Science for a Better World

We have previously expressed ISSI’s concern about the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis. The need to maintain science as a platform for dialogue even in times of conflict has become more prominent. As this war continues and other tensions rise around the world, it seems more important than ever to maintain institutions where such peaceful and constructive dialogue can take place. Science is a universal language that knows no geographical or political boundaries, nor boundaries related to race, gender or sexual orientation.

ISSI provides an open and neutral environment where such open and free discussions about Space and Earth Science, and related fields can take place. Dialogue between scientists promotes not only better science, but also a better mutual understanding among people of different origins and cultures. At ISSI we like to think of this as our own small contribution to a better world.

The Team at ISSI and Willy Benz, chair of the Board of Trustees

From the new Chair of the Board of Trustees Prof. Willy Benz

Welcome to ISSI, the International Space Science Institute

Willy Benz, Chair of the Board of Trustees (Image: KEYSTONE/A. della Valle)

ISSI is an Institute of Advanced Studies with a mission to contribute to a deeper understanding of the workings of Planet Earth, the Solar System and its components, and the Universe near and far. Scientists with a wide range of expertise come to ISSI from all over the world to discuss data collected by space missions, ground-based observatories or laboratory experiments, and to exchange and discuss ideas in a multidisciplinary environment. They address compelling and relevant questions, and their conclusions are published in peer-reviewed literature and shared with their communities. ISSI provides the infrastructure and atmosphere, away from the stress of everyday life, in which these discussions can unfold in a unique way, making it a truly special place. On the practical side, ISSI’s friendly staff will help you prepare for your visit and ensure that you can concentrate fully on science during your stay.

On this website you will find all the information you need about ISSI, its activities and the tools it provides. If you are new and interested, we look forward to welcoming you to Bern, and for those who have experienced ISSI, we look forward to seeing you again!

With best wishes

Willy Benz
Chair, ISSI Board of Trustees

Jean-Pierre Swings (1943–2023)

It is with great sadness that we have learned that Jean-Pierre Swings passed away Monday January 16, 2023, in the afternoon, as a result of respiratory difficulties.

Jean-Pierre Swings

Jean-Pierre Swings was an emeritus professor of astronomy at the University of Liège, Belgium. His scientific research was related to various fields of astrophysics connected to stars, galaxies, gravitational lensing, and space technologies. He was a very active member of important committees related to the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). He was also essential in the framework of the European Astronomical Society (EAS) and of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), being IAU General Secretary between 1985 and 1988. For quite a few years, he was a very active member of the ISSI Board of Trustees, until he had to step down because of health problems.

ISSI has lost a faithful and pleasant friend.  We shall miss his numerous and varied deep skills, his smile, his humor, his laughter, his joie de vivre, and the pleasure it was to work efficiently with him.

We express our deepest condolences to his wife, children, and his family.

Georges Meylan

On behalf of the ISSI Board of Trustees, Directorate, and Staff

Dr. Antonella Nota has been elected as the new Executive Director of the International Space Science Institute

The Board of Trustees of the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) has elected Dr. Antonella Nota from Baltimore, USA, to head the Institute as its new Executive Director as of January 1, 2023. 

Antonella Nota will succeed Professor Tilman Spohn, who finishes his term as ISSI Executive Director on December 31, 2022. We are grateful to Tilman Spohn who has successfully steered ISSI through the difficult years of the Covid pandemic and has recently led the process of resuming all ISSI scientific activities.

Dr. Antonella Nota

A native of Venice, Italy, Antonella Nota completed her university studies in Astronomy at the University of Padua, Italy. She moved in 1986 to Baltimore, to work at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) with a European Space Agency (ESA) contract. She remained at STScI as ESA staff until her retirement. Over more than three decades, she accumulated a rare experience in the scientific leadership and technical management of space science missions. Among other responsibilities, Antonella Nota was the Head of the ESA Office at STScI, as well as the ESA Project Scientist for both the Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope, until May 2022, when she retired from ESA. As ESA Project Scientist for these two missions, Antonella Nota was responsible for science policies, interface with the scientific community, and outreach efforts in Europe.

