Vol. 24, No. 6
Lies Ahead for the Union
been involved in IUPAC for a long time, it is quite a new experience
to realize that the present series of meetings in which I am involved
will be my last. I was thinking about the changes that have occurred
between the first General Assembly I attended (Lyon 1985) and the Ottawa
event, which takes place in 2003. Much has happened, and the rate of
change seems to be speeding up, but that is true for all organizations.
I wish to use the privilege of writing this column, not so much to look
back, but to look forward. But first I want to pay tribute to those
many volunteers who have worked so hard to bring about IUPACs
outstanding achievements in chemistry and the related sciences over
its 80 plus years of existence. There is no doubt in my mind that some
form of international collaboration and standard setting was essential
for chemistry, which is the global enabling activity for so much science
. . the way that the "public" regards our efforts has changed
from wonderment, admiration, and gratitude, to more critical,
ungrateful (as we see it), and more inclined to blame us for environmental
damage, poor health, "artificial" food, and more.
lies ahead for the Union? What are the important tasks and problems
that are now on our agenda? I will mention only four, though I am sure
that many colleagues can list many more. I must remind you that the
views I express are mine alone and are not necessarily shared by the
Officers or the Bureau.
issue is what is often termed "the public appreciation of science
and especially chemistry." We are all too aware that during our
lifetimes of practicing our beloved science, the way that the "public"
regards our efforts has changed from wonderment, admiration, and gratitude,
to more critical, ungrateful (as we see it), and more inclined to blame
us for environmental damage, poor health, "artificial" food,
reaction to our realization that the public attitude was changing was
to try to reason with people on a logical basis; it was much later that
we realized that much of the concern was based on an emotional response,
fed in part by a news media that seemed not to employee anyone with
any scientific knowledge at all. So the industry, and then others, started
to employ " experts" to advise on how the "public"
(To paraphrase Einstein " the public is everyone but me.")
could be persuaded that chemistry was not to blame for all our afflictions,
but could indeed be part of the solutions.
have been several consequences of this adverse public view, one of the
more serious being the marked fall off in many countries, particularly
in Europe and the USA, of the number of young people who choose to study
science and particularly the physical sciences. This is very worrisome
both for mainstream science and because of how it will affect the future
proportion of people who will have any awareness of the importance of
scientific development to society.
the problem is always the easy bit of the processWhat do we do
about it? Well, IUPAC has several initiatives to counter the trend.
One is the continuing CHEMRAWN program. The newly restructured Committee
on Chemistry Education (CCE) has the subject of public appreciation
as half of its remit. The Committee on Chemistry and Industry has built
up a very significant collaboration with UNESCO on the DIDAC project,
which continues to expand and is now a collaborative venture with CCE.
effort is needed and one approach is to attain some cooperation and
coordination between industry, trade associations, and chemical societies.
As often happens when a problem surfaces and develops, different groups
each start their own programs. Therefore, it could be that better coordination
could lead to more effective and efficient action.
leads me to my next issue, the relationship between IUPAC, national
chemical societies, and regional associations. May I say at once that
I am well aware, by personal experience, that there are several national
chemical societies with whom IUPAC has good, productive relationships,
and that, so far as I am aware, all of the chemical societies support
IUPAC. However, it has to be admitted that the fact that many of the
member NAOs of IUPAC are not chemical societies can lengthen the lines
of communication and give the societies the feeling that they are somewhat
remote from the heart of IUPAC. This latter point is very important
when we remember that the "new" IUPAC emphasizes ensuring
a flow of good ideas for new projects to the various Divisions. Many
of these project ideas should come via the chemical societies.
is my view that the Union should liaise more actively, closely,
and directly with the national chemical societies and the regional
my view that the Union should liaise more actively, closely, and directly
with the national chemical societies and the regional chemical federations.
In this day and age when money is in even shorter supply and the pressure
on peoples time is so great, it is of prime importance that each
group of chemistry organizations be clear about what is their most effective
sphere of action. For example, the regional federations do much that
is "International"perhaps IUPAC should become GUPAC,
where G stands for "Global."
group with whom I believe we should have a more productive relationship
is industry. All the major chemical societies know that the majority
of qualified chemists in their countries do not work in academia, yet
all the top committees in those societies are populated by academics.
This is not because colleagues from industry are excluded, it is largely
because the pressures on the industrial people mean that they cannot
afford the time. I believe that this is a partially short-term view
and should be modified. On the positive side, there is good industry
participation in the work of several IUPAC divisions (e.g., the Macromolecular,
Chemistry and Human Health, Chemistry and the Environment, and the Chemical
Nomenclature and Structure Representation Divisions).
I feel that the World Chemistry Leadership Meeting, which held its first
meeting at the time of the Brisbane General Assembly, could benefit
enormously if it became a forum that included senior representatives
of the national chemical societies, regional associations, regional
trade associations, and IUPAC. Such a biennial forum would be invaluable
in its ability to set a general agenda for action on the agreed-upon
major problems facing chemistry, and for helping to synergize strengths
and capabilities. May I repeat what I have said many times before, that
it is not my view that IUPAC should be representing industry, it has
trade associations and its companies to do that, but we do have to recognize
that the "A" in IUPAC does stand for "Applied,"
and industry is where most application takes place.
there is the issue of how IUPAC can help the beneficial development
of chemistry in developing and economically disadvantaged parts of the
world. There are many gaps in IUPAC membership on the world map and
by and large they correspond with the developing world. It would be
good to get these countries into membership, but it is not easy. Lack
of money for membership dues is one obvious factor, but there are others.
The lack of educational infrastructure, "brain drain," and
the need for national investment in technology development are also
very important factors. Also, even when we do manage to get some participation
in the IUPAC programs from scientists in these countries, the difficulties
they face, such as travel, are still enormous.
must solve the problem of involving many more of these countries in
coordinating schemes whereby help can be given. Many young chemists
have expressed surprise to me that IUPAC does not do more and I feel
that we must be more creative. We have good relations with UNESCO UNIDO
(United Nations Industrial Development Organization) and UNEP (United
Nations Environment Programme), and we also have experience in raising
money from various charitable foundations for CHEMRAWN conferences and
other activities. I feel that we should focus more of our resources
in this area.
we are; the ramblings of an old man coming to the end of his IUPAC "
career." Or the musings of an idealist who wishes that he had more
years to serve? I havent even mentioned the problems of getting
younger scientists involved, or of how we cope with keeping up the subscription
and publications income, or the structure and function of the Bureau,
in IUPAC has been satisfying and fun and I am convinced that the Union
will make progress on all the issues that I have mentioned. I have been
privileged to meet with lots of wonderful people-thanks for having me
Alan Hayes is the current past president of IUPAC, and will retire
as Officer at the end of 2003.