Forging a New Global Initiative: Earth System Research for Global Sustainability
Recent months have seen significant new developments for the visioning process—the three-step consultative process spearheaded by ICSU, in cooperation with the International Social Science Council (ISSC), to advance global Earth system science to aid mankind’s response to sustainability challenges.
The first two steps of the visioning process have now been completed. The key outcome from step 1, the document Earth System Science for Global Sustainability: the Grand Challenges, is available online, and from step 2 there was consensus that the existing structures, in their present form, do not have the capacity to deliver the integrated research needed to address the Grand Challenges.
In the 12 November issue of Science, the Visioning Task Team made the case for an unprecedented global initiative to address the Grand Challenges and deliver the knowledge society needs to simultaneously reduce global environmental risks and meet economic development goals. The full text of the article is available via the visioning website.
The process of creating and transitioning to the new initiative—step 3 of the visioning process—is now underway. The Visioning Task Team, along with the global change programmes, the co-sponsors, funders, user communities and other stakeholders, will meet in Paris, 10–11 February, to discuss the proposed plans for the initiative, including the establishment of a high-level governing body. This will be followed by an intensive 18-month period to design, establish and transition to the new structure.
For updates on the visioning process, including the latest information on the development of the initiative, visit the visioning website at: www.icsu-visioning.org
The Committee on Scientific Planning and Review (CSPR), which is responsible for developing the 2nd ICSU Strategic Plan, 2012-2017, presented a first draft to the Executive Board in October. A revised version of this draft will be sent out to ICSU Members and partners for comment in January. The final version, incorporating the comments and the updated outcomes of various ongoing strategic activities will be considered by the Executive Board in May 2011.
How will international science develop over the next two decades? CSPR has been using a foresight scenarios approach to explore this question. Following a broad consultation to identify key drivers that are likely to influence international science, four distinct scenarios have been developed. These will be circulated to Members in January for comment and will provide the basis for a CSPR workshop in April to explore ICSU’s role in strengthening international science for the benefit of society over the next twenty years.
Science Education Review
The review panel investigating ICSU's role in science education finalised its draft report and recommendations during its second meeting, which was held in Paris in September. The draft report has been sent to ICSU Members and bodies for comment, with feedback invited by 17 January 2011. The panel will revise the report in light of this feedback, before presenting to CSPR for approval in March 2011.
Hazards and DisastersPlanning and Coordinating Research
The Scientific Committee for the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) programme met in Beijing in November, at the Center for Earth Observation and Digital Earth (CEODE)—the host of the IRDR International Programme Office (IPO). Discussion focused on the three major initiatives being developed as part of the initial IRDR programme: a series of forensic investigations on previous disaster events (the FORIN project); the Risk Interpretation and Action (RIA) project; and a study on the development of a long-term database, monitoring and tools. Representatives of the three IRDR Sponsors—ICSU, the International Social Science Council and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduciton—used the occasion to sign the IRDR Constitution.
The IRDR IPO was officially launched at a ceremony following the Scientific Committee meeting. The IRDR Executive Director, Dr Jane Rovins, heads the Office, and is currently recruiting professional staff. The IRDR website (www.irdrinternational.org) was recently launched and will continue to grow as the programme develops.
Urban Health and Well-being
The final draft of the science plan 'Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment: a Systems Analysis Approach' was presented to the Executive Board in October, and will be sent to ICSU Members for comment in the coming weeks. Preliminary consultations are also taking place with potential institutional partners and funders. Depending on the outcome of these various consultations a new interdisciplinary initiative will be presented to the General Assembly in September 2011.
The IPY 2012 Conference 'From Knowledge to Action' will take place in Montreal, Canada, 22–27 April 2012. The conference is the final event of the International Polar Year 2007-2008, the largest international programme of interdisciplinary polar research ever undertaken. This conference will provide an opportunity to translate new understandings into policy that will guide activities in and enhance stewardship of the polar regions. The First Circular for the conference is now available.
A committee investigating the lessons learnt from the education, outreach and communication activities that took place during the IPY is currently drafting a report with recommendations for ICSU's future international scientific programmes. The lessons learnt project received funding from the 2010 ICSU grants programme.
