50 Years, 8000+ Grants, 105 Countries: It All Started with Four IFS Founders

Published: 2022-01-26

Supporting Early Career Scientists in the Global South for 50 Years and Counting is the theme for 2022’s year-long commemorative celebration of the 50th anniversary of the International Foundation for Science. This theme recognises the intention and wording in the original Charter of Foundation of IFS, signed on 26 May 1972 by Sven Brohult, Robert E Marshak, Roger Revelle and Abdus Salam.


From leftSven Brohult, Roger Revelle, Abdus Salam and Robert E Marshak

These prominent scientists had picked up the torch that was lit by the recommendation to establish IFS by the Nobel Prize winning Pugwash Conference[1] in Venice in 1965.

Past, Present, Future

Situating the aspirations for IFS within the lofty statements of the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations and Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founders emphasised the “socio-economic advancement of all peoples” and “the right of everyone freely to share in scientific advancement”. In particular, the IFS Charter envisioned IFS’s role “in developing countries, [as being] to promote meritorious research in natural and social sciences and technology”. The Charter also acknowledges that “a thriving scientific tradition requires a strong educational scientific community”.

Our anniversary theme is also explicit about what IFS does, and is a half-century-old reaffirmation of what the founders – as “representatives of scientific Academies and other scientific Organizations[2]” – saw as the work of IFS:

… to seek out young scientists and technicians of outstanding merit from developing countries and provide them with material and moral support in their work, on condition that the research activity shall take place in the territory and for the benefit of the developing country in accordance with the rules set in the … Statutes.

In an editorial in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Eugene Rabonovich (1966) early on agreed about the need for and work of a foundation such as IFS, as well as suggesting that one of its advantages would be:

… to provide to outstanding young research talents a chance to develop their research at home, to return to their own countries after study or graduate work in scientifically developed countries, and to establish their own up-to-date research centers. These could later serve as centers to attract the next generation of scientists. 

Thus, the theme also looks beyond these 50 years, while implying that IFS’s work still counts, that it is an important and valuable resource for future generations of young researchers. In other words, a relatively small research grant, meaningful capacity-enhancement activities, and the right kind of support do indeed contribute significantly to the work of early career scientists and to positive impacts in their countries.

Each of this year’s blog posts will be an essay featuring testimonials from across the community of IFS stakeholders, including new and ongoing grantees, alumni, current and former Board members, external advisors and members of the Scientific Advisory Committees, former and current Secretariat staff, and our organizational and funding partners. Through descriptions of defining moments in their own experiences of IFS, a picture will be painted of the Foundation’s role in science that was first imagined by the four founders who once sat around a table, turning an idea into one of their numerous scientific legacies.

[1] A conference series initiated by Bertrand Russel and Albert Einstein of scientists meeting annually in private as individuals seeking cooperative solutions to global problems

[2] The founding member organisations represented Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Israel, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Sweden, Thailand and the USA.



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