Previous Fora / 2011


Chair, ICSU Taskforce on Foresight

Dr. John Marks is an independent science policy consultant and research manager. Recent assignments include the interim directorship of the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis and Chair of the international review panel of the research of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. He is Chair of the ICSU Taskforce on Foresight, a member of the Netherlands UNESCO Committee and a member of the Board of the Netherlands space research organisation SRON.

Until March 2009 he was deputy Chief Executive of the European Science Foundation and director of Science and Strategy. During 2007 he replaced the Chief Executive.
Dr. Marks was the director of Earth and Life Sciences at the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research until joining ESF in 2004. From 2000-2006 he was a member of the ICSU Committee on Strategy, Planning and Review. In this position he led the first ICSU foresight on priority research areas. From 1981 until 1998 he held various positions in Science Policy in the ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Among others he led the development of research foresight for the ministry. He was a member of the OECD Global Science Forum. He represented the Netherlands in the ESA programme board for Earth Observation and the ESA Council. During 1992-93 he was the Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.

John Marks holds a PhD in experimental physics from Leiden University, the Netherlands. A recent publication is on International research collaboration in Europe in Internationalisation of Social Sciences in Central and Eastern Europe, Routledge 2010. 



17:00-19:00 18 NOVEMBER
THEMATIC SESSION III. ICSU: “Foresight Scenarios: What will international science be like in 2031?”

A scenario approach for anticipating future challenges
Science plays a key role in society’s response to global ‘grand challenges’ such as resource scarcity and global environmental change. Science is also a source of new opportunities through its contributions to e.g. the transition to a sustainable society, health or agri-food. Increasingly, agenda-setting, coordination and conduct of science, and the diffusion and use of scientific knowledge, need to be framed at the global level, reflecting both the scale of the challenges and the international nature of science itself. Science is used in a comprehensive sense, including the social sciences, humanities and technology. Longer-term perspectives must be incorporated to reflect the time horizons of key global challenges.
Foresight offers a means to explore these international, long-term dimensions of science and the internal and external factors that drive its evolution. The International Council for Science (ICSU) leads the international science community in planning and implementing trans-national and interdisciplinary science programmes, and communicates science to global policy‐makers. It is applying foresight as a central component of its strategic planning in order to explore how two decades from now international collaboration in science might foster progress in science and benefit society, as well as to identify the key drivers influencing science in the next twenty years. Identifying future research priorities is not part of the exercise, since many organizations are doing this and ICSU already undertook such an exercise in 2004. In the current foresight a scenario approach is used to define four world views differing in economic, social, political, and environmental context and with different positions of science. These worlds lead to different challenges and consequences for international collaboration in science.
ICSU’s global multi-disciplinary membership composed of professional scientific societies and national academies of science, as well as its partners and stakeholders, have been engaged through consultations. The aim was to solicit viewpoints and, ultimately, buy‐in on the organization’s future direction. The collection and analysis of potential key drivers and creation of exploratory scenarios is designed also to assist ICSU Members and others in their own strategic thinking.
Using these insights, ICSU is designing a ‘success scenario’ to imagine how the international science landscape would look if it is optimally serving the needs of societies across the globe; to consider what actions ICSU and other actors would need to take to realise this; and to test the plausibility and  robustness of such actions.
This presentation will describe ICSU’s foresight process and will highlight the challenges associated with conducting such exercises in international arenas. The presentation will report the results, especially the key drivers of change and the resultant exploratory scenarios. These provide important insights on a variety of organizational options for international science and the roles science could play in addressing future global grand challenges.