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IUCr 1996 Report - International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU)

The 25th General Assembly of ICSU was held in Washington DC, USA, 24-27 September 1996, hosted by the US National Scientific Member of ICSU, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The IUCr was represented by Professor M. Hart, member of the Executive Committee. The Assembly was preceded by a Symposium on Science and Human Goals in the 21st Century, which was held on 24 September. The objectives of the Symposium were to demonstrate the inherently international character of science and its contributions to knowledge and to finding practical solutions for problems facing humanity.

The General Assembly of ICSU was attended by 232 persons, which included representatives of each of the 23 Union members of ICSU, 61 National members or National Associates, 8 Scientific Associates, 21 interdisciplinary or standing ICSU bodies, and 8 partner organizations. The Assembly had three full working days, many of which included night sessions, either of the entire Assembly or of its subsidiary organs. The proposals for modifications to the Statutes and Rules of Procedure were adopted and the revised version of these was published in the 1997 Year Book. Two new Unions were admitted for ICSU membership: the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) and the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX) bringing the number of Scientific Union members of ICSU to 25. The Academia Nacional de Ciencias of Costa Rica was admitted as a National Scientific member, bringing the national participation in ICSU to 95.

The Assembly divided into four working groups during the afternoon of 25 September, in order to allow participants to discuss matters of common concern around the topics of the Biological Sciences; the Earth and Space Sciences, Physical, Chemical and Mathematical Sciences; Social Sciences; and National Concerns.

R. Elliot, Chair of the Conference on Electronic Publishing which took place in Paris in February 1996 [Acta Cryst. (1996), A52, 977-981], reported on the Conference which was a direct follow-up to a resolution of the 24th General Assembly of ICSU and informed participants that the Proceedings of this were available on the WWW, as well as in book form. He suggested that the future should not be based on old methods of publishing, but that the new methods should be encouraged. The IUCr made major presentations and significant inputs to the Paris Conference. The Conference on Electronic Publishing concluded that:

material should still be peer-reviewed and authenticated;

action must be taken to make sure that archived material is suitably preserved so that it can be read in years to come;

the cost of electronic publishing could be as expensive as traditional publishing because of hidden costs;

copyright should be addressed at a legal level and scientific committees should be established to protect the interests of those involved;

the nature of the networks would impact developing countries, allowing these to leap-frog difficulties, if attention was given to those who have limited access to funds.

L. Lederman, Chair of the ICSU Committee on Capacity Building in Science (CCBS), presented his Committee's report and recommendations, recalling that the Committee had been set up by a Resolution of the 24th General Assembly of ICSU and reminding the General Assembly that the Committee members brought a wide variety of cultural, scientific, and educational experiences to ICSU. He explained in detail the three principal foci of the work of CCBS: primary level science education; public understanding of science; and the reduction of the isolation of scientists and said that these would be the first building blocks of the proposed ICSU Programme on Capacity Building in Science.

At the end of this discussion, the General Assembly expressed through a vote that it would be in favour of launching a major ICSU Programme in Capacity Building in Science. The General Assembly further approved the establishment of a Standing Committee on Responsibility and Ethics in Science.

With the retirement of Professor O. G. Tandberg, the Secretariat of the Standing Committee on Freedom in the Conduct of Sciences (SCFCS) has been moved to Switzerland, with P. Schindler taking over as Executive Secretary of the Committee.

The next meeting of the General Committee and an Extraordinary General Assembly are to be held in Vienna, Austria, 23-25 April 1998. The report of the Committee on the Assessment of ICSU and related changes to the Statutes and Rules of Procedure are to be discussed.

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Updated 14th February 1997

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