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IUCr 1994 Report - International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU)

The 33rd Meeting of the ICSU General Committee was held in Rabat, Morocco, 13-15 October 1994, the first to be held on the African continent. ICSU is constituted by Scientific Union Members and by National Scientific Members and, for the first time, the General Committee met in its new composition, one Representative per Union Member and an equal number of National Scientific Members. The following points were discussed.

I. Administrative

(a) Assessment of ICSU: following the report of the Standing Committee on Membership, Structure and Statutes, the General Committee has recommended that an independent assessment be made of the mission, the organizational structure and the operational modes of ICSU, considering ICSU's role in international science to meet the needs of society. The Executive Board is charged with establishing the terms of reference and selecting the membership of an independent team to conduct the assessment. The conclusions will be reported to the 25th General Assembly in 1996.

(b) Frequency of the General Committee Meetings: a straw vote indicated a preference of the majority of the members of the General Committee for reducing the frequency of the Meetings of the GC (from every 12 months to every 18 months). A decision will be made at the 25th General Assembly in 1996.

(c) Informatics: the General Committee recommended that the general area of informatics be better represented in the activities of ICSU in order to take into account new developments and the wide range of applications of informatics to many fields of interest within the ICSU family. A working group is to be constituted which will make proposals.

II. Review of Interdisciplinary ICSU Bodies and Scientific Associates

The following bodies were discussed:

Inter-Union Commission on the Lithosphere;

Scientific Committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction;

World Climate Research Programme & International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme;

International Union for Quarternary Research;

International Union of Forestry Research Organizations;

International Union of Toxicology.

III. Discussion of Scientific Areas of Common Concern

(a) Nuclear Waste Disposal: the report of the International Union of Geological Sciences Nuclear Waste Disposal Group was presented. A paper for publication in a major scientific journal providing an independent scientific view is under preparation.

(b) Biodiversity: the results of the International Forum on Biodiversity were presented. The General Committee recommends that a Working Group be established to work with the members of Diversitas (co-sponsored by the International Union of Bio-sciences, the programme SCOPE and UNESCO) to consider the potential contributions of the various ICSU bodies to the science of biodiversity.

(c) Capacity Building in Science: a report was presented on the first Meeting of the Committee on Capacity Building in Science, which has replaced the Committee on the Teaching of Science (CTS). The new Committee is working towards the possibility of launching a global programme in capacity building at the 1996 General Assembly. The clearinghouse function that the CTS served in bringing together the Representatives of the teaching Commissions of the scientific Unions will be continued.

(d) Science in the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe: a Meeting was organized in Leeds Castle (UK) in June 1994 on the role of science in rebuilding the countries of the former Soviet Union. It was attended by 28 persons from 14 different countries and led to very fruitful discussions. A Meeting of heads of independent national research funding organizations from the FSU, EEC and selected OECD countries to share experiences on the way science is funded is planned for 1996.

(e) Freedom in the Conduct of Science: the General Committee has recommended that the scope of the Standing Committee on Free Circulation of Scientists be expanded to cover issues about the ethical responsibility of scientists, among other things, concerning such issues as human genome research, plagiarism and the deposition of data (the IUCr policy of data deposition in its journals was given as example of what should be done, the case of commercial publishers who do not have such policies was given as an example of what should not!).

( f ) Population: ICSU's involvement in the various actions in the area of population was recalled, for instance the organization of the ASCEND 21 Conference.

IV. Scientific Programme

(a) Seminar on Confronting Complexity: talks were given by members of the General Committee on various examples of complexity in chaotic and dynamical systems, in physical, chemical and biological systems, in psychology and neurosciences.

(b) Science in Morocco: a lecture was given on Environment, Natural Hazards and Development: some Aspects of Science in Morocco.

V. ICSU Press Conference on Electronic Publishing

A Conference on Electronic Publishing is planned for 19-26 February 1996, to be held in the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Main topics will include:

Electronic data storage and archiving;

Legal issues in electronic publishing;

Protection and control of data;

Scientists' view of electronic publishing and issues raised;

Economics and organization of primary electronic publishing.

VI. Resolutions

The other recommendations of the General Committee are:

that a working group be appointed to examine the appropriate role of ICSU in providing advice on the utilization, maintenance and restoration of the Earth's resource base;

that a small Meeting on energy problems be organized in 1995 with the participation of experts to be nominated by the various relevant Unions;

that a Committee on Food Security be established.

VII. Next Meeting

The next Meeting of the ICSU General Committee will be held 7-9 October 1995 in Thailand.

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