+++ ICDP: Call for Proposals - Next Chance January 15, 2018 +++ Highlights and Updates Moved to the new ICDP Web Site +++

History of the ICDP

There has long been ad-hoc bilateral international co-operation in a number of scientific drilling projects. However, a multi-national continental drilling program, comparable to the successful Ocean Drilling Program (now Integrated Ocean Drilling Program), was only established in the mid 1990s after a conference on the establishment of an International Continental Scientific Drilling Program and a number of successive meetings with representatives of funding organizations.

An important step towards the establishment of an ICDP was a Megascience Forum entitled under the title “Deep Drilling” initiated by the Council of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which took place in November 1992 in Brest, France. The goal of the meeting was to examine deep drilling as a field in which megascience projects play an important role and to review the whole area of international cooperation in drilling both in the oceans and on the continents. One major result of this Forum was strong encouragement for the international geoscientific community to move forward with a more formal multilateral continental drilling program. Because of the highly successful German Continental Deep Drilling Program KTB, Germany was asked to take a lead role and to organize an international meeting to examine the scientific justification and management needs for such a multilateral international program.

This meeting was held from August 30 to September 1, 1993 in Potsdam, and was hosted by the then newly established GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ). The meeting was carried out under the auspices of the Coordinating Committee 4 “Continental Drilling” (CC-4) of the International Lithosphere Program (ILP) and strongly endorsed by the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) whose Presidents participated in the conference. The scientific themes of the meeting were intended to be as comprehensive as possible attempting to cover a broad spectrum of contemporary Earth Sciences in order to discuss how scientific drilling could complement on-going geoscientific studies and make it possible to address fundamental, unresolved questions critically relevant to both societal needs and an improved understanding of the Earth and its Lithosphere.

These questions were discussed in detail by the 250 experts from 28 countries present at the meeting. The results of this first “Potsdam Conference on Continental Scientific Drilling” are reported in a voluminous brochure “Scientific Rationale for Establishment of an International Program of Continental Scientific Drilling” edited by  M. Zoback and R. Emmermann, and published in 1994.


Following the Potsdam Conference, science managers from 15 participating countries met at Windischeschenbach, the site of the German Continental Deep Drilling Program, to consider formally the establishment of an ICDP. A Communiqué issued at the meeting stressed the following major points:

  1. There is an essential Role for Continental Scientific Drilling in the Solid  Earth Sciences.
  2. Full realization of that Role requires a comprehensive international program.
  3. It is timely to grasp the Opportunity to embark on an International Continental Scientific Drilling Program.

The Science Managers nominated a Preparatory Group who got the mandate to draft a Concept for the Structure, Operation and Funding of an International Continental Scientific Drilling Program ICDP by addressing issues such as:

•    An overall structure for management of the program
•    The sponsorship of the program
•    Mechanisms for the management of projects of various dimensions
•    Design of program structure
•    Criteria for selection of projects
•    Mechanisms for promoting international participation

In March 1994 an agreement under the umbrella “Cooperation in Research in Geosciences” between the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the German Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Technology (BMBF) was signed. And in October 1994 both partners indicated their intent to implement an ICDP by a respective “Letter of Intent”. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was initialed in February 1995 by the GFZ Potsdam and the NSF. The ICDP started officially on February 26, 1996 when the MOU was ratified by representatives of the US National Science Foundation, the Chinese Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources and the German Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Technology /GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ) at the German Embassy in Tokyo. Parallel to the formal signature, the three main panels in the organizational structure of the ICDP were formed: the Assembly of Governors (AOG), the Executive Committee (EC) and the Science Advisory Group (SAG) and a first call for proposals was issued in EOS and other international journals. The first proposals were reviewed by the SAG and decided on by the EC and the AOG at the end of 1996.

ICDP funded workshops were held since 1996 and ICDP drilling projects started in 1998, a list of workshops which served to plan and establish drilling projects is provided here; ICDP funded drilling projects are listed here.