The ambition

The world is facing great challenges and society increasingly looks towards science to address them. This places demands on all fields of science, in all parts of the world. It demands stronger collaboration in the international scientific community and between science and the worlds of policy, business, civil society and the public at large.

The International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC), recently agreed to merge. ICSU is an international membership body that promotes international science for the benefit of society and represents the science and technology community as a ‘major group’ in the United Nations system. The ISSC is also a global membership body, working to advance the social sciences to solve global problems.

Through their combined membership and recognised experience in convening world-class, high impact science, ICSU and ISSC will be uniquely positioned to create a unified, global voice for science. 

Firetail has worked closely with the leadership of both of the organisations working on the strategic dimensions of the complex and sensitive merger of these two established global bodies.

Our approach

Prior to the agreed merger we conducted research into how both ICSU and ISSC could maximise their respective impact.

We led conversations with senior staff, members and external experts in the global scientific community (leading scientists, UN officials and representatives from business and civil society.) We also ran a series of membership and staff surveys. These studies showed strong interest in a single, merged organisation. They also identified clear strategic challenges and priorities for a new body. Firetail presented key messages from our research to a joint ICSU and ISSC working group. In October 2016 members of the two bodies voted to explore the option of a merger, in principal. 

Following this vote, ICSU and ISSC embarked on a programme of activities to plan for the possible transition to a merger. Firetail has supported ICSU and ISSC’s Executive Directors through this process, providing ongoing strategic support.

We are continuing to support leadership in developing messages and papers for the organisations’ respective membership and executive groups.

The impact

In October 2017, ICSU and ISSC members formally voted in support of a merger. The next 12 months will see the implementation of a transition plan to align the two bodies into one global voice for science which will: 

  • build a stronger foundation for promoting all science disciplines
  • support the development of science systems in all global regions  
  • address grand societal challenges through a greater capacity to mobilise
  • foster genuine dialogue between science and society
  • shape policy for science across the globe. 

The creation of the new organisation - the International Science Council - was covered recently in Science magazine:

"The new International Science Council, freshly minted by an overwhelming vote at a meeting of both ISSC and ICSU in October, will bring together the resources, networks, and intellectual communities of the combined membership of ISSC and ICSU, making it one of the world's largest science organizations. Its membership brings together more than 40 international scientific unions and associations and more than 140 national and regional organizations, including celebrated “learned societies” such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and major research agencies such as the National Research Foundation of South Africa."


ICSU website:

Science Magazine: