Past Forums - Reports

Forums are informal and free debates among some fifteen to twenty-five high-level participants on open questions of scientific nature or science policy matters. Forums do not necessarily lead to formal recommendations or decisions.

Topic of the Forum


SCOSTEP ISSI Fora (at ISSI Beijing and ISSI) > 25-27 February 2019

Solar System/Exoplanet Science Synergies in the Horizon 2061 Perspective (in collaboration with Europlanet) >

19 and 20 February 2019

Small Satellites for Space Science (4S) >

23-24 May 2017 and 10-11 April 2018
Monitoring Coastal Zones Evolution Under Various Forcing Factors Using Space-based Observing Systems > 11 and 12 October 2016

ISSI Europlanet Forum >

13 to 15 September 2016

Expected Evolution of Solar Activity in the Following Decades >

1 to 3 March 2016
Performing High-Quality Science on CubeSats > 19 and 20 January 2016

Continuity of Microwave Observations in L-band for Operational and Climate Applications >

30 September and 1 October 2014

Understanding Gravity >

3 and 4 December 2013

Forum in collaboration with SCOSTEP >

6-8 May 2013

Near Earth Electro-magnetic Environment (Swarm and Cluster) >

3-5 April 2013

Future Science of Exoplanets and their Systems >

5 and 6 December 2012

Solar Activity and the Solar Cycle >

20 and 21 November 2012

Assessing Requirements for a Carbon Model Reference Validation Framework >

10 and 11 January 2012

Future out-of-Ecliptic and In Situ Observations of the Sun >

30 November and 1 December 2010

The Future of Magnetospheric Research >

24 and 25 March 2009

Earth Sciences Forum >

11 and 12 May 2009

Space Science and Education >

12 and 13 June 2007

Earth Science from Space >

2 and 3 March 2006

Space Science and the Media >

3 and 4 March 2005

Astrobiology >

9 and 10 November 2004




SCOSTEP ISSI Fora at ISSI Beijing and ISSI

The objective of the ISSI Fora is to bring community leaders together to define the next scientific program of SCOSTEP for the period 2019-2024. SCOSTEP is tasked by the International Council for Science (ICSU) with running long-term scientific programs in solar terrestrial physics (STP). SCOSTEP has formed a committee for the next scientific program (NSP) and the committee has been gathering input from the community. During the For a, the committee will meet with experts from the community in discussing the current inputs and develop a document that identifies the projects that can be carried out over a period of 4-5 years with participation from the widest possible cross section of the STP community. The projects need to be international and interdisciplinary in nature addressing the objectives of a plurality of the constituent organizations (COSPAR, IAGA/IUGG, IAMAS, IAU, IUPAP, SCAR, URSI, and WDS). The Fora will also identify the modus operandi for the projects including metrics for the progress and means for disseminating results.
These Fora will be modelled after the previous ISSI Forum held in 2012 in Bern, which defined the highly successful Variability of the Sun and Its Terrestrial Impact (VarSITI) program.

Forum Webpage for the Meeting in Beijing (14-16 November 2018) >>

Forum Webpage for the Meeting in Bern (25-27 February 2019) >>


Solar System/Exoplanet Science Synergies in the Horizon 2061 Perspective (in collaboration with Europlanet)

first Forum of the H2020 contract of Europlanet was built on the concept of Planetary systems as a new unifying paradigm of planetary sciences gathering the solar system, giant planets systems and extrasolar planetary systems into a single class of astrophysical objects. This forum made it possible to identified six key questions for future research on Planetary systems in general:

Origins of planetary systems, Causes of the diversity of their architectures, Causes of the diversity of the objects composing them, How do they work?, What are the conditions for the emergence of habitable worlds?, Where and how to search for life?

It then specifically examined how these generic questions could be addressed by space observations in the Solar System, up to the 2061 Horizon. In a symmetric approach, we propose to devote the Second Forum to discussing how synergetic research between the Solar System and Exoplanet communities and their space projects could address and try to solve these same key questions for extra-solar planetary systems in the coming decades, e.g. in the same Horizon 2061 timeframe.

The objectives of this Forum are to assess: a set of suggestions for synergistic research studies between the two communities, possibly new concepts of observation programs (space-based or ground-based) that could derive from these synergies, themes for future ISSI workshops and/or forums, that would be instrumental in helping to successfully address the six key questions.

