ESSC Case Study

Providing an independent voice for European Space scientists


About The European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC)

The European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC) provides independent, unbiased expert advice on space research and policy to the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Commission (EC), national space agencies and other decision-makers in the space domain. It is the European Science Foundation’s Strategic Board on space research.

The ESSC budget is contributed to by 19 research organisations and space agencies in 14 European countries and the European Space Agency. The Committee currently has 27 individual expert members in 12 European countries.

The Challenge

The 'Provisional Space Science Board for Europe' was created in 1974 under the auspices of the UK Royal Society as a means of giving European space scientists an independent voice in the space arena.  At the time, Europe’s planetary scientists had no specific fora in which to debate and they would frequently meet in the US rather than in Europe.

The initiative grew originally from the need for a collaborative effort to ensure that European space scientists' voices were heard on the other side of the Atlantic as well. This was an era in which successive Apollo and space science missions had thrust the idea of space exploration into public consciousness for the first time.

The provisional board needed support at administrative level and also needed to benefit from proximity to, and engagement with, the main academies and research funding and performing organisations in Europe.

The solution

It is for these reasons that the ESSC was established as a Standing Committee of the newly-created European Science Foundation (ESF), just a few months after its inception.

This incorporation of ESSC within ESF helped underpin the role of space sciences and technology as pillars of the European space venture. Additionally, its role is to support European visibility and to enhance the position of Europe in global space initiatives, while taking national priorities into account. The ESSC also assesses the status and perspectives of European space activities on a regular basis.

Following its initial establishment, ESSC became the first ESF Associated Committee a few years later. Today, it is one of the five Expert Boards hosted by ESF.

The results

  • ESSC has become the reference body in Europe for independent scientific advice on space matters and a focal point for international research collaboration
  • The ESSC participates in various advisory committees of ESA and the EC, and it sits with observer status in the Council of Ministers of ESA Member States. This follows an official invitation to ESF to represent the interests of the space science community in that forum
  • At international level, the ESSC has a permanent relationship with the Space Studies Board of the US National Academies and also interacts regularly with scientific bodies in China, Japan and Russia. In addition, the ESSC has long-standing and lasting formal relations with COSPAR, the Committee on Space Research
  • The successful establishment and operation of the ESSC served as a strong example of ESF capabilities and a reference point for the establishment of further expert boards, such as CRAF, NuPECC, including Boards created from within ESF itself (European Polar Board, European Marine Board, Materials Science and Engineering Expert Committee)


“The ESSC is unique in Europe as it represents the interests of the broader space sciences community in a single entity… It is one of the crown jewels of ESF Expert Boards and Committees. Its role is recognised and respected by the main space stakeholders worldwide and it serves to support Europe's leadership position in many areas of space science.”

Athena Coustenis, ESSC Chair 2015-2017.