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International Council for Science

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International Council for Science

International Council for Science
Logo of ICSU
Abbreviation ICSU
Formation 1931 (1931)
Headquarters Paris, France
2011-2014 President Yuan Tseh Lee
Website .org.icsuwww
Formerly called International Council of Scientific Unions
  members as participants in the Caribbean Academy of Sciences or University of the South Pacific

The International Council for Science (abbreviated ICSU, after its former name, International Council of Scientific Unions) is an international organization devoted to international cooperation in the advancement of science. Its members are national scientific bodies and international scientific unions. As of 2012, it comprises 120 multi-disciplinary National Scientific Members, Associates and Observers representing 140 countries and 31 international, disciplinary Scientific Unions. ICSU also has 22 Scientific Associates.

Mission and principles

"ICSU’s mission is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society. To do this, ICSU mobilizes the knowledge and resources of the international science community to:

  • Identify and address major issues of importance to science and society.
  • Facilitate interaction amongst scientists across all disciplines and from all countries.
  • Promote the participation of all scientists—regardless of race, citizenship, language, political stance, or gender—in the international scientific endeavour.
  • Provide independent, authoritative advice to stimulate constructive dialogue between the scientific community and governments, civil society, and the private sector."[1]

Activities focus on three areas: International Research Collaboration, Science for Policy, and Universality of Science.


ICSU is one of the oldest non-governmental organizations in the world and represents the evolution and expansion of two earlier bodies known as the International Association of Academies (IAA; 1899-1914) and the International Research Council (IRC; 1919-1931). In 1998, Members agreed that the Council’s current composition and activities would be better reflected by modifying the name from the International Council of Scientific Unions to the International Council for Science, while its rich history and strong identity would be well served by retaining the existing acronym, ICSU.[2]

Universality of Science

"The universality of science in its broadest sense is about developing a truly global scientific community on the basis of equity and non-discrimination. It is also about ensuring that science is trusted and valued by societies across the world. As such, it incorporates issues related to the conduct of science; capacity building; science education and literacy; access to data and information and the relationship between science and society. [...] Underpinning this broader concept of universality is the Principle of the Universality of Science (ICSU Statute 5)[3] which is more narrowly focused on the freedoms and responsibilities of science. Adherence to this Principle is a condition of ICSU membership. The policy Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS)[4] serves as the guardian of the Principle and undertakes a variety of actions to defend scientific freedoms and promote integrity and responsibility."[5]

The "Freedom and Responsibility Portal" on the ICSU's website documents its activities in these areas.[6]


The ICSU Secretariat (20 staff in 2012) in Paris ensures the day-to-day planning and operations under the guidance of an elected Executive Board. Three Policy Committees - Committee on Scientific Planning and Review (CSPR), Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS) and Committee on Finance - assist the Executive Board in its work and a General Assembly of all Members is convened every three years. ICSU has three Regional Offices - Africa, Asia and the Pacific as well as Latin America and the Caribbean.


The principal source of ICSU's finances is the contributions it receives from its members. Other sources of income are the framework contracts from United Nations bodies, foundations and agencies, which are used to support the scientific activities of the ICSU Unions and interdisciplinary bodies.

Member Scientific Unions

Abbreviation Union Member Since Field
IAU International Astronomical Union 1922 Astronomy
IBRO International Brain Research Organization 1993 Neuroscience
IGU International Geographical Union 1923 Geography
IMU International Mathematical Union 1922 Mathematics
INQUA International Union for Quaternary Research 2005 Quaternary Period
ISA International Sociological Association 2011 Sociology and Social Sciences
ISPRS International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing 2002 Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
IUAES International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences 1993 Anthropology and Ethnology
IUBMB International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 1955 Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
IUBS International Union of Biological Sciences 1925 Biology
IUCr International Union of Crystallography 1947 Crystallography
IUFRO International Union of Forest Research Organizations 2005 Forestry
IUFoST International Union of Food Science and Technology 1996 Food science and Food technology
IUGG International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics 1922 Geodesy and Geophysics
IUGS International Union of Geological Sciences 1922 Geology
IUHPS International Union of History and Philosophy of Science 1922 History of science and Philosophy of science
IUIS International Union of Immunological Societies 1976 Immunology
IUMRS International Union of Materials Research Societies 2005 Materials science
IUMS International Union of Microbiological Societies 1982 Microbiology
IUNS International Union of Nutritional Sciences 1968 Nutrition
IUPAB International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics 1966 Biophysics
IUPAC International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry 1922 Chemistry
IUPAP International Union of Pure and Applied Physics 1922 Physics
IUPESM International Union for Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine 1999 Medical physics
IUPHAR International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology 1972 Pharmacology
IUPS International Union of Physiological Sciences 1955 Physiology
IUPsyS International Union of Psychological Science 1982 Psychology
IUSS International Union of Soil Sciences 1993 Soil science
IUTAM International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics 1947 Mechanics
IUTOX International Union of Toxicology 1996 Toxicology
URSI International Union of Radio Science 1922 Radio science

See also


  1. ^ ICSU’s About us web page, updated on 14 December 2011
  2. ^ ICSU’s A brief history web page, updated on 8 August 2012
  3. ^ ICSU Statute 5
  4. ^ ICSU Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science
  5. ^ ICSU’s Universality of Science web section
  6. ^ ICSU’s freedom and responsibility web portal


  • Greenaway, Frank (2006) Science International: A History of the International Council of Scientific Unions Cambridge University Press ISBN 9780521028103
  • Frängsmyr, Tore (1990) Solomon's house revisited: the organization and institutionalization of science. Science History Publications, U.S.A. ISBN 9780881350661
  • Crawford, Elisabeth (2002) Nationalism and Internationalism in Science, 1880-1939. Cambridge University Press ISBN 9780521524742

External links

  •, the official website
  • ICSU at University of Waterloo Scholarly Societies directory
  • ICSU at United Nations
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