Forum Webpage >


Small Satellites for Space Science (4S)

An international study team of scientist and engineering leaders under the auspices of COSPAR is embarking on a 2-year activity to develop an international scientific roadmap on Small Satellites for Space Science (4S), focusing particularly on CubeSats and CubeSattechnology enabled small satellites. CubeSats are small satellites built in increments of 10 cm cubes (1 cube is called 1U or “unit,” two 10 cm cubes together are known as 2U, and so on). The report is motivated by a recent progress and results summarized in a published report (Zurbuchen, von Steiger et al, Performing High-Quality Science on CubeSats, Space Research Today, Vol. 196, pp. 10-30, August 2016) and a study by the US National Academies (Zurbuchen, Lal, et al., Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2016).

The scientific roadmap will address six specific questions:

1) What are the status and use of CubeSats for science, their technological capabilities, and their key successes to date?

2) What is the scientific potential of small satellites both as stand-alone targeted missions, but also as secondary payloads, and as constellations and swarms?

3) What is the role of participating agencies and industry in developing standardized approaches to the development of spacecraft (hardware and software), and also ground-systems, etc. that enables this science?

4) What are the policies that support the growth of the number and types of CubeSats and CubeSat technology enabled small satellites, related to communications and frequency allocation, orbital debris, and launch vehicles?

5) What are successful models for international collaboration between teams developing and operating small missions, and how are data being shared and preserved for the future?

6) How can participating international universities learn from each other to share lessons learned and drive international collaborations in this rapidly moving field?

These questions should be addressed in a roadmap that is of value to space agencies internationally and their supporting governments.

Forum Webpage >>


Monitoring Coastal Zones Evolution Under Various Forcing Factors Using Space-based Observing Systems

The objective of the Forum will be to investigate whether existing space-based and in-situ observations can help in providing precise and systematic information about coastal zone evolution in response to extreme events (storm surges, tropical cyclones), natural climate variability, slow processes such as long-term sea level rise, and direct anthropogenic forcing.  The Forum will focus on physical aspects but biological and ecological issues will also be evoked. The main purpose of the Forum is to discuss data need about the various forcing factors and associated variables (sea level, waves& winds and currents in a changing climate, sea water temperature and salinity, precipitation, river runoff, sediment supply, vertical ground motions, land use change, urbanization,…) and induced coastal changes (shoreline morphology, bathymetry, topography, erosion, flooding episodes, salt water intrusion in coastal aquifers, ecosystem degradation, …). Although in situ & airborne datasets will be reviewed (e.g., from tide gauges, GNSS stations, field & airborne sensors, UAVs,…), special focus will be given to remote sensing observations (active microwaves/SAR, altimeters, lidars, visible IR, multi and hyperspectral imagery, including ocean colour imagery,….). The Forum will investigate the potential and capabilities for each observing system to provide information on the forcing parameters and the coastal response and evolution. It will address the issues of data precision, resolution, spatio-temporal coverage and continuity, data gaps, and multi-sensor synergetic use to increase information and knowledge. Although observations inventory and requirements will be the main goal of the Forum, processes and modelling issues will also be briefly discussed. Finally, plan for implementing an international coastal data base for coastal change monitoring, process understanding, and coastal management & decision support will be an output of the Forum, together with a ‘white paper’ to be published in a high-impact journal.

Forum Webpage >>

White Paper of the Forum>>


ISSI Europlanet Forum

The first ISSI-Europlanet forum of the H2020 contract of Europlanet will gather 33 among the leading experts in Solar System planetary science, together with ten experts in space mission technologies, to reach the following objectives:

- Identify the outstanding open questions concerning our modern understanding of Solar System objects, their origin, formation and evolution, their processes and their system aspects, and their potential habitability;
- In association with this list of outstanding open questions, identify related representative ambitious space missions that could potentially address these questions over the coming 50 years, in preparation for the upcoming AAE-Cospar-Europlanet Colloquium on “Planetary Exploration, Horizon 2061”;
- Address these objectives in the context of the rapidly-expanding science of exoplanets and their systems, which was the subject of the previous 2012 ISSI-Europlanet forum (Lammer et al., 2013);
- Propose a short list of Workshops addressing some of these outstanding science questions, with the aim of helping to make progress in the understanding of the science issues and in the elaboration of the corresponding representative space missions; these Workshops will be organized in the ISSI-Europlanet collaboration framework over the coming three years (2017-2019).

The expected outputs of this forum will be submitted to the November 2016 session of the Science Committee (SC) of ISSI, in order for ISSI and Europlanet to be ready to implement the proposed set of joint Workshops in the relevant timeframe.

