On 17 August 2021, scientists and professionals affiliated with universities, industries and scientific organizations from around the world gathered at the IUPAC symposium "The Role of IUPAC in Global Affairs" at the 48th IUPAC World Chemistry Congress and 104th Canadian Chemistry Conference (IUPAC|CCCE 2021) and Exhibition, to discuss IUPAC actions for the betterment of Society and the sustainability of our Planet. In this report, we summarize some of the main conclusions of the discussions held during the symposium and provide some suggestions on how the International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN) and IUPAC can further strengthen their collaboration to contribute to creating a more sustainable and inclusive future for all.
The United Nations (UN) has drawn attention to the pressing need of addressing major global challenges for the benefit of society, including climate change, ending poverty, gender equality, health, human rights, among others . Yet our planet still faces many challenges. In September 2015, the UN approved a new set of 17 goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs. These efforts are undoubtedly contributing for creating a better world, as foreseen by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2030 UN Agenda . The IUPAC plays a vital role in this global effort by bringing together leaders, scientific societies, and professionals to discuss these topics and pursue meaningful actions through the power of chemistry. IYCN, an associated organization of IUPAC since 2017, has been especially engaging young professionals from all over the world in actions aimed at tackling the SDGs—as discussed during the symposium on “The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for the Benefit of Society” organized by the IYCN also during the IUPAC|CCCE 2021, and freely available on the IYCN YouTube channel <https://bit.ly/3DrrMNd>.
The climate emergency we are living in, has become increasingly evident worldwide. According to the 2021 UN SDGs report, the concentration of greenhouse gases, which are steadily raising due to human activity, is directly linked to the average global temperature on Earth (1.5 ºC above the pre-industrial baseline) . The 26th UN Summit on Climate Change (COP26) highlighted the steps taken towards mitigating the effects of climate change, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, fixing a carbon price and protecting the most vulnerable; resulting in the Glasgow Climate Pact — which aims to recognize the emergency, accelerate action, complete the Paris rulebook, focus on loss and damage, and reaffirm the need for resilience and the commitment of developed countries to provide USD 100 billion in funds for climate finance . All the outcomes are indeed important, but still “not enough,” according to António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.
Fortunately, several organizations are strongly committed to combat the impacts of this path. As part of these efforts, one of the long-standing IUPAC initiatives is the Chemical Research Applied to World Needs (CHEMRAWN), a Standing Committee active since 1973 that mainly focuses on the organization of multidisciplinary symposia, workshops, and outreach activities . Just a few months ago, it held its XXII Congress, co-organized with the Chemical Society of Nigeria, focusing on the important topic of e-waste in Africa . Over the years, members of the CHEMRAWN committee have been drawing the attention of professionals working across the chemical sciences to the socio-environmental impact of climate change and to international collaboration and peace through the very successful Malta Conferences [7, 8]. More recently, IUPAC launched its Interdivisional Committee on Green Chemistry for Sustainable Development (ICGCSD), which is also contributing to advancing the 2030 UN Agenda through the organization of post-graduate Summer Schools, workshops, and several IUPAC projects .
International Cooperation and Network
Solving global issues requires global and concerted efforts . As such, IUPAC has been incessantly working to establish collaborations among different nations and generations of professionals in chemistry-related careers. Recognizing the pivotal role of early-career chemists globally in contributing towards addressing major global challenges, IUPAC has been devoted to raising their voice by supporting the IYCN in achieving its mission of connecting and empowering younger chemists globally. Since its official creation in 2017, IUPAC has been providing technical and logistic support, as well as mentorship and advice to aid in the development of the IYCN as a unified global network. Furthermore, IUPAC has been facilitating new connections, and enabling opportunities and a platform for early-career chemists to be actively involved and contribute to IUPAC projects and activities and to aid in their professional development .
The IYCN has been actively working on implementing a diverse set of global strategies and actions, making an impact, and raising public awareness on the key role of chemistry in paving the way towards a globally sustainable future . The global network is based on four pillars: communication, collaboration, education, and mentoring; which summarize the goals of its projects and activities [13, 14].
The close collaboration between IUPAC and IYCN have yielded many projects and activities that are benefiting the global chemistry community spanning across all ages. As part of the actions of the 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT) and the centenary of IUPAC, IUPAC launched an online quiz about the 118 chemical elements as a way to engage students from all over the world. The result is stunning: the Periodic Table Challenge has been played over 150,000 times in more than 150 countries, leading to a new game version and translation efforts to make this content even more accessible globally .
