The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) has been established to facilitate the coordination between the activities of the Scientific Union Members and the National Scientific Members. It acts as the non-governmental adviser to the UN, UNESCO and similar organizations on all major scientific issues of international dimensions such as global environmental change, population issues, the prevention of natural disasters, nuclear waste disposal, water quality, biodiversity etc. It plays a major role in the development of interdisciplinary research programmes (for instance, plans are made for initiatives in the domain of World Energy Supplies and the Management of the Earth System) and its action has been decisive in enforcing free circulation of scientists.
ICSU consists of 23 Scientific Union Members (the Scientific Unions), 74 National Scientific Members, observers and associates (scientific, national and regional). It has established 18 Interdisciplinary Bodies and is also involved in a number of joint initiatives with other organizations.
It is run by an Executive Board which follows its activities on a day to day basis and meets several times a year, a General Committee where every Scientific Union Member has a representative and where there is an equal number of National Scientific Members' representatives, elected by the General Assembly, and a General Assembly which meets every three years. It is assisted in its work by a number of Standing Committees and ad hoc Committees. The 24th General Assembly met in Santiago de Chile, 4-8 October 1993 and the 25th General Assembly will meet in Washington, USA, 24-26 September 1996. The General Committee meets just prior and just after every General Assembly and, until now, met every year in between: in Rabat, Morocco, 13-15 October 1994, and in Chang Mai, Thailand, 7-9 October 1995. It is recommended that it will convene only once between General Assemblies in the future.
During its meetings, the General Committee surveys in turn the various interdisciplinary bodies associated with ICSU and the international programmes where ICSU is involved and discusses scientific issues of major interest. It also holds scientific sessions open to the scientists of the country where it meets. These have included Biodiversity, El Niño phenomena and megatelescopes in the Southern Sky in Santiago de Chile, Confronting Complexity and Science in Morocco in Rabat, Informatics and Basic Sciences, 21st Century Issues in Biosciences and Science in Asia in Chang Mai.
Review of the activities of the most important Standing Committees of ICSU
Committee on Science and Technology in Developing Countries & International Biosciences Network (COSTED-IBN)
See separate report.
Committee on Science in Central, Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (COMSCEE)
The role of this Committee is to promote the role of science in rebuilding Central and Eastern Europe and to help scientists and scientific research in these countries. It has been considered that the action of this Committee is a long range one and it was decided to transform it from an ad hoc Committee to a special Committee. The representative of the IUCr has been elected a member of that committee. 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, CEE and selected OECD countries to share experiences on the way science is funded was held in 1995. Several other projects are still in development, but the situation in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Former Soviet Union is now stabilizing and the mandate and programme of COMSCEE will be revised during the 1996 General Assembly. Furthermore, several countries of the Former Soviet Union are not a part of Europe which raises a problem which should be resolved with COSTED-IBN and the countries concerned
Standing Committee on the Free Circulation of Scientists (SCFCS)
This Committee has been very successful. Recently, it ensured that bona fide scientists from all parts of the former Republic of Yugoslavia were able to publish personal scientific papers in internationally distributed scientific journals. The General Assembly, considering that this action should be amplified in order to help to avoid possible violations of free collaboration among scientists and free exchange of scientific information, decided to widen the mandate of the Committee and to change its name to Standing Committee on Free Conduct of Science, with the same acronym. The General Assembly also encourages its members to consider the impact of increasing charges for scientific meetings and of page charges applied by some journals on science and developing countries and to bear in mind the position of scientists in developing countries when setting these fees or prices. The General Committee in 1995 revised its statement on Freedom in the Conduct of Science and produced, after advice of legal experts, a document on the impact of UN Sanctions on Freedom in the Conduct of Science. Members of the ICSU family are encouraged to use these documents whenever necessary.
Committee on Capacity Building in Science (CCBS)
See separate report.
This Committee gives advice to the Unions in all matters related to publishing. ICSU has established an International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP). ICSU Press organized during the General Assembly in Santiago de Chile an exhibition of scientific books and publications where the IUCr was very well represented. An ongoing series of demonstrations of software took place in this framework and the IUCr Executive Secretary made daily demonstrations of the possibilities of CIF and of the advances of the IUCr in the matters of checking and electronic publishing. A new activity of ICSU Press is related to the emphasis now given to electronic publishing. It organized in February 1996, jointly with UNESCO, a Conference on Electronic Publishing in Science. 150 experts in electronic publishing, scientists, publishers, librarians and lawyers attended the conference, which was held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The 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 and 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. An international committee should also 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.
17 May 1996 A. AUTHIER, Representative
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