Forum Webpage >>


Expected Evolution of Solar Activity in the Following Decades (ISSI/VarSITI FORUM)

The evolution of solar activity in the following decades is an important question, from both theoretical and practical point of view. By the end of the past century, a lot of evidence was accumulated indicating a gradual decrease in the level of solar activity, in particular, in the global field and magnetic fields of sunspots. This allows us to suggest that solar activity is entering a period of a secular minimum. In fact, this is not surprising, since the interval between the previous secular minima was 100-150 years, and the last significant decrease in the general level of solar activity was observed in the late 19th and early 20th century. Since then, a number of papers have appeared claiming that cycle 25 will be lower than cycle 24, and we are on the verge of a period of several low cycles. On the other hand, many authors believe that the maximum of cycle 25 will be at least not lower than the maximum of cycle 24. Many of these works are based on the rule by Gnevyshev-Ohl according to which any odd cycle must be higher than the preceding even cycle. The goal of this ISSI/VarSITI forum is, by means of different approaches, to estimate the expected solar activity in the next few decades.


Performing High-Quality Science on CubeSats

Opportunities to perform high-quality science in space are limited by both budget and the historical
trend of increasing mission cost and development time. The recent proliferation of CubeSats, enabled by
an easing of access to space and their low cost nature raises the question as to how such platforms can
be used to perform high-quality science in space.
A CubeSat is a class of spacecraft that is deployed in-orbit from a container by an ejector system that is
installed in a variety of launch vehicles, creating faster access to space for relatively small spacecraft,
constrained by the container. The spacecraft volume is typically an integer number of litres, termed units
(u), allowing multiple spacecraft whose total volume equals that of the container. A benefit of this
spacecraft design philosophy is that CubeSats can have a shorter development life-cycle, be of lower
cost, enable constellations of small spacecraft, and be developed by a small collocated team that
embraces a higher level of risk than traditional space missions.
This is why CubeSat launches have grown almost grown exponentially over time. To date, the vast
majority of CubeSat missions have been technology focused. As these technologies mature, scientific
opportunities are emerging from Earth sciences to solar and space physics, and from astrophysics, to
planetary sciences. Also, there may be significant possibilities in Earth observation, including those
enabled by multi-point sampling of atmospheric and ionospheric parameters and remote sensing
observations of the Earth’s surface.

Participants List >>

Forum Program >>


Continuity of Microwave Observations in L-band for Operational and Climate Applications

Systematic L-band observations from space became available for the first time with the launch of ESA’s
Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission in 2009, followed by NASA‘s Aquarius and Soil Moisture
Active Passive (SMAP) missions launched in 2011 and 2015, respectively. This was a significant step towards providing global observations of soil moisture and ocean salinity, two key variables in the
Earth’s water cycle. This new type of measurement is largely unaffected by atmospheric parameters
and presents an “all-weather” tool for the monitoring of the Earth’s surface. Although primarily
designed for retrievals of soil moisture and ocean salinity, other parameters, e.g. sea ice thickness,
high wind speeds over the ocean, and freeze / thaw state of the soil have been derived. Over the past
5 years the scientific and operational communities have made extended use of these new observations
across a variety of applications (climatology, hydrology, oceanography, weather prediction, ...) rendering
these observations indispensable. The SMOS mission makes global observations of soil
moisture over Earth’s landmasses and salinity over the oceans. Variations in soil moisture and ocean salinity are a consequence of the continuous exchange of water between the oceans, the atmosphere and the land –
Earth’s water cycle. (Image Credit: ESA/AOES Medialab) The Forum on Continuity of Microwave Observations
in L-band for Operational and Climate Applications took place with participants from all around
Europe, the United States and China. All thematic fields using L-band observations were covered by
experts: soil moisture, ocean salinity, sea ice, sea surface temperature, ocean acidification, wind
speed over ocean, hydrological cycle, observation of the vegetation and observation of the cryosphere.
The Forum focused on the following objectives: (1) review the results and achievements from SMOS
and Aquarius (and the expected results from SMAP) and their (potential) impact on operational applications
(2) review and discuss the user requirements within the context of scientific challenges and international
guidelines, e.g. as defined through the World Meteorological Organization (3) define next generation L-band mission requirements and concepts responding to evolving user requirements.
Based on these discussions, key application areas were defined and drove the requirements for future
missions. The initiative aimed at advancing the discussion between agencies as to future mission
concepts beyond SMOS-Aquarius-SMAP. The Forum discussion summary, SMOS-Aquarius result overview
and L-band mission requirements will be provided in a coming community paper on Passive microwave
L-band observations from space: Achievements and perspectives.


Understanding Gravity

Gravity is a fundamental force that, in addition to its physical importance underpins many human activities – particularly those undertaken in Space. In spite of its crucial role, it is one of the least well-understood forces. Thus it is both a key concept in Physics while having application in a range of important practical areas including time measurement, navigation and the properties of Earth and other planets.

