PSA Executive Secretary Burke Burnett attended the 31st General Assembly of the International Council for Science (ICSU) held in Auckland, New Zealand from 30 August to 3 September 2014. The meeting was hosted by the Royal Society of New Zealand, the ICSU National Scientific Member in New Zealand and also Adhering Organization from New Zealand to PSA. PSA has been a Scientific Associate member of ICSU for many decades, and Burnett attended the General Assembly as PSA’s delegate.

Among the highlights of the General Assembly were the following:

  • The General Assembly endorsed open access principles and provided key recommendations guarding against the misuse of metrics in the evaluation of research performance. The five goals in the statement assert that access to the scientific record should be (1) free of financial barriers for any researcher to contribute to; (2) free of financial barriers for any user to access immediately on publication; (3) made available without restriction on reuse for any purpose, subject to proper attribution; (4) quality-assured and published in a timely manner; and (5) archived and made available in perpetuity.
  • The General Assembly celebrated three decades of research collaboration amongst thousands of volunteer scientists across the globe to deepen our understanding of the Earth System. ICSU delegates heard how the combined efforts of the four global change programmes (IGBP, IHDP, WCRP, and DIVERSITAS) in the past decades were critical in shaping our understanding of the Earth System and underpinned the major science assessments such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).This legacy of global change research will be carried on by the new Future Earth programme, into which IGBP, IHDP, and DIVERSITAS are being merged in 2014-2015.
  • The preliminary findings of the ICSU External Review Panel (ERP) were discussed. The ERP was established in mid-2013 to review the activities and governance of ICSU.
  • Other important topics of discussion included updates to the ICSU Strategic Plan, a review of CODATA, and the Urban Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment initiative.
  • Michael Clegg, former Foreign Secretary at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, was elected ICSU Vice President for External Relations.

Professor Daya Reddy, an internationally-recognized mathematician from South Africa, became the new ICSU President-Elect. He will take over from the current ICSU president, Gordon McBean, in October 2017.