At a June 1949 UNESCO conference in Paris concerning scientific abstracting, delegates from the International Council for Scientific Unions (ICSU) and other participating scientific unions decided to form a joint committee to establish an international journal of physics abstracting. Following from this decision, in July 1951, the Bureau of ICSU agreed to provide an international abstracting service for physics journals as a permanent activity.

This resulted in the establishment of the ICSU Abstracting Board (ICSU-AB), which became operational on 1st June 1952. Over time, ICSU-AB extended its field of influence, solving problems of coverage and speed of publication, as well as constantly concerning itself with the quality and effectiveness of the scientific literature. In 1959, ICSU-AB moved into the field of chemistry, followed by biology in 1962. ICSU-AB’s notable later achievements include the development of an international serials catalogue in 1975 and an international classification scheme for physics in 1978.

By the early 1980s, the pace of scientific information creation had begun to surpass the capability of traditional cataloging, classification, and abstracting methods. Beyond this, the statutes of ICSU did not allow commercial publishing institutions to join ICSU-AB. In response to changing information needs, ICSU-AB changed its structure and became the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI) at a meeting in Philadelphia on 20th June 1984.