The ESA High-level Science Policy Advisory Committee (HISPAC), an advisory body that reports to the Director-General, has defined a number of Grand Science Themes and Cross-cutting Enabling Technologies. Understanding Gravity is one of four science themes and the committee has suggested that this forum should be held to enable a wide-ranging discussion of this topic. The remit of HISPAC is to engage in broad reflection on interdisciplinary themes and ideas. The topic of gravitation is well suited to this approach given that it involves four ESA Directorates namely Science and Robotic Exploration, Earth Observation, Navigation and Human Spaceflight and Operations.

Following summary presentations of the relevant areas for both the fundamental aspects and their potential applications, a wide-ranging discussion will take place that will seek to identify cross-cutting synergies and to examine potential impacts on the future programs of the Agency. In addition it is anticipated that a community discussion of a broad but interconnected range of topics will lead to the suggestion of one or more linked themes for future ISSI workshops.

Program of the Forum "Understanding Gravity" >>

Forum Participants >>

Final Report of the Forum "Understanding Gravity" >>


Forum in collaboration with SCOSTEP

The charter of the forum is to define the next scientific program of SCOSTEP for the period 2014-2018. SCOSTEP is tasked by the International Council for Science (ICSU) with running a long-term scientific program in solar terrestrial physics (STP). The participants of the forum shall define the scientific program based on (i) the white papers submitted, (ii) participants’ expertise in STP science, (iii) current issues in STP, and (iv) community input, which the participants can solicit between now and the forum. The participants are expected to think beyond their own field of research to identify problems that need to be solved over the next 4-5 years. The topics selected will be interdisciplinary in nature and will be run by international teams.

Program and Participants of the SCOSTEP Forum >>


Near Earth Electro-magnetic Environment (Swarm and Cluster)

The Forum’s main aim is to bring together international experts to discuss and review new science opportunities offered by the simultaneous availability of Swarm and Cluster observations. These opportunities may go beyond the objectives of each of the missions. Data from other relevant satellites or ground based facilities can also be included in the discussion and the proposed activities. It is expected that new ideas will emerge for studying the impact of the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field on the near Earth environment but also ideas for improving our knowledge of the Earth interior deserve attention. To stimulate the discussion a small study team (under an ESA contract) will prepare important background information about the Swarm and Cluster constellation and data and bring along some first ideas. It is anticipated that the opportunities proposed and reviewed during the meeting need to be further elaborated in terms science benefits, methodology and feasibility. All consolidated opportunities will be collected and summarized by the study.

Program of the SWARM and CLUSTER Forum >>

Report of the Forum >>


Future Science of Exoplanets and their Systems

This forum co-sponsored by Europlanet and ISSI and coordinated also with the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) of the University of Bern was held on december 5 and 6 in Bern. It gathered 24 of the most expert exoplanets and planetary science specialists to discuss the future of the fast-expanding field of exoplanet science, which has now more than 800 objects to analyze and compare and will develop ever more quickly over the coming years. The forum discussions included a review of our current observational knowledge of exoplanets, of our efforts for modeling exoplanets from their formation through their evolution and possibly to the emergence of habitability and life, and of our understanding of how exoplanets interact with their stellar and galactic environment through their life. Very lively discussions led to the identification of several "hot" areas for focusing further research efforts in the field, and of areas where the interdisciplinary confrontation of complementary viewpoints permitted by ISSI workshops will strongly and critically benefit to the field. From the forum, several ideas of ISSI workshops to be implemented over the coming two or three years emerged, which will be presented in the final report, to be edited and published early in 2013. This forum constituted the fourth and last joint meeting co-organised by Europlanet and ISSI in the framework of our FP7 contract. We expect that, following the publication of the forum report and its recommendations, a series of ISSI workshops on exoplanets science will be implemented, constituting a component of the Europlanet heritage and one of its contributions to the development of the field.