ICSU, at the request of international funders of global change research, conducted an analysis of the international research capability required to respond to the Belmont challenge of delivering knowledge to support human action and adaptation to regional environmental change. The report from the panel conducting the analysis underwent extensive peer review, before it was endorsed by the Executive Board in August. The report was presented to the Belmont Forum at its meeting in Cape Town in October (see item under 'Funding Agencies: Belmont Forum'). The final report has been distributed and is also available on the ICSU website.
Fourteen proposals have been submitted for the 2011 ICSU grants programme. The proposals will be reviewed by the Committee on Scientific Planning and Review (CSPR), before final approval at the CSPR meeting in March 2011.
The reports from the projects awarded grants in 2009 are available in the Member Zone. Overall, the projects exceeded their proposed goals and the leverage of these relatively small grants to make productive connections between ICSU’s Scientific Union Members, Interdisciplinary Bodies and Regional Offices was impressive.
Global Observing System of Systems Science for Policy
In November, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the institution responsible for developing the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), held its 7th Plenary Session in Beijing, followed by a one-day Ministerial Summit. At the plenary, an Action Plan for implementing the GEOSS Data Sharing Principles was agreed, while the summit adopted the GEO Beijing Declaration. The ICSU Executive Director, Deliang Chen, presented a statement at the summit. ICSU also made a joint statement with the GEO Principals of UN agencies, co-sponsors of the global observing systems for climate (GCOS), oceans (GOOS) and terrestrial (GTOS). ICSU’s Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) organized a side event in Beijing prior to the GEO Plenary.
ICSU, in cooperation with CODATA, WDS, Diversitas, IRDR, WCRP, GCOS, GOOS and GTOS, had a dedicated exhibition booth throughout the GEO meetings in Beijing. The booth was an excellent opportunity to showcase how each organization links with GEO/GEOSS, and also how the organizations are linked with each other. ICSU’s contribution focused on the linkages between research, observations, assessments, data and information, and policy making.
Global Climate Observing System
In September, ICSU participated in the 18th session of the Steering Committee for the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). This was an opportunity to highlight the relevance of the visioning process for the three global observing systems—GCOS, GOOS and GTOS—for which ICSU is a common sponsor, as well as GEO and GEOSS.
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Governments participating in the 3rd ad hoc stakeholder meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES), held in South Korea in June, agreed to establish the new mechanism. The IPBES mechanism will strengthen the interface between science and policy, and is likely to significantly change the way in which biodiversity information is provided to, and considered by, the international policy community.
Diversitas organized a side event, ‘IPBES: Status, Next Steps and Implications for the Biodiversity Community’, at the 10th session of the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties in Nagoya, Japan, in October. The event provided an update on the IPBES decisions, the next steps in the IPBES process and considered some of the possible implications for the scientific and policy communities addressing biodiversity and ecosystem services in the context of the CBD and beyond.
UN Conference on Sustainable Development—Rio+20
Preparations have started for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - http://www.uncsd2012.org/, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012—more commonly called Earth Summit 2012 or 'Rio+20'. As co-organizer of the input from the Scientific and Technological Community, ICSU is participating in the intergovernmental Preparatory Committee meetings; the second of which will be held in New York in May 2011. In preparation for this event, a High-Level Intersessional Meeting will be held in New York, 10–11 January.
The UN General Assembly decided that the conference in 2012 will aim to: renew political commitment to sustainable development; review progress and gaps in the implementation of previous Earth Summits; identify new and emerging challenges; as well as focus on two themes—a green economy in the context of poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development. The UN has formally invited the nine Major Groups to actively participate in the Rio+20 preparations. As co-organizer of the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group with the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, ICSU has given the Rio+20 conference the highest priority. ICSU’s aim is to act as the global voice of science and to strengthen the scientific input into the conference. To this end, ICSU will seek the cooperation of its National and Union Members, and its three Regional Offices. ICSU will also seek contributions from the global change research programmes, and the initiative on Earth System Research for Global Sustainability that is emerging from the visioning process.
Staff have been appointed to coordinate ICSU’s involvement in Rio+20 and will begin in the New Year (see item under 'Staff Changes')
Open Science Conference: Planet Under Pressure
The Executive Board decided that ICSU will join the global change programmes—Diversitas, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, International Human Dimensions Programme of Global Environmental Change, and the World Climate Research Programme—and the Earth System Science Parnership as co-sponsor of the open science conference 'Planet Under Pressure', taking place in London, 26–29 March 2012. The conference will provide a comprehensive update on the state of the planet, the pressure it is under and the societal transformations required to move to a more sustainable pathway. It will discuss solutions and provide scientific input to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 (Rio+20). The first meeting of the Scientific Organizing Committee took place at the Royal Society in London, 13–14 December.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
ICSU, as an observer organization, participated in the 32nd Plenary Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), held in South Korea in November. The session focused on IPCC activities for 2010-2014, particularly the 5th assessment report (AR5) which is currently underway. It also discussed the InterAcademy Council (IAC) review of the IPCC working procedures and processes.
