The IUGS was founded in 1961 and is a Scientific Union member of the International Council for Science (ICSU), which it recognizes as the coordinating body for the international organization of science. Currently geologists from 121 countries (and regions) are represented in IUGS through a 121 Adhering Organization. A broad range of Scientific topics are covered by its Commission, Task Groups, Joint Programmes, Affiliated Organizations. IUGS promotes and encourages the study of geological problems, especially those of worldwide significance, and supports and facilitates international and interdisciplinary cooperation in the earth sciences. The Union's Secretariat is currently located at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing, China
IUGS is a joint partner with UNESCO for the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) and they also participate in the Global Network of National Geoparks (GGN). The Geological Society of London oversees the production and distribution of IUGS Publications. The Geological Society of India produces and distributes the Union's quarterly journal, entitled Episodes, as well as providing editorial support. Interested parties can download the latest issues of Episodes free of charge
As of 2014[update] IUGS runs six international commissions covering the following topics:
The Union is the main scientific sponsor of the International Geological Congress (IGC), which takes place every four years. South Africa and Cape Town hosted the 35th International Geological Congress in 2016. The 34th Session of the International Geological Congress took place in Brisbane, Australia in August 2012, where IUGS-IGC Council decided that India will host the 36th session in 2020.
The IUGS Scientific Awards of Excellence: