (Source:; ICSU President, Gordon McBean (Source:; General Assembly meeting (Source:

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