Antonella Nota’s scientific interests are in the areas of stellar evolution, massive stars, and young clusters formation and evolution. She has published more than 200 papers in astronomical journals and conference proceedings. She has a passion for connecting science and art in the effort to broaden public interest in science, and she has collaborated with artists and curators on a number of high-visibility exhibits and grand installations. She has supervised a large number of graduate students and post-docs, and she is a staunch advocate for representation of women and minorities in astronomy. She is a member of several professional astronomical societies, including the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the International Astronomical Union (IAU), and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere & Arti (IVSLA). In 2022, Antonella Nota received the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal for her contributions to the international advancement and celebrations of the Hubble Space Telescope.


Georges Meylan

Chair of the Board of Trustees

International Space Science Institute ISSI


Announcement New ISSI Executive Director Antonella Nota (pdf) >>





Antonella Nota appointed as the next ISSI Executive Director from January 1, 2023

Following a decision taken by the ISSI Board of Trustees during its meeting on 20 May, 2022, Dr. Antonella Nota will be the next ISSI Executive Director, starting on 1 January, 2023.

Until last May, Antonella Nota was the Head of the European Space Agency (ESA) Office at STScI, in Baltimore, USA. Over the years, she has been, among other responsibilities, ESA HST Project Scientist; Mission Manager, ESA HST Project Scientist; JWST Project Scientist, Head of the Science Division at STScI, and Associate STScI Director for ESA.

Her research interests are related to the fields of massive stars and young stellar clusters.  

A full press release will be published by ISSI near the end of 2022.

The ISSI Board of Trustees

A Plea for Peace

ISSI expresses its deep dismay and concern regarding the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the resulting grave humanitarian crisis.

ISSI reaffirms its long-standing position that science is a platform for dialogue even in times of profound geopolitical conflict, and therefore a resource on which to capitalize to restore and preserve peace.

ISSI states that our capacity to work collaboratively on global challenges such as climate change and space research is only equal to our capacity to maintain strong collaboration amidst geopolitical turmoil. The isolation and exclusion of important scientific communities is detrimental to all.

ISSI pledges to advance equal participation and collaboration between scientists from all countries in its activities and to adhere to its principle that all of its activities are conducted with the highest ethical standards.

Georges Meylan
President of ISSI Board of Trustees (2015-2023)
for the ISSI BoT, ISSI Directorate, and ISSI Staff


The Chair of the ISSI BoT and the ISSI Executive Director are, like the ISSI staff, deeply shocked and saddened by the current events in Ukraine. As a scientific international institution, we consider that mutual respect, integrity and kindness, as well as dialogue among ourselves are absolutely essential.

Our thoughts and sympathy are with all those who suffer during these terrible times.

Board of Trustees appoints Prof. Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet as ISSI Honorary Director

ISSI Honorary Director Prof.-Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet

Over time, Prof. Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet has constantly supported the development of the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland. In addition, during two specific periods of time, he has played an especially important role in establishing ISSI.

First, as the director of Science of the European Space Agency (ESA), Prof. Bonnet helped Prof. Dr. Johannes Geiss in paving the way, which led to the creation of ISSI in January 1995.

Second, as the successor of Prof. Geiss as Executive Director of ISSI, from 2003 till 2012, Prof. Bonnet has expanded ISSI scientific interests and developed the tools by which ISSI now engages a global scientific audience.

Acknowledging his pivotal role and expressing deep gratitude for his steady and effective support and leadership that has made ISSI a beacon in space science, the ISSI Board of Trustees presents Prof. Roger-Maurice Bonnet with the title of Honorary Director of the International Space Science Institute, effective as of June 1, 2021.

With this award, the Board of Trustees wishes to highlight Prof. Bonnet’s essential role, both in the past and today, as a true ambassador of ISSI to the international scientific community.

The ISSI Board of Trustees