In addition, the Periodic Table of Younger Chemists (PTYC) emerged to recognize a diverse group of 118 outstanding early-career chemists from around the world who embody the core values and mission of IUPAC. The resulting PTYC highlights the diversity of careers, creativity, outreach participation, and dedication of those young leaders.
As a follow-up of the PTYC and to continue learning from younger chemists’ generations, the IYCN and IUPAC launched a joint platform entitled ChemVoices aiming to showcase the talents and impact of early-career scientists worldwide, as well as discuss issues that are relevant and of interest to them. One of its flagships was a series of webinars in which those voices can be heard and amplified through online videos available at the ChemVoices’ website and IUPAC YouTube channel <https://www.chemvoices.org/>.
IYCN is also organizing a series of virtual workshops on professional development skills aimed to empower and advance the career development of early-career scientists, as well as collaborating with other young chemists’ networks in producing online content for the benefit of the global scientific community . Moreover, since 2019, the IYCN has been organizing annual experiment outreach competitions on a chemistry basis, in which chemists from all over the world are encouraged to submit thematic experiments: Food Chemistry (2021), Earth Chemistry (2020), and Climate Change (2019). Such chemistry-based experiments are used for outreach and public engagement activities. To choose the winning experiment, a judging committee is formed gathering professionals from different nationalities and expertise. However, the real action starts when the verdict is announced: international networks of volunteers translate the experiments into multiple languages and those are shared in a database freely available via the IYCN website .
Top Ten Emerging Technologies: How Chemistry Innovation is Boosting Economy and Improving Quality of Life
Another global activity that IUPAC launched during its centennial in 2019 was the Top Ten Emerging Technologies in Chemistry, which aims to annually identify emerging technologies across the chemical sciences with a pivotal role in fostering the well-being of society and contributing for a globally sustainable future <https://www.iupac.org/what-we-do/top-ten/>. With this goal in mind, IUPAC aims at showcasing how chemistry can effectively contribute to achieving the SDGs and seeks to demonstrate the transformative value and power of chemistry in addressing global affairs in a sustainable manner, paving the way for a better world [18 and refs therein]. All submissions are carefully reviewed by a jury of experts.
The highlights of previous years include nanopesticides, solid-state batteries, flow chemistry, 3D bioprinting, artificial intelligence applied to chemistry, nanosensors, rapid diagnostics for testing and RNA vaccines, among others—this last one paving the way to fight the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
In 2021, the selected Top Ten Emerging Technologies in Chemistry were the (i) blockchain, related to the reproducibility and traceability of chemical advances in the digital context; (ii) semisynthetic life, improving biochemistry and therapeutics; (iii) artificial humic matter from biomass, contributing to the carbon-negative global efforts; (iv) chemical synthesis of DNA and RNA, standing out technologies in biomedical applications, especially in fighting the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic; (v) chemiluminescence for biological use, related to the speed and sensitivity of tests; (vi) sustainable production of ammonia, highlighting greener alternatives to the consolidated Haber-Bosch process; (vii) sonochemical coatings, contributing to the development of safer and more durable materials; (viii) single-cell metabolomics, a revolution for biomolecules analysis; (ix) target protein degradation, improving therapeutics; and (x) superwettability, providing innovative material solutions and technology breakthroughs by tweaking the liquid-solid surface interactions —which is already revolutionizing the automotive market by facilitating the fabrication of self-cleaning cars  after activation by adopting a simple strategy to manufacture super-hydrophobic, cost effective, transparent, antifogging, self-cleaning and antimicrobial coatings on the glass sheet, which will also be helpful for outdoor and automobile windscreen. The super-hydrophobic coating was set up by dip coating and the coated specimen has been characterized for wetting behaviour, transparency and SEM analysis. It is worth noting that this initiative has highlighted technologies later awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, as it has been with Benjamin List and David MacMillan, 2021 Nobel Laureates for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis—one of the selected 2019 Top Ten Emerging Technologies in Chemistry.
Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
IUPAC can also play a key role in achieving SDG #16 by contributing to eradicating the development, production, and use of chemical weapons and related warfare agents. To this end, a Chemical Weapons Convention was signed in 1997 by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), with its 193 Member States. The OPCW is an intergovernmental organization laureated with the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, overseeing the global effort to achieve a world free of chemical weapons.
