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Vol. 26 No. 3
May-June 2004

Vice President 's Column —Extending the Role of IUPAC Within the Worldwide Chemistry Community

Bryan R. Henry
IUPAC Vice President 2004-2005

by Bryan R. Henry

As this is the first opportunity that I have to address the entire IUPAC community, please allow me to begin with an expression of sincere gratitude. The opportunity to be involved with IUPAC at the executive level is a great privilege. It is also a daunting challenge, especially when one considers the list of past executive members and reflects upon their very successful contributions over the last several years. IUPAC is a dynamic, successful, and significant organization that effectively serves the worldwide chemistry community, and this is due in no small measure to their collective efforts. However, credit for the success of IUPAC certainly does not end at the executive level, but extends throughout the organization to the countless volunteers who unselfishly give so many hours of their valuable time. My challenge is to try to make some contributions that will allow us to improve upon our success.

The first task for the vice president is to prepare “a critical assessment of the programs and the projects of all IUPAC bodies.” The quote refers to our Statutes. Here I will follow the lead of past VPs and not attempt what would seem to be a virtually undoable task in the allotted time. Rather I will focus on a few aspects of IUPAC activities. In particular, I propose to make a critical review of the current project system. Another area that deserves attention is examining ways to improve the involvement of chemical industry in IUPAC activities.

The project system is at the very heart of the activities of IUPAC. Our new method of operation was passed by the Bureau in 1998, approved by Council in 1999, and fully implemented in the 2002–2003 biennium. What is working well? Where are the problems? How can any difficulties be addressed?

While the current project system may be more versatile and adaptable, we must maintain the opportunity for face-to-face communication . . .

I have read some reports of division activities and minutes of the division presidents’ meetings. This material has been very helpful in giving a picture of the challenges faced by the Divisions in implementing the new project system. However I believe that I need to listen and learn directly from the divisions and their officers. They are in the best position to identify problems and to suggest remedies. To that end, I have begun to attend some of the Division meetings in 2004. Issues such as project generation, monitoring and evaluation, personnel, funding, and dissemination have already been identified by many divisions as critical to a successful system. As an organization, I believe that we need to be flexible in our approach. While the current project system may be more versatile and adaptable, we must maintain the opportunity for face-to-face communication where that is the most efficient path to a desired goal. We need input, particularly from the divisions, as we try to identify the appropriate balance in our endeavors.

Beyond the divisions, how can the project system help with other activities such as the work of CCE, COCI, CHEMRAWN, and our attempts to reach out to the developing world? CCE has had a marked increase in their activities and we need to facilitate their full involvement in the project system. COCI is involved in a number of new initiatives and we need to determine if the project system can be used to better serve the needs of industry. CHEMRAWN is an important part of our outreach to the developing world, and over the years they have organized a series of very successful conferences. In many cases these conferences have been followed by future action committees. Can we use the project system more fully to capitalize on these successes and initiate projects devoted to concrete actions that will make the world a better place.

If IUPAC is to continue to prosper and take on an ever-increasing diversity of worldwide activities, we must ensure that all of the various components work cooperatively towards our common goals. Increased dialog between officers, staff, divisions, and committees will be critically important as we move away from some of our long held traditions, and more of our work is done outside of the General Assembly. In that sense, hopefully the visits to gather data for the vice president’s critical assessment will contribute to that desirable integration.

In a recent column in CI (May-June 2003, p. 2), Ed Przybylowicz challenged IUPAC to find ways to increase the contributions of science to world peace and prosperity. As Ed pointed out, we have had many notable successes but how can we move forward. Often our successes have arisen through cooperation with other agencies. For example we have had particularly fruitful collaborations over the years with UNESCO. In addition, it may be possible to broaden our collaborations and to explore closer ties with organizations such as the International Council for Science, United Nations International Development Organization, and International Atomic Energy Agency.

Finally, beyond the project system I believe we need to look at other ways of improving our usefulness to the chemical industry and involving it more closely in our activities.

Is it possible to make inroads with the pharmaceutical and small chemical process industries? Can we use the trade associations to help us in this process? What can we do about getting suggestions for continuing contacts to provide better service to our existing Company Associates? Can we help industry in the internationalization of initiatives like Responsible Care? One area I believe we need to exploit is our role as an internationally based, independent nongovernmental organization. Our publications on the chlorine issue and on endocrine disruptors are just the kind of material that can be used by industry in influencing decision makers and bringing rationality to chemical issues that are often clouded by emotion. Industry can help us and can promote their own interests by guiding IUPAC to further areas in which we can play a constructive role.

Much of what appears in this article has been gleaned from my discussions with IUPAC friends and colleagues, and from reading what others have written. My hope is that, with the continuation of a little help from my friends, I can assist IUPAC to play an even larger positive role in the worldwide chemistry community.

Bryan Henry <chmhenry@uoguelph.ca> became IUPAC vice president (president elect) on 1 January 2004.


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