Agenda of the Forum "Future Science of Exoplanets and their Systems" >>

Participants of the Forum "Future Science of Exoplanets and their Systems" >>

Forum Report >>


Solar Activity and the Solar Cycle

Following a sustained focus on missions to study the Sun and Heliosphere e.g. SOHO, Yohkoh, Hinode, SDO, ACE, Ulysses, a Forum was held at ISSI on 20-21, November, 2012 to assess the state of solar activity knowledge and the potential for future development of the subject. A total of 20 leading workers from 11 countries participated. While there continues to be a substantial effort devoted to ground based observations of the Sun at visible and radio wavelengths, the use of space based assets has enabled a crucial expansion of solar atmosphere studies. However it was recognized as important for the future health of the discipline that the Forum should review its present status, assess existing areas of high interest and importance and recognize any new scientific directions in the subject. Seven overview talks addressed our current understanding of relevant aspects of the Sun’s physics. These included discussion of the solar dynamo, solar irradiance, magnetic flux emergence and the lessons learned from observations of other stars. The importance of solar activity and cyclic behavior for related fields e.g. solar wind, heliosphere, was also summarized. A further five talks addressed areas of importance for future solar activity studies. These included helioseismology – with special reference to high latitude observations, global imaging, high resolution spectroscopy and future stellar x-ray observations. Following extensive discussion, the Forum identified several existing subject areas of high interest. These were i. placing the Sun in a stellar context, ii. solar irradiance variations, iii. helioseismology across the cycle, iv. solar wind origins, v. solar flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and energetic particles (SEPs) and vi. global coronal structure variations. The discussions also identified new scientific directions with qualitatively new physics. A broad understanding of the magnetic linkage from the sub-photospheric to the coronal environment is developing rapidly and will be enhanced by the extension of magnetic field measurement to the entire solar atmosphere. Our growing understanding of indices that characterize magnetic activity and of dynamo theory may make it possible to link these areas. Studies of total solar and spectral irradiance could soon allow the separate identification of sources and patterns of variation. The possibly abnormal behavior of cycles 23 and 24 should be examined in the overall context of magnetic activity. Finally, the intriguing possibility that planetary dynamics may affect the solar interior should be pursued further. The Forum proposed two Workshops1 and two Working Groups2 to advance a number of these topics. In addition several suggestions for possible ISSI teams were put forward for community response in the 2013 and later team assessment rounds. 1. Workshops: “The Solar Activity Cycle: Physical Causes and Consequences” and “Solar Activity and Solar Magnetic Fields” 2. Working Groups: “Solar Activity Indices” and “The Solar Dynamo”.


Assessing Requirements for a Carbon Model Reference Validation Framework

Within the ISSI ESRIN Earth Science work plan for 2011 this Forum was organized to discuss the impact of the CO2 cycle on climate change. The global carbon cycle plays a central role in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and thus Earth’s climate. The Forum offered 18 expert scientists the opportunity to consolidate current scientific knowledge in an open discussion and to address a number of significant concerns regarding future climate projection, including the poor methods of quantification for feedbacks between global climate and the carbon cycle. This is in part due to the limited understanding of the uptake of carbon through photosynthesis and the emission through respiration. These key processes might change in a future climate, but how and at what rate is uncertain. Progress in this area can only be achieved by improved process understanding, and constantly improving and validating models at the appropriate scale. The aim of the Forum was primarily to contribute to that progress by taking stock of our current understanding and monitoring capability and how this understanding could be incorporated into sophisticated carbon assimilation models. The main topics discussed during the two days primarily concerned the modeling of the CO2 cycle as well as observational studies. It was remarked that satellite data can help validating carbon models and it was further explained that there is a demand for a combined, simultaneous data assimilation framework of all available, important satellite and ground-based measurements into carbon models. It was also discussed that CO2 measurements are challenging because they simultaneously carry the footprint of global surface fluxes, atmospheric chemistry and past CO2 and that they have a relatively small variability which makes it challenging to measure in particular with remote sensing methods. The Forum concluded with the recommendation to closely work together with weather forecasting and atmospheric modeling. Because the dynamics of the atmosphere is still a task that needs to be solved in transport models and in order to have longer time series of data, the data from earlier times should be digitized. A follow-on of the Forum is foreseen in a working group organized by two of the Forum participants.


