Strengthening the social sciences to help solve global priority problems

ISSC Newsletter March 2015

Heide Hackmann steps down as head of ISSC

After 8 years leading the social sciences at the helm of the ISSC, Heide Hackmann stepped down this month to take up the position of Executive Director at the International Science Council (ICSU).

Heide Hackmann, during her time at the ISSC, was instrumental in giving a much larger voice, role, and importance to the social sciences globally. Under her leadership, the ISSC was a founding member of the International Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability that established Future Earth (the new 10-year research framework on global environmental change), and which has recently launched a new multi-year programme, Transformations to Sustainability, focusing on bringing the social sciences into solution spaces.

On behalf of all of us here at the secretariat, our Executive Committee and all our members, we wish her nothing but the best in her new position.

172 days until World Social Science Forum in Durban

The forum preparations are picking up momentum and the African consortium is working hard to make the first forum held on African soil a memorable one.

In Nairobi, Kenya from 24 to 26 February, 11 ministers pledged their support for the next World Social Science Forum. Eleven ministers from the eastern Africa region concluded their discussions on the topic of global justice with a call for the "active participation" of policy-makers and researchers from the region in the Forum, which is taking place in Durban, South Africa, from 13-16 September.

"Africa has to construct its own distinct voice and theoretical paradigms to address Africa social transformations, accompany and empower the bearers of progress and positive change through knowledge and help to open up the policy space through participation." Said Professor Pierre Sané, a patron of the forum.

You can read more declarations from other patrons of the forum here, including George Monbiot and Professor Thandika Mkandawire.

Online submissions for Transformations to Sustainability

In January, the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) hosted an International Joint Symposium on Transformations to Sustainability at the United Nations University in Tokyo. The event was also supported by the Science Council of Japan.

The ISSC’s new long-term vision to address today’s great challenges of global environmental change and sustainability via enduring social transformations and social change is in the final stages of the call for proposals. And the JST is supporting the programme with dedicated funding for Japan-based researchers.

Deadline for proposals is March 31

Book of Blogs on Sustainable Urbanisation

Participants of last year's World Social Science Fellows seminar on Sustainable Urbanisation have come together to produce a "book of blogs". The project, “Dialogues of sustainable urbanisation: Social science research and transitions to urban contexts”, aims to bring their work together quickly in an accessible format to showcase the latest social science research and thinking on sustainable urbanisation.

It will be a collection of short blog posts crowdsourced by, and from, our networks of social scientists working on sustainable urbanisation issues. The book will be self-published as an e-book and launched in the summer of this year.

If you think you have something to contribute, please get in touch.

Meeting of the ISSC Executive Committee

On the 12th and 13th March, members of the ISSC Executive Committee met in Paris. The meeting was a chance to update members on the recent activities of the secretariat, and do come together to make decisions on future directions.

One key decision was to formally approve the membership application of The Research Council, Oman.

Review of Targets for the Sustainable Development Goals: The Science Perspective

A new report released by the ISSC and the International Council for Science reviews the scientific perspective of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals.

Researcher find that the SDGs offer a “major improvement” over their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a greater understanding of the interplay between social, economic and environmental dimensions.

The report finds that of the 169 targets beneath the 17 draft goals, just 29% are well defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, while 54% need more work and 17% are weak or nonessential. The assessment of the targets — which are intended to operationalise the 17 goals set to be approved by governments later this year — is the first of its kind to be carried out by the scientific community, and represents the work of over 40 leading researchers covering a range of fields across the natural and social sciences.

Read more on the report here.

2nd Ethnografilm Festival

In the heart of old Montmartre, from the 8th to 12th April, the historic theatre, Cine XIII welcomes the second edition of the Ethnografilm Festival.

The festival is organised by Wesley Shrum of Louisiana State University, Gregory Scott of DePaul University, and is sponsored by the ISSC.

For more information on the film festival please visit and you can read a Q&A with film festival director Wesley Shrum.

Transatlantic Platform

The ISSC is a partner in the Trans-Atlantic Platform that has ambitions to be a collaboration—on an unprecedented scale—between key humanities and social science funders from Brazil, Mexico, the Unites States of America, Canada, and Europe.

The ISSC work's on co-operation strategy to broaden engagement and extend the network. A steering committee meeting was held in January in Washington DC, to develop the first call for proposals (Digital Scholarship in the Social Sciences and Humanities: New Forms of Data for Research).

The Platform intends to hold three more thematic workshops in 2015, the first of which on Diversity, (In)equality and Differences; in London from 7-8 July.


Upcoming Events

Ethnografilm Festival 2
April 8 - 12, 2015
Paris, France

Future Earth Young Scientist Networking Conference
May 24 - 30, 2015
Villa Vigoni, Italy

Our Common Future Under Climate Change
July 7 - 10, 2015
Paris, France

World Social Science Fellows Seminar: Sustainable Urbanisation III
September 9 - 13, 2015
Durban, South Africa

2nd Transformative Knowledge Workshop
September 11 - 12, 2015
Durban, South Africa

World Social Science Forum Durban
September 13 - 16, 2015
Durban, South Africa
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