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Vol. 28 No. 3
May-June 2006

Introducing EuCheMS: The European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences

by Gábor Náray-Szabó

The chemists and chemical scientists of the Federation of European Chemical Sciences (FECS) have decided to take the lead in redefining our central science. Recently, FECS changed its name to the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) to signal its transformation from an old club of committed scientists into a professional organization representing chemistry throughout Europe. The name change also reflects the organization’s newfound determination to form alliances with other scientific disciplines that have an interest in molecules. Molecular biology, drug research, materials science, chemical engineering, and several other important new fields grew out of chemistry—a fact that is easily understood if one considers that all these disciplines focus on properties, interactions, and the engineerin
g of molecules.

EuCheMS members include 150000 chemists and chemical scientists from 36 countries.

With the expansion of the European Union and recognition of the need for more cooperation among chemists, the members of EuCheMS have developed a vision for raising the stature and influence of the discipline. The idea is that if we represent our discipline at the European level more intensively, we will gain influence in legislation and we will put pressure on politicians to understand the vital role of chemistry in our knowledge-based society. Because the civil sector plays an increasingly important role in Europe, strong chemical societies, like the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (Germany) or the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK), together with EuCheMS can gain more publicity and influence.

An important challenge for the chemical community is to attain the right place for molecular sciences. In cooperation with representatives of other molecular disciplines and industries we should make clear to the public that chemistry plays a central role in everyday life. We all know that chemistry is essential to all branches of the natural sciences and to all but a few industries. For example, the molecular basis of life cannot be understood without a basic and thorough education in chemistry. Machinery requires paints and varnishes. Electronics production requires detailed knowledge of the chemical properties of complicated materials. Drug research is dependent on the molecular concept. Even archaeology and astronomy rely on chemical considerations. Clearly, we enjoy the benefits of thousands of chemical substances. It is important to convince all players, especially the public, but also scientists, engineers, and administrators, that without a broad knowledge on molecules the quality of our everyday lives would be diminished.

Despite the numerous applications of chemicals in everyday life—or perhaps because of over usage—the public image of chemistry is rather poor, which is something we have to change with full energy. We have to convince the laymen that chemistry does its best not against, but for society. Chemicals can become harmful if handled without appropriate expertise, but this can be avoided if more people—from pupils to teachers to employees to executives—can acquire some basic chemistry knowledge. In order to achieve this, we have to encourage more interest in chemistry. For example, its popularity could be enhanced by presenting meaningful experiments in schools and broadcasting fascinating programs on television.

The Flavor of Rose, a sculpture by Béla Vízi, is the logo of the 1st European Chemistry Congress. Vízi, a retired chemistry professor of Veszprém University, Hungary, made the original of bronze and marine pebble stone. Standing 17-cm tall, the sculpture was inspired by the molecular shape of phenylethyl alcohol, a constituent of rose oil.

About a year ago an editorial published in Chemical & Engineering News discussed whether or not the American Chemical Society should change its name—one it has had for more than 100 years. Clearly, our colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic are well aware of current trends: The molecular concept has gradually became so important that broad expert groups involved in any aspect of the molecular approach demand to have their own identity and a separate representation of interests.

Chemistry, like mathematics, penetrated into a great number of other disciplines, enriching them with the molecular concept and broadening their radius of action. However, chemistry, like math, may be absorbed by these disciplines, which would leave only a fraction of "pure" chemists on the scene. This is not desirable, since it is obvious that we, chemists, know the most about molecules and are best suited to transfer this knowledge to others. Several scientists who deal continuously with molecules call themselves molecular physicists, physiologists, pharmacologists, or materials scientists, but we have to underline that a considerable amount of their knowledge is related to the molecular concept. Therefore, by explicitly mentioning the term "molecular," the new name of the European chemists’ association demonstrates our commitment to maintaining alliances among these various disciplines.

An outstanding opportunity to bring together European chemists and molecular scientists, as well as to raise public interest, will be the 1st European Chemistry Congress, to be held 27-31 August 2006 <www.euchems-budapest2006.hu>. At the meeting, which will hopefully be the first in a series of forthcoming continental congresses, participants will convene to discuss major trends in chemistry and related disciplines. Six Nobel Laureates, 10 keynote speakers, and more than 100 invited speakers will discuss interesting hot topics, most of them at the boundary of chemistry and other disciplines. The meeting should help European chemists establish a new identity that more accurately reflects the enterprise in which we are engaged. This might be achieved by enhancing the public image of chemistry with well-established facts and arguments on the one side, but also by raising positive emotions on the other. We hope to spark public interest with, among other things, a special event devoted to "molecules and the senses," which will explore the molecular aspects of vision, taste, and smell through beautiful graphics and lectures on molecular gastronomy and the chemical diversity of odor signals.

EuCheMS is a nonprofit association that promotes cooperation in Europe between nonprofit scientific and technical societies and professional institutions in the field of chemistry/chemical sciences whose membership consists largely of individual qualified chemists/chemical scientists and whose interests include the science and/or practice of chemistry/chemical sciences.

EuCheMS was founded in 1970 and currently has 50 member societies in 36 countries, which together represent over 150 000 individual chemists/chemical scientists. EuCheMS is an Associated Organization of IUPAC.

Divisions and Working Parties organize scientific and educational events on
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemical Education
  • Chemistry and the Environment
  • Chemistry and Life Sciences
  • Chemistry in Microsystems
  • Computational Chemistry
  • Food Chemistry
  • History of Chemistry
  • Organometallic Chemistry

EuCheMS is sponsoring the 1st European Chemistry Congress, 27-31 August 2006, Budapest, Hungary.

President: Professor Giovanni Natile (Italian Chemical Society)

Secretariat: Ms. Evelyn McEwan (Royal Society of Chemistry), Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BA, Tel:+44 20 7440 330, Fax:+44 20 7437 8883, e-mail: mcewane@rsc.org

The congress logo is intended to illustrate the link between molecules and beauty, or in other words, harmony. Chemists continually produce new molecules and new molecular constructions by gradually understanding more and more about the very nature of chemistry. As a result, chemists take their share from the continuous creation of our world, be this share as tiny as it is. In order to fulfil their duty, chemists require ever more knowledge, but they must acquire knowledge responsibly and for the well being of humankind and the environment.

Gábor Náray-Szabó is past president of EuCheMS; he has been involved in the work of EuCheMS since 1987 when he became joint general secretary. He has been president of the Hungarian Chemical Society and a member of the Executive Council of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. He is a professor of chemistry at Eötvös University, Budapest.

www.euchems.org


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