Future out-of-Ecliptic and In Situ Observations of the Sun

After the ESA-NASA Ulysses mission ended on 30 June 2009 at the completion of more than 18 years of very successful operations, of which more than 17 were spent close to perpendicular to the ecliptic plane, one unique observing asset of the Sun and of the Heliosphere in 3-D was lost. ISSI has been a key partner in the exploitation of the mission with three directors directly involved either as Principal Investi- gators or in data analysis and interpretations. As new plans and new opportunities are under study in the various space agencies of the world, that may ma- terialize in the future and would replace part of the capabilities of Ulysses, ISSI took the initiative of ded- icating one of its Forum to “Future Out-of-Ecliptic and In Situ Observations of the Sun”. For two days, on 30 November and 1st December 2010, 34 scien- tists from the main space fairing nations, including the noticeable presence of representatives from China, India and Russia, reviewed these future plans in the light of the achievements of the last two very successful decades. Among the most advanced con- cepts are the ESA Solar Orbiter and the NASA Solar Probe Plus, as well as the SPORT mission initiated by the Center for Space Science and Applied Research in China. Solar Probe Plus and Solar Orbiter have al- ready been extensively studied and their prospective instrumentation and objectives are well defined. The SPORT mission to fly some 73.5° above the ecliptic, would bring a considerable enhancement of their ca- pabilities. These, and possibly others to come later, should provide opportunities for a comprehensive study of the Sun and the inner Heliosphere in 3-D. Coordination of these missions through a properly framed international cooperation approach would add tremendous capabilities and enhance consider- ably the scientific output of the whole set. Refining the observing capabilities of such an international program through reviewing the possible comple- ment of instruments and mission design could be very effective in optimizing the set of missions. These were the aims of the ISSI Forum. The Forum stressed the importance of simultaneous out of the ecliptic and in-ecliptic observations and that of combining in situ and remote sensing techniques. Helioseismo- logy, magnetic field, Total Solar Irradiance and solar wind composition measurements should provide crucial data. Follow-on of the Forum is foreseen in the framework of the International Living with a Star Program (ILWS), which involves the main space fair- ing nations, and of COSPAR through a special event co-organized between its Commissions D and E at the 2012 Scientific Assembly in Mysore. That event would offer a visible opportunity to initiate this new international program of out-of-ecliptic and in situ observations of the Sun and the Heliosphere in 3-D.


The Future of Magnetospheric Research

A Forum to debate the current status and potential future evolution of the physics of Earth’s magnetosphere after 50 years of intense research activity was held at ISSI on 24-25 March 2009. An earlier discussion in the framework of COSPAR’s Scientific Advisory Committee had raised the topicality of such a Forum. Twenty-four leading scientists from 12 different countries, many of whom had contributed over several decades to magnetospheric sciences, participated in the Forum’s debates. The discovery, exploration and detailed understanding of the Earth’s magnetosphere have been key scientific goals and the focus of significant activities in scientific space research in the past fifty years. In terms of resources devoted to magnetospheric research and the numbers of scientists that have been directly engaged in it, the discipline dominated the early part of the space age. In the past thirty years or so, other scientific disciplines have progressed to match or surpass the activity levels in magnetospheric research. Nevertheless, the topic remains very active, although in parallel with other scientific areas, the sophistication of the missions that provide much of the raw material for the research has increased significantly. In common with what is needed to keep space research disciplines fresh and relevant, it is important to review the status of magnetospheric research and identify its future directions. Five introductory talks, treating key aspects of magnetospheric research, provided the framework for the discussions. The main achievements and the remaining key questions were reviewed by the debates that followed, focussing on how to progress successfully from the phenomenology that dominated magnetospheric research in the past to the study of physical processes and their applicability to other scientific disciplines. The Forum concluded that the natural evolution of the rich heritage of half a century of magnetospheric research implies and requires the application of its physical insights and results to a broader range of topics in space sciences. This will, together with new research undertaken in the magnetosphere, bring a renewal that is necessary for the continuation of the discipline. In addition, topics were identified that will be considered as possible subjects of future ISSI Workshops. The suggested topics are in all cases building on knowledge and understanding acquired in the study of the Earth’s magnetosphere, but will address wider areas in which interdisciplinarity will bring new and added insight. This approach takes advantage of the special mission of ISSI to bring together a broader scientific participation in addressing new and challenging topics in space sciences.

Pictures of the Forum on the Future of Magnetospheric Research 24/25 March 2009


Earth Sciences Forum

In 2007 ISSI has entered into a contractual relation with the Earth Observation Programmes Directorate of ESA, and set up a programme, funded by ESRIN (ESA center for Earth Observation) and partially by the Swiss Space Office, and managed within ISSI, focused on the International Polar Year (IPY) and related to ESA Living Planet programme topics. This truly international and interdisciplinary programme, encompasses the 2008–2010 period. It is structured in two phases, of 16 and 20 months respectively. The components of this programme are IPY projects, International Living Planet Teams, Workshops, and Forums.
To conclude Phase 1 (1.1.2008-1.5.2009), a Forum took place with the participation of 23 leading scientists from several countries. The scientific results of this phase were presented during the first day of the Forum by the Team leaders for both IPY1 and 2007/08 Teams, and were positively received by the participants. The presentations covered a large area of Earth Science topics, such as the monitoring of Antarctic sea ice (P. Heil), studies of the dynamics and climate of the Northwater/Nares Strait region (P. Gudmandsen), the analysis of glacier changes in the Eurasian Arctic sector (A. Sharov), water vapor and its role in weather and climate (N. Kämpfer), the origin and function of auroral arcs at the Earth’s ionosphere and upper atmosphere (T. van Eyken), the dynamic coupling between the middle and upper atmosphere (K. Hocke) and the coupling of atmospheric regions with near-earth space (M. Parrot). The contribution of ISSI to provide the ground for international and interdisciplinary activities in order to achieve a better understanding on the various Earth system components and their interrelations has been emphasized. A talk presenting the on-going and future ESA’s Living Planet missions have been given by Dr. Stephen Briggs. The first day of the Forum ended with a conference on the “Significant results from Demeter” by Michel Parrot.
The planned work for Phase 2 of the Earth Science Project (1.5.2009–1.1.2012) was presented and discussed during the second day of the Forum. Strong support has been received for the planned Workshops on the “Earth’s Cryosphere and Sea Level Change” and the “Global Earth Energy and Radiation Balance”. A second Forum will be held towards the end of Phase 2 which will give a “wrap-up” of the ISSI activities on Earth Sciences, and which will provide the final report.