United Nations Climate Change Conference
ICSU and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) organized a side event 'Emerging scientific findings and ongoing dialogue with the research community' at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico. The side event was well attended by negotiators, scientists and engineers, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The event is part of the ongoing dialogue between the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the global change research programmes—Diversitas, IGBP, IHDP and WCRP—and ESSP.>
World Science Forum
The next World Science Forum 'The Changing Global Scientific Landscape' will be held 17–19 November 2011. The World Science Forum brings together several hundred leaders in science from around the world and is held every two years in Budapest, as a follow up to the World conference on Science in 1999. The 2011 forum is being organized by the Hungarian Academy of Science, in partnership with ICSU, UNESCO and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Freedom and Responsibility Universality of Science
ICSU Statute 5 lays out the Principle of Universality of Science, which embodies the freedoms that are necessary for scientists to conduct their work without discrimination as part of the global scientific community. However, in its current form, the statute makes no explicit reference to the responsibilities that are inherent in the principle. The Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS) is addressing this omission by proposing revised wording for statute 5. The proposal has been circulated to the ICSU Membership for consideration, with comments invited by 1 February. The final wording, taking into account comments from Members, will be submitted to the General Assembly for approval in September, 2011.
The 8th meeting of CFRS was held in July and took place in Singapore immediately prior to the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity. The Conference brought together more than 200 scientists, science managers and policy makers, who agreed on a consensus Singapore Statement that lays out the principles for scientific conduct. This is an important international reference document and was endorsed by CFRS at its 9th meeting in November.
In November, the 9th meeting of CFRS took place in Bogota, Colombia, and was hosted by the Colombian Academy of Sciences and the National University. It was followed by a two-day joint 'Forum on Science Communication: Responsibilities of the Scientific Community and the Media' that brought together several hundred students and academics of science and journalism. The workshop highlighted the challenges and opportunities in ensuring the accurate portrayal of science in both traditional and new media and the responsibilities of individual scientists and their institutions. CFRS has developed anadvisory note on science communication based on discussions from the workshop. Video from the conference is available online and a special edition of the Colombian National University newspaper 'Un Periodico' devoted to the conference will be available shortly.
Data and Information
The criteria for membership to the ICSU World Data System (WDS) and the certification process are now available on the WDS website. An online application form will be available in January for organizations wishing to join WDS. The WDS Scientific Committee will evaluate all applications and provide accreditation for the successful organizations.
The ICSU Executive Board accepted the generous offer from the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) to host and financially support the WDS International Programme Office. As requested by the Executive Board, a site visit took place in December and a Letter of Cooperation between ICSU and NICT is being finalized.
The third meeting of the WDS Scientific Committee was held in September in Cape Town, South Africa—co-located with the CODATA International Conference. The committee made progress in planning the first ICSU WDS conference ‘Global Data for Global Science’, which will be held in Kyoto, Japan, 3–6 September 2011. The next meeting of the Scientific Committee will be held in Paris on 14–16 March 2011.
Strategic Coordinating Committee on Information and Data (SCCID)
The third meeting of the Strategic Coordinating Committee for Information and Data (SCCID) was held in Paris in September. The committee discussed the Terms of Reference that had not yet been addressed and began drafting an interim report which will be finalized at the final SCCID meeting—scheduled to take place in Paris, 16-18 March 2011.
Africa ICSU in the Regions
ICSU and the National Research Foundation of South Africa are pleased to announce that Dr Edith Madela–Mntla has been appointed Director of the ICSU Regional Office for Africa (ROA). Dr Mntla is joining the Regional Office from the Medical research Council of South Africa and brings extensive experience and networks from within the health sector. She was appointed following an international search and will take up her appointment on 1 January.