IUPAC has been playing an important role in assisting the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board in reporting its workshops and main achievements . To date, 98% of the declared chemical weapons’ stockpiles have been destroyed and, until 2023, it is expected to have a world completely free of chemical weapons . Due to its contributions to the goals of OPCW, IUPAC received the prestigious The Hague Award in 2019 <https://www.opcw.org/opcw-hague-award>.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
IUPAC is strongly committed to creating an inclusive, diverse, respectful and welcoming environment and to provide clear guidelines for the chemistry community on ethics, inclusion, and best practices in the workplace, in publications, and in education in chemistry. Despite the aforementioned efforts, it must be recognized that in the race for opportunities, some people start from a privileged position. If we want to build a fairer future, there is the need to think about actions that promote the reduction of inequalities and value the advancement of everyone.
As part of the reorganization of IUPAC started during the 2019 General Assembly, a Committee on Ethics, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (CEDEI) has been created. As the focus of its actions, the Committee strives for diversity, equity, respect and inclusiveness in all forms by providing advice, recommending best practices, and valuing transparent, responsible and ethical practices across the chemical sciences .
One of the IUPAC most popular initiatives related to this topic is the Global Women’s Breakfast (GWB). Launched in 2019, the event brings together participants from high school to experienced professionals from all over the world aiming to share ideas and celebrate the achievements of Women in Science, overcome the barriers to gender equality, and inspire younger generations to pursue careers in science. As a proof of its international success, the 2021 edition brought together more than 20,000 people in over 300 cities from all around the globe to discuss diversity in Chemistry careers and expand professional horizons . In 2022, the GWB took place on 16 February 2022; more than 400 events in 75 countries including 9 countries participating for the first time. In 2023, the GWB will take place on 14 Feb 2023 and will celebrate the International year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development.
Also to recognize women’s contributions to the chemical sciences, and celebrate the 2011 International Year of Chemistry, IUPAC created the Distinguished Women Award in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering; it has been awarded to 82 professionals from all continents to date <https://iupac.org/what-we-do/awards/iupac-distinguished-women/>.
While long-standing initiatives consolidate in the global community, new projects are being launched. The IYCN and IUPAC are once again joining efforts in a new project focusing on sustainability for a better world entitled “Global Conversation on Sustainability.” (https://iupac.org/project/2021-034-2-041). This 24-hour event is scheduled to have its first edition on 25 September 2022—aligned with the SDGs anniversary —hopefully engaging people from around the world in a joint global effort towards a sustainable future for our planet. More information will be released on the IYCN and IUPAC websites and social media channels in the near future.
Both the IYCN and IUPAC are strongly committed to continue being active players in global affairs, not only because we are global organizations, but also due to our inherent responsibility to creating a better and more sustainable future for all.
We would like to thank all symposium participants, namely Angela K. Wilson, Francesca Kerton, Peter Hotchkiss, Stephen Heller, Ray Boucher, Richard Kidd, Ian Bruno, Jonathan Goodman, Johanna Irrgeher, Manfred Groening, Steven Westwood, Mary Garson, Laura McConnell, Lynn Soby, Juris Meija, Jan Apotheker, Luc Allemand, and Nnanake-Abasi O. Offiong, as well as all IUPAC and IYCN members, volunteers, collaborators and partners for their invaluable contibutions. For a copy of the symposium program, see <https://iupac.org/event/iupac-role-in-global-affairs/>.
All web references were accessed 31 Jan 2022
Über die Autoren
Carolina Sotério <email@example.com> is a chemist, specialist in Science Journalism and PhD candidate in Public Communication of Science and Technology at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She is also a member of the IYCN Public Outreach Committee; https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8040-0861
João Borges <firstname.lastname@example.org> is an Assistant Researcher at the University of Aveiro, Portugal, focusing on the molecular design, synthesis and development of supramolecular biofunctional materials to interface with living systems. João is the Chair of the International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN) and Affiliate Member of IUPAC. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0126-8482
Javier García-Martínez <email@example.com> is a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Director of the Molecular Nanotechnology Laboratory of the University of Alicante where he leads an international team working on the synthesis and application of nanostructured materials for the production of chemicals and energy. Professor García-Martínez is IUPAC President since January 2022; https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7089-4973
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