International Council of Scientific Unions

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International Council of Scientific Unions


(ICSU; Conseil International des Unions Scientifiques), an international, nongovernmental scientific organization that unites national scientific organizations and international scientific councils and committees in the exact and natural sciences. It took shape in 1899 under the name International Association of Academies (IAA), and its membership included the Russian Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, the Institut de France, and the Italian Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. In 1918 the International Research Council was formed on the basis of the IAA. The current name was adopted in 1931. The ICSU has consultative status with UNESCO.

According to the statute adopted in 1971, the aims of the ICSU are to encourage international scientific activity, cordinate the activities of international scientific unions, and facilitate and coordinate the planning and execution of research on an international basis. There are two main membership categories: scientific unions and national members.

The total membership, as of Sept. 1, 1973, comprises 17 scientific unions (independent, nongovernmental organizations): the International Astronomical Union, the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the International Scientific Radio Union, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, the international Union of Biological Sciences, the International Geographical Union, the International Union of Crystallography, the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science, the International Mathematical Union, the International Union of Physiological Sciences, the International Union of Biochemistry, the International Union of Geological Sciences, the International Union of Pure and Applied Biophysics, the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, and the International Union of Pharmacology.

The national members are the academies of sciences and research councils and centers of 65 countries, each country being represented by one scientific organization; the Academy of Sciences of the USSR has been a member since 1955.

The ICSU also has five scientific associates: the International Federation of Documentation, the International Federation for Information Processing, the Pacific Science Association, the International Society for Soil Science, and the International Statistical Institute. There is also one national associate—Jamaica.

The highest governing body of the ICSU is the general assembly, which consists of ICSU members and is convened once every two years. The executive bodies are the general committee and the executive bureau. Current correspondence and technical work are conducted by the ICSU’s secretariat, headquartered in Paris. The ICSU establishes special and scientific committees and commissions to coordinate the activities of its members.

The ICSU has conducted and still conducts various programs, including the International Geophysical Year, the International Years of the Quiet Sun, the International Year of the Active Sun, the Upper Mantle Project, the International Biological Program, and the International Magnetospheric Study. Among the continuing bodies of the ICSU conducting their own programs are the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), and the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE).

The ICSU publishes the Year Book and the quarterly The ICSU Bulletin.


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