The International Science Council shares much with IFLA, both around its focus on issues around advocacy and rights, and in its specific work to ensure the place of knowledge in the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.

IFLA is a member of the International Science Council, the global organisation bringing together scientific unions, academies, and other bodies focused on supporting and enabling science.

Through this, we are able to access opportunities to participate in events, join collaborative processes, and contribute to the approach the ISC takes at the United Nations as the lead of one of the major stakeholder communities around the Sustainable Development Goals.

The ISC members’ meeting, held in Paris last month, was a great opportunity to build understanding of the Council’s work, and how IFLA members can benefit from it.

Making the case for science in development

A significant part of the programme was given over to discussing the ISC’s engagement around the United Nations (UN).

The ISC works to promote the role of science and scientific advice within the context of the UN’s 2030 Agenda, and has already taken on key roles in supporting analysis of the interaction between different goals, as well as the Global Sustainable Development Report due out later this year.

The current President of the General Assembly has proven a strong supporter of science, but has also stressed the importance of ensuring that it retains its credibility in the face of misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Success here relies on making science ever more central to decision making process both at the United Nations, and at all other levels of government.

This work strongly aligns with IFLA’s own goals around engagement at the UN, where we consistently argue that the role of knowledge must not be taken for granted.

This applies as much in communities as it does in governments and parliaments (see our brief on libraries as a science-policy interface, as shared on the UN website). Any drive to strengthen the place of evidence in policy-making requires investment in library services.

Academic freedom and responsibility

Another major focus for the ISC with strong parallels for libraries is around academic freedom. With scientists all too often facing negative consequences when researching particular topics or sharing inconvenient truths, there was a sense of urgency of action.

Academic freedom is of course a broad issue (also touching on questions around funding), and is also sometimes used by opponents to stand in the way of efforts to promote open access. However, the ISC itself has been strong in calling for radical change in scholarly publishing to put access, not profit, first.

This nonetheless raises the parallel issue of academic responsibility, which the discussions at the ISC looked to address in parallel.

For libraries, there are interesting and relevant questions in these discussions, given that libraries too argue the importance of having the freedom to develop collections and provide services, within the context of codes of ethics.

The work of the ISC’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility is therefore worth following for libraries, given the similarity of many of the issues with questions faced by libraries in upholding our values.


IFLA will continue to share opportunities and materials from the ISC with volunteers, and looks forward to further collaboration.