Burkins to Advise Merger of Leading Science Organizations

January 18, 2017

A plan to merge two of the world’s leading international scientific organizations – the International Council for Science (ICSU) and International Social Science Council (ISSC) – in order to better address pressing global challenges will be advised by Melody Brown Burkins (PhD’98), Associate Director for Programs and Research of The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies (ENVS).

Appointed to the ICSU-ISSC Strategy Working Group (SWG) as one of nine international experts in science, policy, and diplomacy, Burkins is one of three women on the SWG and will join one other U.S. appointee, Nobel Laureate Peter Agre, and distinguished colleagues from Brazil, Nigeria, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Germany for two meetings in Paris and several teleconferences to develop a high-level strategy document for the new organization. That document will be shared with ICSU and ISSC members from over 140 countries ahead of a formal merger vote in Taipei, China, in October 2017.

“It is an honor to be asked to advise the planned ICSU-ISSC merger and to work with such a distinguished group of leaders in global science and diplomacy,” said Burkins, who serves as Chair of the U.S. National Committee for the Geological Sciences and is a member of the National Academies’ Board on International Scientific Organizations (BISO). “I look forward to the important work ahead, facilitating the innovative and transdisciplinary research we need to inform global goals in sustainable development, equality, and peace.”

The planned ICSU-ISSC merger follows an “in-principle” vote in favor of aligning the two organizations’ work during the November 2016 ICSU Extraordinary General Assembly in Oslo, Norway. Support for the merger follows recent years’ success of joint ICSU and ISSC initiatives connecting research across the natural, physical, and social sciences including programs to address global environmental change (Future Earth), mitigate the deadly impact of global disasters (the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk program), and advance global accords for open access to data (“Open Data in a Big Data World”). An advocate for more holistic approaches to science and engineering, Burkins contributed language to a 2016 U.S. letter in support of the merger stressing the importance of including the humanities, as well as the sciences, in future ICSU-ISSC activities.

Information about the ICSU-ISSC merger process will be continually updated on both the ICSU and ISSC websites and may also be followed on both Twitter (@ICSUnews) and Instagram (@councilforscience).