The Council participates in international science initiatives in two ways: by establishing science initiatives or programmes, historically called Interdisciplinary Bodies, or by lending its support to Joint Initiatives that have multiple sponsors/partners.
- Committee on Space Research (COSPAR)
- Future Earth
- Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR)
- Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)
- Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR)
- Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP)
- Urban Health & Wellbeing
- World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)
Initially established by ICSU General Assemblies, these Interdisciplinary Bodies focus on specific areas of international research that are of interest to all or many ICSU Members. Their roles vary depending on the area of science and on the related needs of the international science community, but they usually combine operational and policy/advisory functions. They are designed to become self-sufficient and independent in terms of day-to-day operations and financing. Most Interdisciplinary Bodies have their own Secretariat.
Joint Initiatives, co-sponsored by ICSU and other international organizations (e.g. from the UN system), are an important means of bringing together a range of partners to address a particular issue or area. One of the key features of these collaborative programmes is the ability to consider the issue from the broadest possible perspective while minimizing overlap and duplication of effort.