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Chemistry International
Vol. 24, No. 1
January 2002

 

President's Column


IUPAC Sails into New Waters
Pieter S. Steyn
IUPAC President
2002-2003

I'm grateful for this opportunity to wish members of IUPAC bodies, fellows, affiliate members, and our corporate associates a fruitful and satisfying 2002. I am also grateful to you, the IUPAC family, for your extraordinary commitment to the chemical sciences. As chemists we naturally believe that chemistry is the core science; thus, we're particularly open to expanding its borders to embrace exciting new areas such as molecular biology, post-genomic chemistry, chemical biology, supramolecular chemistry, quantum chemistry, nano-chemistry, and advanced materials. And as students of this core science, we pride ourselves on understanding the challenges of related disciplines.

IUPAC's Mission Statement and its goals guide our actions. We remain committed to constant renewal, critical self-evaluation, and the optimal utilization of our resources. Thus, a task group headed by our Finance Committee Chairman, Dr. Ed Przybylowicz (USA), was appointed to make a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats/challenges) analysis of IUPAC's strategic plan. All National Adhering Organizations were invited to contribute.

In my critical assessment in Brisbane last July, I said " IUPAC is sailing into new waters." We're in them now, and to continue the nautical metaphor, we may even experience some white water in 2002. But we will emerge wet, perhaps, but alive and well. IUPAC has been modernized and democratized in many ways, the most notable of which is the formal transition from a commission-driven organization to one driven primarily by the inception of individual projects. The challenge now is to spark ideas for projects that are appropriate for IUPAC and of broad international interest, and we invite all chemists to make such project proposals.

I'm firmly committed to broadening the geographical base of the Union, so as to contribute to the globalization of the scientific endeavor and to recruit "human capital" from all segments of the world chemical community. An ad hoc committee of the Union, headed by Prof. Hitoshi Ohtaki (Japan), has been appointed to develop the IUPAC membership in Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. A warm welcome to new members Mexico and Uruguay, joining the ranks of IUPAC as Associate National Adhering Organizations. As part of our efforts to involve chemists from all parts of the globe in the work of IUPAC, we continue to support high-quality conferences in economically disadvantaged countries as a means of promoting chemistry in those places.

> 2002-2003 IUPAC Officers and Bureau Members

We are acutely aware that some of our member and potential member countries experience problems affording membership fees, exacerbated by an unstable world economy and currency fluctuations. Dr. Chris Buxtorf (Switzerland), IUPAC's treasurer, has been asked, along with a task group, to take a hard look at the structure of our membership fees.

I regard chemistry education as a top priority for the Union. The newly reconstituted Committee on Chemistry Education (CCE), led by the distinguished chemistry educator Prof. Peter Atkins (Oxford), will focus on the teaching of chemistry at the school and tertiary level d, as well as on the public appreciation of chemistry, including "chemical literacy" in developing countries. This activity is aimed at ensuring that chemistry flourishes as a discipline at our universities, our research institutions, and in industry. I applaud the success achieved by the Committee on Chemistry and Industry in distributing and utilizing DIDAC visual educational materials (see CI, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp.103-105, July 2000). These activities are subsidized by UNESCO and effectively complement those of CCE.

Since its establishment, IUPAC has been noted for its significant contributions to the language of chemistry. A new Division of Chemical Nomenclature and Structural Representation has been established in Brisbane under the able leadership of Dr. Alan McNaught (UK). I endorse the development and consolidation of our nomenclature functions in this era of computer-based structures and nomenclature.

Dr. Alan Hayes (IUPAC past president) is playing a key role in the preparations for a workshop, at the President's Column Pieter S. Steyn IUPAC President 2002-2003 request of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), that will provide objective scientific advice on scientific advances that may impact the enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I strongly favor this particularly relevant role of IUPAC in acting as an independent, non-governmental scientific organization.
> link to corresponding project

As part of its mission to provide independent, scientific information to policy makers, IUPAC has produced over the past few years a number of special issues of its journal Pure and Applied Chemistry devoted to scientific issues of global public interest. A current example is the extensive IUPAC-ICSU-SCOPE project on Endocrine Active Substances, managed by Dr. Junshi Miyamoto (past president of the IUPAC Division on Chemistry and the Environment). This joint project will result in not only the publication in PAC of authoritative reviews of the current scientific understanding of this complex issue, but also in an International Conference, to be held in Yokohama 11-17 November 2002. This milestone unambiguously confirms IUPAC's commitment to the "customer" needs of chemical industries and concerned countries.

The IUPAC Prize for Young Chemists gives me particular joy. It was established to encourage outstanding young research scientists at the beginning of their careers. Nine of the future leaders of chemistry were recognized at the Brisbane IUPAC Congress. I look forward to meeting the next group of superb young chemists at the Ottawa Congress in 2003. (The deadline for the 2002 Prize is 1 February 2002. Details can be found at <http://www.iupac.org/news/prize.html>.) I appeal to young chemists worldwide to get involved in the new IUPAC and to make a difference to the international world of the chemical sciences. We need your dedication and enthusiasm for chemistry. My association with IUPAC has resulted in research collaboration with eminent chemists all over the world, and, especially in my studies on mycotoxins, has been the most gratifying part of my career in chemistry.

I again appeal to all chemists to support the strategic changes in IUPAC and to provide feedback on our activities. The new IUPAC is changing for the better, and I, with all the other Union leaders, have a nonnegotiable commitment to serving the needs of our stakeholders

Pieter S. Steyn is the current IUPAC president and has been involved with the Union since 1973. He is director of the Division of Research Development of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

 

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