The Regional Office for Africa has published its 2009–10 Annual Report. Printed copies of the annual report are being distributed to ICSU Members as well as to key stakeholders and the international scientific community. The office has also produced and will soon start distributing a seminar report on ‘Knowledge on the move: Africa’s perspectives’. The seminar was held in Pretoria in March, and was jointly organized by ICSU ROA and WOTRO, a science division of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).
The Regional Office has continued to promote and support the activities of ICSU Members and Interdisciplinary Bodies in Africa. The office was actively involved in organizing the CODATA international conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in October, and the Health Risk Assessment Training workshop (in partnership with TOXSA, under the auspices of the International Union of Toxicology) in Johannesburg in November.
More information and news is available on the Regional Office for Africa website.
Asia and the Pacific
The 10th meeting of the Regional Committee for Asia and the Pacific took place in Canberra, Australia, in November. During the meeting, ICSU signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asian Association of Social Science Research Councils (AASREC), to mark the establishment of a formal link between the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) and AASREC. AASSREC will work with the Regional Office to identify and benefit programmes where there is a joint interest.
Immediately prior to the Regional Committee meeting, ROAP and the Australian Academy of Science (a National Member of ICSU) held a symposium 'ICSU and Australian Science'.
Australia's Chief Scientist, Penny Sackett, and the ICSU Executive Director, Deliang Chen, joined some of Australia's leading scientists in discussing the progress and future direction of ICSU's activities and how they relate to the Australian science agenda, particularly: the Foresight Analysis; Earth System Research for Global Sustainabilty; and Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment.
The Executive Board appointed four new members to the Regional Committee: Sootiporn Chittmittrapap (Thailand); Javed Iqbal (India); Toshio Yamagata (Japan); and Jianxin Zhang (China: Beijing).
The review of the Regional Office has now been completed. The Review Panel made a site visit in August, holding discussions with the ROAP Director and the chair of the Regional Committee. The panel also held discussions with representatives of the hosts—the Academy of Sciences of Malaysia and the Government of Malaysia—as well as several regional partners. The Executive Board approved the recommendations of the review in October and the final report will be published in the Member Zone of the ICSU website.
The Regional Office published the book 'Sustainable Energy in Asia and the Pacific: Emerging Technologies and Research Priorities', which followed on from the 'Science Plan on Sustainable Energy'.
More information and news is available on the ROAP website.
Latin America and the Caribbean
ICSU, CONACyT and the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias (AMC) are pleased to welcome Professor Manuel Limonta as the new Director of the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC). He will take up the appointment on 1 January. The outgoing Director, Alice Abreu, continues to be active in her functions as Regional Director and from January 2011 will begin working with ICSU as a regional consultant for the Rio+20 project. The relocation of ROLAC to Mexico is underway and it is hoped the new office will be inaugurated in January.
The Regional Office was invited by the Organization of the American States (OAS) to attend the Sixth Regular Meeting of the Inter American Committee on Science and Technology, in September, as a Special Guest and representative of a Civil Society Organization. The meeting was part of the preparatory process to the next ministerial meeting scheduled for 2012. ICSU is recognized as a Civil Society Organization by the OAS following the signing of a General Cooperation Agreement in April.
The Regional Office continues its involvement with the Extreme Natural Hazards and Societal Implications (ENHANS) project. The first ENHANS events took place at the Meeting of the Americas (of the American Geophysical Union) in Iguassu, Brazil, in August. ENHANS is led by the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) and received funding from the 2009 ICSU grants programme.
The regional workshop ‘Facilitating the dialogue among national, regional and international databases on biodiversity’ took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August. The workshop brought together specialists and representatives from biodiversity institutes in the region and identified potential joint initiatives. The workshop was organized by ROLAC, CONICET Argentina and BIOTA FAPESP (the Virtual Institute of Biodiversity).
The review of the Regional Office has now been completed. The draft report and recommendations were approved by the Executive Board in October, and will be published in the Member Zone of the ICSU website.
The Regional Office has published a policy brief on 'Biodiversity and Human Wellbeing in Latin America and the Caribbean'. It is a joint initiative from DIVERSITAS, DiverSus and ROLAC, with the collaboration of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens, and is the result of extensive multi-stakeholder consultation. The document is available on the ROLAC website in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
More information and news is available on the ROLAC website.
Strategic Review of ICSU in the Regions
A sub-group of the Committee on Scientific Planning and Review (CSPR) has been charged with conducting an integrated analysis of the three Regional Office reviews. The group will make strategic recommendations on ICSU's role in promoting science and technology in developing countries, reporting to CSPR in April and the Executive Board in May 2011.
