Chemistry International
Vol. 21, No.2, March 1999

1999, Vol. 21
No. 2 (March)
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Chemistry International
Vol. 21, No. 2

March 1999

News and Notices from Other Societies and Unions

Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the International Council for Science (ICSU)

SCOPE represents
  • synthesis, assessment, and evaluation of information available on natural and human-made environmental changes and the effects of these changes on people;
  • 30 years at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary review of existing and potential environmental problems, and a seminal role in the development of major international research programs;
  • a recognized authority at the interface between the science and decision-making spheres, providing advisers, policy planners, and decision makers with analytical tools to promote sound management and policy practices; and
  • a worldwide network of 40 national science academies and research councils, and 22 international scientific unions, committees, and societies to guide and develop its scientific program.

SCOPE is an international, nongovernmental, nonprofit, and interdisciplinary body of natural science expertise. Its scientific program is designed to cover environmental issues--either global or shared by several nations--in urgent need of interdisciplinary syntheses. SCOPE was established by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in 1969. Throughout the world, SCOPE brings together scientists from a wide range of disciplines to identify emerging or potential issues likely to influence the world environment.

SCOPE acts at the interface between the science and decision-making spheres, providing advisers, policy planners, and decision makers with the analytical tools to promote sound management and policy practices. SCOPE takes pride in its track record, bringing attention to bear on emerging issues and foreshadowing a number of the important environmental research programs that are operative today. By providing syntheses and assessments of scientific information on global environmental problems, and pointing out gaps in knowledge, it indicates new directions for research and innovative approaches.

SCOPE undertakes joint projects with international and intergovernmental organizations. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and SCOPE have established a firm and mutually beneficial working relationship as they confront environmental issues worldwide. UNESCO, the UN program covering education, science, and culture; the European Commission; and the World Health Organization (WHO) are also partners with shared concerns.

Through cutting-edge evaluations and assessments, SCOPE focuses attention on major issues such as

  1. human alterations of the life-sustaining cycles of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus; and
  2. biodiversity, including biological invasions and the functional significance of biodiversity.

SCOPE took on the ambitious and demanding role of coordinator of a critically important project on indicators for sustainable development. It actively supported the input of project results into political debate and, in particular, the UN's Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) process to reach a reasoned consensus on the use of indicators in the decision-making and policy-planning process.

Project results are usually published as monographs, state-of- the-science analyses, and evaluations of environmental issues, widely referenced in scientific literature. In recent years, SCOPE has also sought to reach out to a wider public through publications which speak to the needs and requirements of practitioners in the policy, planning, and decision-making processes.

The General Assembly, which meets every three years, establishes the scientific program. An elected Executive Committee directs SCOPE's activities between Assemblies. Scientists involved in the conduct of the program voluntarily contribute their expertise and time.

The 1998-2001 scientific program focuses on the concepts and practices of sustainability. Projects are organized under three clusters of closely related and interactive studies:

Cluster 1: Managing Societal and Natural Resources (MSNR)
The first cluster projects are founded on scientific research, but emphasize the application of this scientific knowledge in developing options for practices and policies leading to a more sustainable biosphere. Projects include the following:
  • Sustainable Biosphere Project
  • Economy and environment
  • Ecological engineering and ecosystem restoration
  • Global Invasive Species Program (GISP)
  • Earth system services and human population
  • Environment in a Global Information Society (EGIS)
  • The role of environmental sciences in agricultural practice
  • Urban waste management
  • Material flow analysis
  • Implications of aquaculture and mariculture on biodiversity and ecosystem processes

Cluster 2: Ecosystem Processes and Biodiversity (EP&B)
The second cluster of projects focuses on ecosystem processes, how these processes operate and interact with human activities, and the significance of biological diversity in relation to ecosytem functioning. Projects include the following:

  • Groundwater contamination
  • Nitrogen transport and transformation
  • Earth surface processes, material use, and urban development (ESPROMUD)
  • Soils and sediments: biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
  • Dynamics of mixed tree/grass systems
  • Behavior of large-scale ecosystems
  • Use of stable isotopes to study biogeochemical cycles in relation to global change
  • Land-ocean nutrient fluxes: silica cycle
  • Interactions of the major biogeochemical cycles
  • Use of molecular biology in the study of environmental issues

Cluster 3: Health and Environment (H&E)
The third cluster projects develop methodologies for assessing chemical risk to human and nonhuman targets, and use case studies of environmental contamination to assess the health and environmental risks of specific chemicals. Projects include the following:

  • Methodologies of assessing exposure to combustion products: particles and their semivolatile constituents (SGOMSEC 14)
  • Radioactivity from nuclear tests (RADTEST)
  • Mercury transport and transformation
  • Cadmium in the environment
  • Radioactivity at nuclear sites (RADSITE)
  • Vector-borne diseases and environmental change
  • Endocrine disrupters/modulators
For more information, contact SCOPE Secretariat
51 boulevard de Montmorency, F-75016 Paris, France.
Tel: +33 1 45 25 04 98 - Fax:+33 1 42 88 14 66


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