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IUPAC Strategy Round Table
Representations of Molecular Structure: Nomenclature and Its Alternatives
March 10-11, 2000, Washington

Summary and Executive Committee Actions

- the following report was also published in Chem. Int. 22(4), 102 (2000) > View photos

Chemical nomenclature has been a major core activity of IUPAC since its inception. In order to help develop a strategy for the Union's future work in nomenclature, including advances in computer-based aspects of nomenclature, IUPAC held a Round Table discussion on "Representations of Molecular Structure: Nomenclature and Its Alternatives" in Washington, DC on March 10-11, 2000. The meeting brought together 41 participants from 10 countries and included experts in organic, inorganic, biochemical, and macromolecular nomenclature; users of nomenclature in academia, industry, the patent, international trade, health and safety communities; journal editors and publishers; database providers; and software vendors.

A detailed report of the conference, including 14 recommendations for IUPAC action, is now available.
> Download conference report (pdf file - 81 KB)

The IUPAC Executive Committee has already implemented three recommendations as follows:

1. An ad hoc Committee on Chemical Identity and Nomenclature Systems has been established, with Dr. Alan D. McNaught as Chairman. The CCINS will be responsible for developing systems for conventional and computer-based chemical nomenclature; cooperating with the four current nomenclature Commissions; coordinating interdisciplinary activities in the nomenclature field; and recommending to the Bureau long-range strategy on chemical nomenclature. It is expected that this body will provide the long-term central planning, management and coordination of chemical nomenclature that would otherwise be lost when the Commissions are discontinued at the end of 2001.

2. A feasibility study of the Chemical Identifier project, to be managed by the CCINS, has been initiated. A "chemical identifier" is intended to be a meaningful alphanumeric text string that can uniquely identify a chemical compound and facilitate its handling in computer databases. This code would be the equivalent of an IUPAC systematic name but would be designed to be easily used by computers. The Identifier could also include other information about the specific substance in question. Since there are several issues to be resolved, the participants in the Nomenclature Round Table recommended that the feasibility of the project and resolution of these issues be carried out as soon as possible by representatives of a wide range of interested parties. Drs. Stephen R. Heller and Steve Stein (NIST) were asked to recommend a list of individuals and groups that should be consulted initially and to propose a framework for addressing the issues.

3. IUPAC has agreed to play a lead role in representing the international chemistry communities in the development of Chemical Markup Language (CML), which is an application of XML (Extensible Markup Language) with special ability to handle chemical information. XML is a new standard being adopted by web publishers worldwide. It is expected to replace the current standard HTML in many applications over the next few years.


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