The international council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), today known as the International Council for Science, was founded in 1931 as a nongovernmental organization, which would foster international scientific collaboration among all scientists, to work toward the greater good for humanity. The ICSU motto is "strengthening international science for the benefit of society."
The parent foundations of ICSU are the International Association of Academies (IAA), which lasted from 1899 until 1914; and the International Research Council (IRC), which lasted from 1919 until 1931. In the year 1998, the Council officially changed its name to the International Council for Science, keeping the acronym ICSU as a tie to its history.
The ICSU addresses global issues through international initiatives aimed to support scientists in undertaking a task that he or she could not do alone. Successful examples of these initiatives include International Geophysical Year (1957-58) and the International Biological Program, which took place between the years 1964-74.
In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The ICSU was invited to this Conference to act as the chief scientific adviser. Ten years later, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WWSD) also invited the ICSU as chief scientific adviser, this time to Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2006, the ICSU celebrated its 75th anniversary, noting achievements in the fields of International Research Collaboration, Science and Policy, and the Universality of Science.
Internationally, the ICSU carries out its initiatives either by creating interdisciplinary bodies or supporting joint initiatives. Initiatives led by either of these groups can be organized into one of five categories: Assessment Bodies, Data and Information, Global Environmental Change Programs, Monitoring/Observations, or Thematic Organizations.
Globally, ICSU aims to "mobilize the knowledge and resources of the international science community". Along with this aim, the Council works to determine major issues of interest to this international science community, as well as of concern to science and the society at large. Another chief mission of the ICSU is to engender scientific collaboration among all scientists, regardless of race, gender, nationality, politics, or another potential division to communications.
A current issue that the ICSU is assisting in resolving is the difficulty and sometimes impossibility that international scientists from ‘high-risk’ countries have in obtaining visas to conduct research in the United States. This issue has been predominant since 2002; in 2006, Professor Goverdhan Mehta, then President of the ICSU, was initially denied such a visa. Professor Mehta is from India.
The ICSU is headquartered in Paris, France. The Council has additional regional offices in the areas of Africa, the Arab Region, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The African office was established with the vision of strengthening science through fostering sustainable socioeconomic growth in Africa. The other offices support international collaboration in their respective regions, as well as the sharing of knowledge and ideas.
The ICSU is governed by a General Assembly. Additionally, the Executive Board is composed of elected representatives who carry out resolutions of the General Assembly. The 14-member Executive Board is made up of six officers and eight ordinary members. The six Officers are the president, two vice presidents for Scientific Planning and Review and External Relations, the secretary-general, the treasurer, and the past president or the president-elect. These officers are distinct from the ordinary members because they manage the ICSU between Executive Board meetings. Additionally, the ICSU has numerous committees, acting on policies or ad hoc initiatives such as the Policy Committee on Developing Countries and the Planning Group on Natural and Human-Induced Environmental Hazards and Disasters, respectively.