The concept for the Interdisciplinary Communications Program (ICP) originated in 1931 when the Josiah Macy Junior Foundation sponsored a series of medical conferences that explored advances in the medical sciences. Information from the conferences was used in funding decisions made by the Foundation. Frank Fremont-Smith began the series; when he retired as the Foundation's Medical Director, he was encouraged to apply the concept to the field of the biological sciences in general.
In 1964, ICP became affiliated with the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), with Fremont-Smith continuing as director. In early 1966, Fremont-Smith began conversations with Sidney R. Galler, assistant secretary (science) of the Smithsonian Institution, seeking NYAS-Smithsonian support. After Smithsonian negotiations with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), already a frequent sponsor of ICP conferences, NASA agreed to provide support through a contract for funding beginning in October 1966. The Smithsonian administered this contract and several extensions, until the contract was closed in 1974.
In 1971, ICP contracted with the Agency for International Development (AID), through the Smithsonian, to begin an International Program for Population Analysis (IPPA). This program was intended to provide for analysis and dissemination of knowledge about population policies and dynamics to decision-makers in less developed countries, chiefly through interdisciplinary workshops and seminars. AID terminated funding for IPPA in 1976, at which time ICP ceased to operate.
Frank Fremont-Smith directed ICP until 1968, based in New York City. In 1967 Moses C. Shelesnyak became ICP's associate director and opened an office in Washington, D.C. Shelesnyak became director in 1968 and served until ICP was ended in 1976.