Space Science and Education

Twenty five representatives of the world of Education, Science, Space Organizations, and Industry, were invited and actively participated. The main purpose of the Forum was to assess the potential of space science for education at the high school level. The Forum also intended to promote space research in view of the growing importance of space for science for the management of our planet’s future and the necessity to form the future generations of engineers and scientists. The topics covered addressed the following questions:

1) The interest of science and space sciences among the young people

2) The place of space sciences in education systems

3) The role of space agencies and international scientific institutions

4) The role of industry, foundations, and Space Centers

5) A review of actions and manifestations to be considered at national and international level.

The conclusions of the Forum can be summarized as follows: Space research, space in general, is important for the young and represents a unique asset for education and is therefore of a strategic importance for the future. Space sciences are truly multidisciplinary and lend well to the teaching of fundamental physics principles through practical and spectacular applications in astronomy, Earth and environmental sciences, planetary exploration, and engineering sciences.
The role of teachers is crucial. It is essential to recruit the best teachers in sciences in the future. It is as well essential to expose the teachers and their pupils to the practical world of space science and engineering through visits and formation of teams involving institutes, industry, and space agencies.
The large number of initiatives, festivals, competitions, field-experiments, or special classes, that were presented evidence the genuine perception by all partners of the importance of science and in particular space sciences. At first sight, the large number looks fairly encouraging especially considering the fact that several of these initiatives have a multiplication effect as they are coordinated through networks, points of contact, and addresses. Except in a few cases, the efficiency of this way of proceeding is not demonstrated and is questionable. “Calibrating” that efficiency is clearly needed. On the other hand, this kind of bottom-up approach should not be discouraged and the calibration process should not be seen as a negation of all these valuable efforts whose one common success is the possibility of exchanging experiences and information.
The creation of networks of scientists, teachers, industrialists, and decision makers is an important element in motivating the latter and getting their support. A real issue was recognized as being one of lack of a complementary top-down approach at the European level. The suggestion was made to initiate contacts wherever possible with the highest political authorities to draw their attention on the importance of the problem in view of fully involving the European Union.
Finally, it was suggested that a similar initiative should be considered in the near future based on a larger number of representatives of the communities represented at ISSI. ISSI has edited a special CD-ROM comprising a detailed report on the Forum and the set of all presentations made in the course of the event.


Earth Science from Space

The goal of the third ISSI Forum was to assess the need for an ISSI-like institute in the field of Earth sciences, the adequacy of ISSI's present mode of operation and tools for their potential application to activities in Earth sciences, and the logistical and financial implications of the implied developments in case a positive answer was found to the first points.
The ISSI Forum on Earth sciences from space was held on March 2-3, 2006. It was attended by approximately 25 agencies representatives and high-ranking scientists active in some of the numerous disciplines encompassed by the denomination “Earth sciences”. The discussions took place in a neutral, open-minded atmosphere, with the common understanding that an opening of ISSI to Earth sciences should be carried out only at the conditions that a specific and useful role could be identified for ISSI in Earth sciences, and that a clear added value could result from this opening for both the traditional and newly addressed science communities.
After identifying the specificities of Earth with respect to space sciences, the Forum participants evaluated ISSI's traditional assets and the applicability of ISSI's tools to the field of Earth sciences. Recommendations where collected from both the traditional and newly addressed communities as to the role that should, or should not, be played by ISSI in this new field of activity. Finally, potential future actions were defined, in case the path of ISSI's engagement in Earth sciences was to be followed.
As a result of these discussions, the Forum participants supported the opening of ISSI's field of activities to Earth sciences, with the recommendation that the words “international”, “space”, and “science” be maintained as keywords for future ISSI activities also in the newly addressed activity field. In particular, the importance was stressed of maintaining science at the absolute foreground of ISSI's activities. ISSI's profile shall thus remain that of a highly creative, high-quality science ground, repeatedly providing a neutral convergence point for interdisciplinary and international scientists.


