Vol. 23, No. 1
Think IUPAC Project
The Secretary General's Report
Edwin D. Becker
It has been a rather long time since I have used the columns of Chemistry
International to present an informal discussion of important activities
within the Union. During most of the 1990s, the principal issue in IUPAC
seemed to be "restructuring" or, more broadly, "the scientific
policy of the Union." With the development of a mission statement
and a set of long-range goals, the strategy of the Union came into focus.
A far-reaching decision by the Bureau in 1998 and final approval by
Council in 1999 changed the basic framework for carrying out scientific
work in IUPAC from a system largely dependent on a number of Commissions
to one driven primarily by the inception of individual projects.
Everyone involved in the governance of IUPAC spent a great deal of
time and effort in developing proposals for the new structure and operational
system, in arguing for or against various aspects, in making many modifications
and improvements, and in seeing the program finally approved. However,
the year 2000 was really much more demanding as we have begun to implement
the new system. The seven Division Presidents, in particular, have borne
a heavy load as they continue to guide their Commissions to successful
completion of their work by the end of 2001 while concurrently they
strive to broaden the base of expertise in their Division Committees
and to encourage all current members of IUPAC bodies to propose good
projects for the future. We all owe the Division Presidents a sincere
vote of thanks for their superb response to these challenges and for
their dedicated leadership during the 20002001 biennium.
In this report, I would like to point out some of the features of our
new procedures and to focus particularly on the Unions efforts
to reach outto IUPAC Affiliates and Fellows, to national and regional
chemical societies, and to the worldwide chemistry community
What is new about a project system? IUPAC has always
had projects, based on meeting some perceived need, and often resulting
in the publication of a technical report, a recommendation, tables of
evaluated data, and other outputs. Early Commissions were formed usually
to attack some particular problem, but over time most Commissions came
to represent primarily a particular subset of chemistry. Discussions
within a Commission usually generated ideas for specific projects, and
these were carried out within the financial resources made available
to the Commission. The sequence might be summarized as follows:
Now we have a system that is driven by the proposal to carry out a
project. Only after the proposal is reviewed in detail and approved
by a Division Committee are funds made available to the task group formed
to carry out the project. The new sequence might be summarized:
All of us who have advocated such a project-driven system believe that
it will permit IUPAC to address problems more quickly, to provide funds
where needed to expedite completion of a project as expeditiously as
possible, andperhaps most importantto seek ideas more broadly
so that we can be certain to address those problems of greatst importance
that are within IUPACs scope
Will the project system work? I hope and believe that
it willbut not without some thought and effort.There are three
necessary components to developing and completing an IUPAC project:
good ideas, able and willing people, and adequate resources.
- The Union can provide the organizational frame-work, assistance
from our professional Secretariat, and financial support (modest,
but nevertheless real).
- A comparison of the two schemes illustrated above makes it clear
that one advantage of the Commission system is the initial appointment
of people interested in a particular area and the financial support
for them to meet regularly for discussions that might identify both
suitable ideas for projects and people (usually from the Commission
or its subgroups) who might carry out the project. Without going back
to a system of permanent Commissions, IUPAC can and will convene ad
hoc groups to "brainstorm" in particular areas, as identified
at least partially by Division and Standing Committees. However, discussions
leading to proposals for IUPAC projects need not be organized only
by IUPAC. Any individuals or groups who identify problems that IUPAC
might reasonably address are welcome to submit proposals or to seek
more information and guidance from the Secretariat or the IUPAC web
- Ideas without scientists committed to carrying out the work will
not go very far in an organization like IUPAC that depends on volunteers.
So we need good ideas and scientists who are able and willing to devote
some time to help improve worldwide chemistry.
What are suitable IUPAC projects? IUPACs role
involves international chemistry. Traditional projects include the international
standardization of nomenclature and terminology, publication of glossaries
in particular fields, setting standards for presentation of spectral
and other data, establishing uniform scales for quantities such as pH,
forging agreement on analytical methods, and a host of similar matters.
Other IUPAC projects are directed at compilation and evaluation of quantitative
(usually numeric) data in areas where there are international needs,
such as thermodynamics, kinetics, metabolism, etc.
Even with limited resources, IUPAC can play a very important role in
exchanging information among national groups and in coordinating activities
that call for international leadership. For example, following the recent
report of IUPACs Education Strategy Development Committee,
the Union is considering areas in which it can usefully complement activities
of national chemical societies and others. Innovative projects with
an educational or training component can be considered, as can other
proposals that emphasize IUPACs international coordinating efforts
in the broad area of the chemical sciences.
The Union does not have the resources to support research, and it does
not wish to intrude on matters that are handled adequately by national
or private organizations. However, we are interested in novel ideas,
as well as in proposals in areas exemplified by the listing of current
projects on the web site.
Who will propose and carry out projects? Even with its
smaller structure after 2001, IUPAC will have hundreds of scientists
participating in various bodies. Many will propose projects and will
serve on task groups that carry out a project. However, IUPAC has a
much broader base of knowledgeable and interested scientists IUPAC
Fellows and Affiliate Members. Moreover, scientists with no long-term
affiliation with IUPAC may well be interested (individually or in groups)
in tackling a project that will assist their research efforts or applications
in chemical sciences.
- There are already nearly 500 Fellows, whose terms on IUPAC bodies
have concluded, and after 2001 there will a significant increase in
this number. Fellows have served IUPAC, and I believe that most retain
considerable interest in the Unions programs. Fellows are in
an excellent position to take on new projects.
- We have over 4 500 Affiliate Members, all of whom annually renew
their interest in IUPAC. All receive Chemistry International as the
principal means of communication, and many now receive IUPAC
e-news, the e-mail newsletter that complements CI. I extend
a special invitation to Affiliate Members to think about ways that
IUPAC might assist chemistry and to consider initiation of proposals
for suitable projects.
- Most chemists participate in many professional groups related to
their special field and/or to geography, in national or regional organizations.
Discussions in such groups may well lead to ideas that can be developed
into IUPAC projects. For example, standards or guidelines established
in a particular field or location might be "internationalized,"
or concepts tested in workshops or classes in one place might be transformed
into a broader international context.
IUPAC e-news is an electronic newsletter, initially distributed
to all members and bodies associated to the Union. It is principally
to inform members by e-mail of recent additions to the IUPAC website.
The e-news membership list is open to whoever want to join. Note
that if you recently changed e-mail, you will have to resubscribe
online, just like first time subscriber. To subscribe, visit <http://www.iupac.org/news/e-news.html>
As IUPAC moves into a new mode of operation, we should all be alert
to opportunities for the Union to enhance its contributions to the chemical
sciences. In short, as you handle daily business, Think IUPAC.
Edwin D. Becker