[IUCr Home Page]

IUCr 1995 Report - International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU)

(A) Report on the 34th Meeting of the ICSU General Committee held in Chang Mai, Thailand, 7-9 October 1995

I. Administrative

(a) Assessment of ICSU: an independent Assessment Panel has been established to assess the work and mode of action of ICSU. Its Chairman, R. Schmitt, attended the 34th Meeting of the General Committee. The Panel was to meet in Paris in early 1996 and the conclusions will be reported to the 25th General Assembly of ICSU in 1996.

(b) Frequency of the General Committee Meetings: a vote of the General Committee confirmed the straw vote taken in Rabat, Israel, in 1994 in favour of 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) Admissions: it was recommended to admit as National Scientific Associates the National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and as International Scientific Associates the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing and the Engineering Committee on Oceanic Resources.

(d) Informatics: the meeting of experts from various Unions which was convened by the International Mathematics Union in May 1995 will probably lead to the creation of an International Union of Computing Science and Informatics. The Chairman of the IUCr Commission on Crystallographic Computing was consulted.

(e) Ethics: the General Committee discussed the possibility of establishing a Standing Committee for Scientific Responsibility and Ethics in Science and agreed that the mandate of such a Committee still needed to be sharpened by a working group before the next General Assembly. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has offered to provide a secretariat for this Standing Committee.

II. Review of Interdisciplinary ICSU Bodies and Scientific Associates

The following bodies were discussed: CODATA; WDC; FAGS; IIASA; IFSEM; IRPA.

III. Scientific Priority Setting

(a) Agriculture: a Workshop on Food Security for the 21st Century was held in Senegal in November 1995 with the aim to formulate specific recommendations for action by ICSU in agriculture, forestry and aquaculture. Food security is an issue of relevance for many members of the ICSU family. Stress on such issues as nutrition security, impact of pesticides, effect of poverty on food security etc. will be included.

(b) Water Research: a report from SCOWAR was discussed and the microbiological aspects of water quality and water safety were stressed by several members.

(c) ICSU involvement in the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme: it was recommended that ICSU should interact more closely with the social sciences and that ICSU should co-sponsor this Programme.

(d) Arctic Science: it was recommended that ICSU should be more involved in the Arctic; as a possible means of cooperation, the International Arctic Science Committee might apply for Associate status in ICSU.

(e) Science in the Year 2000: IUPAP plans to celebrate Science in the Year 2000 and it was suggested that other Unions might do the same and that their efforts should be coordinated. It was recommended that ICSU should also organize a special event at its 1999 General Assembly and that it should act as a focal point for other such initiatives sponsored by ICSU bodies.

IV. Report on Follow-up to Recommendations of 33rd Meeting of the General Committee

(a) Towards Managing the Earth System: W. Fyfe reported on plans for mounting a programme on managing the Earth system, which should include both scientists and politicians.

(b) Energy: it is recommended that a meeting be convened in 1996 to define a strategy for ICSU for all problems concerning energy.

(c) Biodiversity: the original sponsors of DIVERSITAS (IUBS, SCOPE and UNESCO) have been joined by ICSU, IUMS and GCTE/IGBP. A Scientific Committee, a Chair and an Executive Director will be named for the programme, which would be financed by CNRS, France, and housed at UNESCO.

(d) Committee on Capacity Building in Science: ICSU is planning to launch an important and ambitious programme on Capacity Building in Science, which will be presented at the 1996 ICSU General Assembly. All ICSU bodies are invited to mobilize their resources to support this programme. It is felt that capacity building, including education and public understanding of science issues, is the area in which ICSU can make the most significant contribution to the future of humanity.

(e) Universality and UN Decisions about Sanctions: the General Committee has revised its statement on Freedom in the Conduct of Science (see Appendix 1) and has produced, after advice from legal experts, a document on the impacts of UN Sanctions on Freedom in the Conduct of Science (see Appendix 2). Members of the ICSU family are encouraged to use these documents whenever necessary.

V. Scientific Programme

The following lectures were presented during the scientific sessions, which were open to scientists from Thailand:

(a) Science in Asia: Science and Technology in Thailand (S. Sabhasri), Why Basic Sciences in Asia (M. Ito).

