Towards the International Science Council – the merger decision explained


Learn more about the how and the what’s next of the historic vote in Taipei on October 26, 2017 to create the International Science Council by merging the world’s leading bodies representing the natural and social sciences.

Q: What were the members of ISSC and ICSU doing in Taipei?

From October 25-26, members of the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) gathered for a Joint Meeting to vote on the proposed merger of the two organizations. Over two days of intense discussions, members wrangled over and debated a number of contentious issues, notably on membership categories and voting procedures. At the end of the second day, members voted overwhelmingly (ICSU 97.6%, ISSC 90%) to merge and form the International Science Council in 2018.

Q: What was voted on by the members at the Joint Meeting of ICSU and ISSC?

Members were asked to accept the new organizational strategy and financial proposals as well as to agree on issues of statutes, governance, and voting procedures. The votes were – in order taken – the following:

For more information on the background to these decisions, please consult the meeting documents and information here.

Q: What were the key points of debate?

On the first day the high-level strategy and proposal to mandate the new governing board to develop a new dues structure were unanimously approved. There was a more prolonged debate on membership categories and voting, which was extended into the second day.

Q: Why was that a sticking point?

In cases where there are several members in one country, or region, there was debate on whether a principle of “one member, one vote” should apply and whether different principles should apply for scientific, governance and financial issues.

Q: So how will the new voting system work?

Based on those discussions, members were presented with three modified categories on Day 2:

  1. Member unions and associations, being international scientific bodies devoted to scientific activities (e.g. across a discipline);
  2. Member organizations, being academies of science, research councils or analogous not-for-profit bodies;
  3. Affiliated members, being others.

These 3 categories were approved by a broad consensus.

Members also agreed on a differentiated system of voting that allows for three types of procedure. For scientific matters, each member will get one vote. For elections and procedural matters, each member will get one vote, except when there are several members from the same place, in which case they should agree among themselves or – in cases where agreement can’t be reached – they will each be given a proportion of the vote.

Furthermore, it was agreed that in some cases the General Assembly (GA) can agree exceptions. Given the inherent challenges of defining regions, the GA was empowered by the Membership to make the final decision on a case-by-case basis on the addition of any new member. Each Member Union or Association will have a weighted vote equal to the total number of country votes divided by the total number of member unions and associations, within the total membership base.

Q: Anything else?

Members highlighted the ambition of the new strategy, and stressed that meeting that ambition would require a significant change in new sources of external funding. Many also highlighted the importance of dedicating increased resources to outreach and communications.

Q: What’s next?

The vote on Thursday paves the way for a legal implementation phase to establish the new organization. Members will be asked to endorse the merger by electronic vote in the second quarter of 2018. The Founding General Assembly will take place in Paris, France, in the second half of 2018, and will include an International Science Summit.