30th General Assembly ICSU Governance and Policies
The First Circular and Draft Agenda have been circulated and are available in the Member Zone. The call for nominations for Officers and Ordinary Members of the Executive Board was sent to Members on 16 November. Nominations are due by 26 March 2011 for Officers and 26 July 2011 for Ordinary Members of the Board. Information and forms are available in the Member Zone.
To help keep track of upcoming consultations and deadlines for the General Assembly, a one-page summary of activities leading up to September 2011 has been developed. The summary also includes previous consultations, and recent and upcoming publications, many of which are the end product of consultations with the ICSU community.The document is available under 'Documentation for Members' in the Member Zone of the ICSU website and will be updated regularly.
31st General Assembly
The Executive Board was pleased to accept the invitation from the Royal Society of New Zealand to host the 31st General Assembly in 2014.
Decisions from the 103rd meeting of the Executive Board are available in the Resource Centre of the ICSU website.
The Officers and Signatories of the Weighted Voting petition met immediately prior to the Executive Board meeting in October to consider the report from the Ad hoc Group on Weighted Voting. With one exception, the participants agreed that the third option—weighted voting on financial issues only and the current voting system used for non-financial issues—was acceptable and the best option. The Executive Board concurred with this recommendation.
New Scientific Associates
ICSU is pleased to welcome the International Union of Speleology (UIS) as an International Scientific Associate. An application from the International Council for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM) for admission as an International Scientific Associate is being considered. The Executive Board has agreed to admit ICIAM if sufficient support is received from the ICSU Members.
Funding Agencies: Belmont Forum
ICSU and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) were invited to join the Belmont Forum, at its meeting in Cape Town in October, to discuss the Belmont and visioning processes. There are significant opportunities for convergence between these two processes: in terms of substantive priorities and implementation. ICSU, ISSC and the Belmont Forum are now proposing an innovative 10-year initiative on Earth System Research for Global Sustainability.
International Social Science Council: General Assembly
The ISSC and the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (CIPSH) held their General Assembly in Nagoya, 9–14 December. The ICSU Executive Director attended and discussed cooperation between the natural and social science communities, focusing on the visioning process, Belmont challenge and the new 10-year initiative on Earth System Research for Global Sustainability.
In July, a small ICSU delegation headed by the Executive Director met with Gretchen Kalonji, the new Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, and her colleagues, at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Discussions centred on potential areas of cooperation between the two organizations, including the initiative emerging from the visioning process, Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR), the new Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), and science education. It was agreed that there is potential to hold joint regional workshops throughout 2011 in preparation for the UN Earth Summit in 2012 (Rio+20), and that ICSU and UNESCO need to show leadership regarding the contribution of PECS and DIVERSITAS to the new Intergovernmental Science-Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
Staff ChangesICSU Secretariat
Roberta Quadrelli will join the secretariat as a Science Officer, working on the new initiative emerging from the visioning process. She will take up her appointment in Paris in January.
Peter Bates will join the secretariat for 18 months as a Science Officer, coordinating ICSU’s role in Rio+20. Peter is joined by Alice Abreu, who will coordinate ICSU's regional activities for Rio+20 and the planned science forum at the summit. Both will take up their appointments in January, with Peter in Paris and Alice in Rio de Janeiro.
Alexander Hansen has been seconded from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)—the ICSU National Member in Germany—to work with both ICSU and the ISSC on joint activities relating to global environmental change. This follows on from the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the three organizations in September, which lays the foundation for closer institutional cooperation between the natural and social sciences at the international level. Alexander is based at the ISSC office in Paris.
Astrid Auraldsson from the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the ICSU National Member in Sweden, has been seconded to work on the visioning project in Sweden.
Richard Meylar will join the secratariat in Paris, on secondment from the Royal Society of New Zealand. He will be at ICSU from March, working on the Foresight Analysis and providing assistance in the lead-up to the General Assembly.
The ICSU staff would like to thank Emilia Koivisto for her contributions and hard work during her brief secondment. We would also like to thank the Finnish National Member for their efforts in organizing the secondment.
ICSU website upgrade
The upgrade of the ICSU website continues. The Regional Office websites are currently being redeveloped within the global site—providing a single, integrated web presence for the organization. The new website is scheduled to be launched in February.