(b) Informatics and Basic Sciences: Informatics a Cultural Revolution (A. Authier), Informatics and the Wealth of Nations (J. E. Fenstad), Information and the Changing Global Environment (G. I. Pearman).

(c) 21st Century Issues in Biosciences: New Frontiers in Biotechnology, Marine Biotechnology as a Paradigm (R. Colwell), Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (H. A. Mooney).

VI. Next Meeting

The next meeting of the ICSU General Committee will be held on 23 September 1996, just prior to the 25th General Assembly which will be held in Washington, DC, USA, at the invitation of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Appendix 1

ICSU statement on freedom in the conduct of science (Approved by the Executive Board and General Committee of ICSU, Lisbon, Portugal, October 1989, revised by the Executive Board, Rabat, Israel, October 1994, and further revised by the General Committee at its meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, October 1995.)

The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) is the oldest existing non-governmental body committed to international scientific cooperation for the benefit of humanity. Created in 1931 when its predecessor, the International Research Council, was dissolved because of discrimination against scientists from certain countries, ICSU has consistently and vigorously pursued a policy of non-discrimination. ICSU maintains that discrimination hinders the free communication and exchange of ideas and information among scientists and thereby impedes scientific progress, which is dependent on their collective efforts.

ICSU's members are 23 International Scientific Unions and 94 National Academies of Science or Research Councils. Together these organizations set up international mechanisms to carry out scientific programmes of an interdisciplinary nature which are concerned with issues such as protection of the environment, research in Antarctic regions or space research. An important factor in the success of these activities is that they are carried out under the aegis of such a respected independent and international scientific body as ICSU. Each of the International Scientific Unions, the National Scientific Members, ICSU interdisciplinary bodies, and Scientific Associates - the organizations comprising the ICSU family - strictly adheres to the basic principles of the Council's Statutes when involved in activities carried out within the scope of ICSU's concern.

One of the basic principles in these Statutes is that of the universality of science (see Statute 5), which affirms the right and freedom of scientists to associate in international scientific activity without regard to such factors as citizenship, religion, creed, political stance, ethnic origin, race, colour, language, age or sex. Such rights are embodied in a variety of articles in the International Bill of Human Rights. [The International Bill of Human Rights includes three documents: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966).]

ICSU seeks to protect and promote awareness of the rights and fundamental freedoms of scientists in their scientific pursuits. ICSU has a well established non-political tradition which is central to its character and operations, and it does not permit any of its activities to be disturbed by statements or actions of a political nature.

As the intrinsic nature of science is universal, its success depends on cooperation, interaction and exchange, often beyond national boundaries. Therefore, ICSU strongly supports the principle that scientists must have free access to each other and to scientific data and information. It is only through such access that international scientific cooperation flourishes and science thus progresses.

On these grounds, ICSU works to resolve such cases as do, nevertheless, arise from time to time when such open access is denied or restricted and in cases primarily involving members of the ICSU family. In most cases, private consultations involving members of the ICSU family have been successful. Where private consultations have failed, ICSU has publicized acts of discrimination against scientists and taken steps to prevent their repetition, including, if necessary, such measures as encouraging members of the ICSU family to decline invitations to hold or attend meetings in the country concerned.

On the basis of its firm and unwavering commitment to the principle of the universality of science, ICSU reaffirms its opposition to any actions which weaken or undermine this principle.

Appendix 2

Implications of the impacts of UN sanctions on freedom in the conduct of science

The role of science and scientific enquiry in the promotion of human welfare is undeniable. But in order to ensure the proper functioning of this progress, it is essential to maintain the possibility of communication and cooperation beyond national boundaries. This is all the more so in a world in which the interconnection of different branches of science is becoming increasingly important as the opportunities for scientific contribution to the solution of developmental and environmental problems become increasingly obvious.

The promotion of international scientific work and its use for the benefit of humanity has been the central purpose of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) since its creation in 1931. ICSU has strongly upheld the principle of the universality of science without which science, a vital and necessary component of human development, cannot flourish. That belief is embodied in the attached Statement on Freedom in the Conduct of Science. ICSU has consultative status with ECOSOC, with UNESCO, and with other relevant UN organizations. Thus, ICSU is recognized as `providing a natural and appropriate forum for the international organization of science'. [UNESCO-ICSU Agreement signed in 1947.]

