Vol. 24, No. 1
Young Observer Programs:
Getting New Experts Involved in IUPAC
E. P. Przybylowicz
discipline, if it plans to remain vibrant and innovative, must explore
ways to renew itself as it expands into new areas and develops new techniques.
Traditionally, IUPAC has depended on its commission structure to bring
new talent into the fold. Because commissions had relatively long lifetimes,
they could include new experts on their commission projects either as
observers or working members.
and its National Adhering Organizations should be challenged
by how best to shape successful programs that also involve new
expertise in the organization.
the recent changes in organizational structure, however, the process
of bringing new expertise into IUPAC will, itself, face new challenges.
In the true spirit of experimentation, the organization must try different
approaches to involve new experts in IUPAC .
Innovative Way to Seek Innovative Scientists
In the past, several countries have made use of what is called
the Young Observer program. It is typically structured at the country
level by the National Adhering Organization and differs somewhat from
country to country. Believed to have been first introduced in the United
Kingdom some years ago, it has most recently been actively used by Japan
and the United States.
recent General Assembly in Brisbane, Japan had four scientists under
the age of 45 who were selected by the Japan National Committee for
Chemistry of the Science Council of Japan. This
program has been in existence for ten years and operates with a fund
provided by the Japanese Company Associates.
This fund provided approximately USD 2000 toward travel and subsistence
expenses for the Japanese scientists.
United States, the 2001 Young Observer program was supported through
grants from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation (a
non-profit organization), the American Chemical Society, and the U.S.
industrial companies that constitute IUPAC's Company Associates.
of the U.S. Young Observer Program
U.S. Young Observers and IUPAC
A total of 12 Young Observers (four women and eight men) were selected
from the United States to participate at the most recent General Assembly
in Brisbane in July 2001, and to experience the global efforts undertaken
by the Union. They represented a broad array of expertise and professional
backgrounds: macromolecules, analytical, environmental, teaching of
chemistry, inorganic, colloidal, physical, medicinal, organic, and nomenclature.
Two were from industry, two from government laboratories, and the remainder
Observers indicated general satisfaction with their experience. Perhaps
more importantly, these Young Observers gained awareness of the important
role that IUPAC plays (and must continue to play) as an international
organization for the worldwide chemistry enterprise. Generally, they
were pleased with the structure of the program (see
sidebar). Many pointed out the value of the orientation program
as well as the "mentors" that were assigned to them as being particularly
helpful in their getting the most out of the meetings they attended.
the Young Observers were impressed with the operations of IUPAC. As
with any meeting there were good and not-so-good experiences. A number
of useful observations were suggested to help IUPAC improve its operations.
These points will be summarized in a report that will be sent to U.S.
National Committee members, the sponsors of the U.S. Young Observer
Program, and the Executive Committee of IUPAC . The report will also
be used for soliciting funds to support a similar program at the General
Assembly in Ottawa.
of the Young Observers indicated a willingness and an interest to continue
their participation in IUPAC.
Several were assigned to task groups in Brisbane and will be working
with these IUPAC bodies as a followup to the General Assembly.
the Young Observers Have to Say
A sample of quotes from some of the Young Observers reports gives
a flavor of their impressions and experiences:
I was favorably impressed with the things that I saw and participated
in while at the IUPAC meeting.
The most significant impression was that IUPAC provides a vehicle to
collaborate with scientists from other countries on projects important
to chemistry. Most collaborative efforts by chemists are research-based
projects with few collaborators; however, the IUPAC projects provide
the opportunity to interact with a number of chemists on issues that
have the potential for impacting larger areas of chemistry and science
should narrow its mission to reflect its limited financial resources.
The IUPAC goals (list) is unrealistically long and can never be fulfilled
with IUPAC's current funds. Unless IUPAC can dramatically increasing
its funding level, it should focus on a subset of those goals and deemphasize
was one of the most interesting and invigorating scientific experiences
of my career. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet and interact
with other scientists from all over the world, and the discussions that
I became involved in were among the most intellectually stimulating
I have experienced."
for the young observers was very well organized, and the communications
prior to the meeting were quite effective as were the introductory meeting
and reception. I was very fortunate to have been assigned a really terrific
mentor. . . ."
can be no question of the value of these meetings both from the technical
and the international cooperation perspective. IUPAC offers a unique
forum for the exchange of views on issues of concern to chemists around
the world. The mix of participants on the Medicinal Chemistry Section
Committee represented most regions of the world and a good mix of participants
from both industrial and developing nations. While
I have attended several international meetings the mix of people I encountered
here was far more nationally
diverse than I had previously encountered at ACS meetings, or other
smaller special interest meetings."
The enthusiasm for the work of IUPAC demonstrated by the Young
Observers is something that we need to channel into effective work for
IUPAC on meaningful projects. With the new organizational structure
of IUPAC, we must find ways to involve these new experts.
Observers program has been run largely by national organizations. Mechanisms
need to be considered that will encourage involvement from allmember
countries of IUPAC, not just the larger countries.
Additionally, Division Committees need to consider how best to involve
these enthusiastic young scientists, should the program continue to
increase. Perhaps Young Observers should be given an opportunity to
participate in more than General Assembly meetings.
where the program has been used in the past, it has been successful
in involving new experts in IUPAC. The Union and the National Adhering
Organizations should be challenged now by how best to shape this successful
program to serve its continuing need to involve new experts in the organization
of the U.S. Young Observer Program
P. Przybylowicz is Chairman of the U.S. National Committee for IUPAC.