Space Science and the Media

The forum examined the challenge of communicating science and more explicitly space science to the public. This is a problem of a general character which does not spare the domain of space sciences, particularly in Europe, where, in addition, the comparison often made with the US raises criticisms against not only the scientists and the media but also the space agencies. For that very reason, ISSI felt the need to address the problem both in its generality and its specificity as to what concerns space sciences.
The Forum rested on the contribution of the best actors in the domains identified above. For two days, some 31 journalists and representatives of Europe’s space program explored the problems and discussed the misunderstandings, and attempted to find solutions. The forum also considered the relationship between science and society and the role of science communication in the formulation of policy on science-related issues. The topics were introduced by selected scientists and journalists, followed by discussions among the participants.
The Forum also compared the way ESA and NASA handle the release of raw data. NASA has adopted a policy of giving the public direct access to raw scientific results on the Internet before proper scientific analysis has been performed, making the public a direct actor in the scientific process, while ESA adopts a more prudent attitude. In addition, its mandate does not allow to fully master the process which is to a large extent in the hands of the Principal Investigators who are not funded by ESA directly, at least in the mandatory scientific program. ESA is also affected by having to work in the different languages of its member states, while NASA enjoys the advantage of communicating in one language.
This led to the wider question of whether media coverage of science is dominated by the US. In Germany (67 per cent), Spain (85 per cent) and Sweden 71 per cent of articles describe US science, while in the UK, eight per cent of articles describe US science and 77 per cent of articles describe UK science. Much debate focused on Beagle 2. Scientists were reluctant to concede that it had been a great success in communication terms even if it failed scientifically and partly overshadowed the success of Mars Express. The public’s inter- est in Mars through Beagle 2 has in effect generated a resurgent interest in planetary science in the UK and has increased Government support for the European science program. It was also considered as worrying that only 25% of the scientists on both side of the Atlantic find it necessary to be somehow active in outreach and it was felt urgent that these ratios be exchanged.
The recommendations adopted by the Forum are given in a short ISSI report. They suggest that education about the media is seen as more relevant for scientists than education about science for journalists. In particular improving the communication skills of space scientists is a priority. In spite of the adverse weather conditions, all participants agreed that initiatives like this Forum are useful and should be continued in order to focus attention on this problem.



The goals of the first ISSI Forum were threefold. The main goal was to consult scientists active in the field of Astrobiology to find out whether there is a desire and need in their community for ISSI to contribute to the advancement of this interdisciplinary research discipline. In case of a positive evaluation, the Forum should generate a list of themes for future Astrobiology workshops at ISSI as well as confirm the position of Oliver Botta as an Astrobiology Discipline Scientist.
The Forum on Astrobiology took place on November 9-10, 2004. The program was divided into four main themes that are central research focus points in Astrobiology: theme 1) From the ISM to the First Stages of Protoplanetary Disk Formation, theme 2) Planetary Systems Formation; Search for Extrasolar Planets, theme 3) Recognition of Life, and theme 4) Under- standing the Physical and Chemical Conditions/Principles underlying the Origin of Life. On the first day, each theme was introduced by a presentation by one of the 13 participants, followed by a discussion. Day 2 started with a lively open discussion session, followed by the formulation of a short report of the Forum participants to the ISSI directorate. In this document the recommendation is made that “because of its interdisciplinary nature, the field of Astrobiology is a natural component of the mission of ISSI. [...] The Forum therefore encourages ISSI to be involved in this activity by 1) organizing workshops, 2) providing access to International Teams and 3) inviting and supporting Visiting Scientists.”
For how long the Earth will remain the only known planet with life? What are the physical and chemical conditions underlying the Origin of life? Based on the outcome of the first ISSI Forum, Astrobiology has been established at ISSI as new discipline. (“El Universo y la vida”, M.G. Salomone, Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC - INTA), p. 35)
In addition, the Forum proposed four themes for future workshops related to Astrobiology (not prioritized here): 1) Strategies for Life Detection, 2) From the Hadean to the Archean Earth: Implications for Terrestrial Planets, 3) Extending the Concept of Habitable Zones, and 4) Titan (post-landing). Also, it was proposed that one of the future Summer Schools held in Alpbach, Austria, should be dedicated to Astrobiology.
Overall, the first Forum ever to be held at ISSI can be considered a big success, and the format turned out to be adequate for this type of meetings. Based on the outcome of this Forum, Astrobiology has been established at ISSI as new discipline.


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