In the course of performing its statutory functions in this regard, ICSU has increasingly encountered difficulties related to the implementation of UN Security Council decisions on sanctions under Article 41 of the UN Charter. These difficulties fall mainly into the following categories:

(i) Bona fide scientists engaged in wholly peaceful research have been refused entry visas necessary for their participation in international scientific activities, such as conferences or visits to research institutes.

(ii) The free flow of scientific communication has been interrupted in the belief that such communication violates UN sanctions; examples include refusals to publish scientific works and embargoes on the sale of scientific books and journals.

(iii) The collection and interpretation of scientific data and information have been hindered, particularly with regard to the environment and despite the fact that such data are essential to progress in implementation of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

(iv) The purchase of scientific equipment and materials having only peaceful applications has been impeded.

The difficulties described above appear to contravene several fundamental principles embodied in the UN Charter (notably Articles 1 and 55), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 2, 19 and 27), and the UNESCO Constitution (Article 1).

Aware of the fact that the UN Security Council is willing to minimize the unintended adverse side effects of UN sanctions in this area, and given the importance of freedom in the conduct of international science to the well being of humanity, ICSU recommends that appropriate measures be taken by the UN Security Council to permit and facilitate the free flow of all legitimate international scientific communication and exchange among bona fide scientists engaged in wholly peaceful research.

Such measures should include:

the issuance of a statement supporting the free flow of all legitimate international scientific communication and exchange among such scientists;

the unequivocal lifting of any and all sanctions related to legitimate international scientific exchange among such scientists, irrespective of nationality;

the notification of all UN member countries that such action be taken, accompanied by a recommendation that any national legislation enacted to conform to the UN sanctions be modified to exempt scientific exchange;

a resolution that international scientific communication and exchange among such scientists will be exempted from sanctions imposed in the future.

Document drawn up by meeting of invited legal and other experts, ICSU, Paris, France, July 1995, and subsequently modified by members of the Standing Committee on Freedom in the Conduct of Science and the Executive Board of ICSU, October 1995.

ICSU Press Conference on Electronic Publishing

A Conference on Electronic Publishing in Science, organized jointly by ICSU Press and UNESCO, was held during the week 19-26 February 1996 in the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. The IUCr representative, A. Authier, was Co-Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee. It was attended by 150 experts in electronic publishing, scientists, publishers, librarians and lawyers. Invited speakers (including the Editor of Acta Crystallographica Section C, S. R. Hall) surveyed the field before participants split into five workshops to discuss specific issues. Main topics included: 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.

The Conference overwhelmingly recommended that strict peer review should be applied to all scientific material submitted for publication in electronic journals. ICSU and UNESCO are invited to organize a forum involving scientific societies in order to formulate codes of ethics and of conduct for electronic publication on such matters as peer review, citation, integrity, priority of publication and authentication of material and archiving. It was recommended that scientific societies, publishers and librarians come together to establish principles and guidelines for electronic archiving and that consultation with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) should be ensured concerning the use and development of appropriate standards. Funding agencies should regard the costs both of the publication of research results and access to required information as an essential component of research funding. An international committee should be established by ICSU in coordination with ICSU members and associates and involving representatives of the library and scientific publishing communities to conduct a technical study of the costs and benefits of electronic publication. ICSU and UNESCO should promote good access to computer communications for scientists in all countries with all available means. All scientists should receive training in the use of information resources and libraries and in good authoring skills as undergraduates. The scientific community in developing countries should become more involved in the development of methodologies, tools and standards relating to electronic publishing and archiving and regional cooperation should be encouraged. UNESCO should support pilot projects to this end. Further details may be found in the ICSU home page on the World-Wide Web at http://www.lmcp.jussieu.fr/icsu/.

[Next section] [Previous section] [Index] in IUCr annual report for 1995
[1994] [1996] IUCr International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) report

Updated 13th February 1997

Copyright © 1995 International Union of Crystallography

IUCr Webmaster