On 26 October in Taipei, a merger of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) forged a new organisation, with an overwhelming majority of members from each of the organisations voting in favour of the merger.
The aim of the new organisation, named the International Science Councilis to advance the creativity, rigour and relevance of science worldwide. It creates a unified, global voice of science, with a powerful presence in all regions of the world and representation across the natural (including physical, mathematical and life) and social (including behavioural and economic) sciences.
The Council will defend the inherent value and values of all science, strengthen international, interdisciplinary collaboration and support scientists to contribute solutions to complex and pressing matters of global public concern. It will advise decision makers and practitioners on the use of science in achieving ambitious agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015, and encourage open public engagement with science.
Henceforth, South Africa will continue to be represented by two National Members; the NRF and the HSRC.
South Africa has been represented during the strategic process leading to the merger by Dr Saths Cooper, Vice-President of ISSC, and Dr Khotso Mokhele, leading the Transition Task Force. Prof Cheryl de la Rey and Prof Daya Reddy serve on the Executive Board of ICSU.
An important recommendation of the 2014 External Review of ICSU referred to the need for bodies such as ICSU and ISSC “to accelerate their partnering relationship, as there are few major science policy issues whose framing can do without major social science input.” In response to this recommendation, the Executive bodies of both Councils initiated a process to propose to their members that the two Councils should merge to form a single international organisation for the social and natural sciences.
ICSU South Africa
South Africa has been a member of ICSU since its formation in 1931. As South Africa’s adhering body to ICSU, the NRF in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) provides a platform for the country’s engagement with this influential and global organization, and supports the activities of the ICSU national committees through a dedicated secretariat. National Committees have been established for each of the Unions and many of the scientific committees. The South African ICSU Secretariat serves the South African scientific community and the ICSU scientific unions and affiliates to which South Africa adheres. These are composed of representatives from universities, government and industry. Currently, the NRF supports 30 committees, and provides a dedicated mobility instrument for SA ICSU National Committees to advance South Africa’s participation in international platforms. Approximately 100 South Africans serve on ICSU-related commissions and working groups.