IUPAC in Glasgow, Scotland: Roars from the Council Meeting
There was something decidedly different about this IUPAC Council meeting. Held 5–6 August 2009 at the tail end of the Union’s General Assembly, the Council had all the trappings of previous meetings, but with a palpable feeling of optimism and momentum among the hundreds of representatives of National Adhering Organizations. Under the orderly guidance of Secretary General David StC. Black, Council members moved quickly through the more than 30 business items under consideration, and then IUPAC’s formal meeting gave way to a pep rally of sorts for the International Year of Chemistry in 2011 (IYC2011).
Aside from IYC2011, the major news from the meeting was the election of Kazuyuki Tatsumi to be IUPAC’s next vice president. Currently president of the Inorganic Chemistry Division, Tatsumi will start his term 1 January 2010.
Another highlight was Council’s approval of National Adhering Organization status for six new organizations, bringing the number of NAOs to nearly 60. Joining IUPAC in 2010 are the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon, National Research Fund Luxembourg, Institut Kimia Malaysia, Saudi Chemical Society, Chemical Society of Thailand, and the Société Chimique de Tunisie. President Jung-Il Jin expressed his desire to have 100 members by 2019, the Union’s 100th year. He pointed out that recent changes approved in the Bylaws allow new members to adhere every year, rather than every two years following the Council meetings.
Preparing for IYC
It was President Jin who led the charge to galvanize, energize, and mobilize those in attendance to become active in IYC preparations. He used much of his State of the Union Address to offer an impassioned answer to the question “How can we make IYC successful?”
Jin framed IYC2011 as “a turning point in convincing the world what we chemists can do for the resolution of global problems and ultimately for world sustainability.” This tall order, Jin said, mainly depends upon IYC activities organized by national and regional chemistry groups.
“I am greatly encouraged to see the intense enthusiasm for IYC being generated in the chemistry community,” Jin exclaimed. “Let’s take this great opportunity to invigorate chemistry in the world, and thereby facilitate a renaissance in the chemical sciences. Global problems are waiting for answers from us.”
Vice President Nicole Moreau echoed these sentiments in her Vice President’s Critical Assessment, but placed them in the context of chemistry’s poor public image and IUPAC’s low visibility, even within the chemistry community. “There’s not enough recognition of our activities outside of traditional areas such as nomenclature,” Moreau insisted. “We need to show that we can assist in bringing rational scientific viewpoints.”
The main message of Moreau’s strong critique was that making IUPAC better known can help counteract the bad image of chemistry, but this depends, in large measure, on the efforts of those in the audience. “There needs to be more distribution of materials about IUPAC by each of us (delegates) back home,” she said. “We must not be shy. Instead of thinking only about asking for something, we need to start presenting IUPAC as offering something of value: expert advice and solutions to problems.”
Moreau implored Council delegates to ask themselves whether they use and distribute material developed by IUPAC to explain to others what IUPAC is all about, especially at meetings of national chemical societies. In closing, she suggested that IYC, if successful, will not only improve the image of chemistry, but will boost the prestige of IUPAC and attract new members: “a win-win situation.”
Much of the remainder of the meeting was devoted to reporting on IUPAC members’ ideas for moving forward with celebrating, publicizing, and organizing IYC2011. These ideas, compiled over the course of the GA, sprung from multiple sources: division and committee meetings, the World Chemistry Leadership Meeting, and the Council Roundtable Discussions. In fact, every meeting that took place at the GA had IYC2011 as an agenda item, and it showed. Speakers introduced a profusion of creative and engaging ways in which to celebrate IYC.
Former IUPAC President Bryan Henry spoke briefly about the successful World Chemistry Leadership Meeting (see article, p. 10 in print) held 4 August, which focused exclusively on the International Year of Chemistry. He reported that a number of innovative and thoughtful ideas for IYC were presented by meeting participants, of which there were 120, nearly double the number who had signed up in advance. Henry said that he and John Malin, chair of the IYC Management Committee, will be analyzing all of the ideas and will report later on how they will be included in the celebrations.
Part of the second day of the Council meeting was devoted to the reports from the Council Roundtable Discussions, which were back by popular demand. Successfully introduced at the 2007 GA in Torino, four round table discussions were held the afternoon of Monday 3 August. This year, the topic was one that was already on everyone’s mind: IYC2011.
The discussion topics, which were the same as the goals of the IYC 2011, resulted in a number of intriguing suggestions. Each round table discussion was limited to no more than 40 participants. The organizers of each roundtable presented the results of their groups at the Council meetings.
The roundtable on “How to Increase Interest of Young People in Chemistry,” led by Javier Garcia, came up with 10 ambitious ideas such as using social networking, organizing an international science quiz, and using nanotechnologists for public outreach. However, the idea that seemed to generate the most interest was Garcia’s proposal to conduct the largest chemistry experiment ever by having students measure the pH of the planet and post results on the Internet. “This would not be an effort at accuracy,” he explained. “It would be an effort to get students involved and get them to think about the pH of the environment and why that is important.” Other ideas included developing public programs on exciting developments in research, such as in nanochemistry; publicizing the Chemistry Olympiad; sponsoring science fairs and brainstorming competitions for students; utilizing social networking tools such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter; and developing meaningful classroom experiments and demonstrations for primary schools as well as middle and high schools.
Natalia Tarasova reported the results of an especially lively discussion group on “How to Generate Enthusiasm for the Creative Future of Chemistry.” A number of key stakeholders participated, including Tom Tritton, president of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and Tom Lane, president of the American Chemical Society. Tarasova suggested that sustainable development should be the focus of IYC activities. If this year had not been tied into the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Development, she said, IYC2011 would not have been approved. For this reason, one of the key suggestions of the group was to link IYC activities to the UN Millennium Goals.
A roundtable chaired by Anders Kallner discussed how to increase public appreciation and understanding of chemistry in meeting world needs. The attendees suggested that IYC2011 should involve not only the chemical profession and the general public, but should actively engage teachers as well as politicians. To do this, they suggested, it will be necessary to employ communications specialists experienced with each target constituency. Chemists should be encouraged to communicate, both in writing and on video, the satisfaction they feel in solving society’s meaningful problems. This would be an effective way of publicizing job opportunities in chemistry, the group felt.
Stanislaw Penczek was chair of a roundtable focusing on how to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to Marie Sklowdowska Curie. The attendees recommended production of a biographical video about Madame Curie for high school students, a Madame Curie poster, and creation of an international essay contest related to her life. They urged that proposed activities such as the celebrations in Poland, the opening ceremonies in France, and a local closing ceremony in Warsaw (December 2011) be fully publicized. The roundtable recommended that a special issue of Chemistry International be devoted to this anniversary, that a book be compiled of inspiring biographies of women scientists, and that IUPAC establish a Marie Sklowdowska Curie Prize in Chemistry.
The roundtable presentations are available online at <www.iupac.org/symposia/conferences/ga09/RoundTables.html>.
Divisions and committees had been encouraged to focus their presentations on ideas for IYC2011 and leave other items for the written reports in the agenda. The ensuing flow of ideas and follow-up questions from the audience made this part of the meeting lively and engaging.
Not all of the discussion was about what IUPAC could or should do for the Year of Chemistry, some was focused on what IUPAC is doing. Associate Director Fabienne Meyers unveiled the new IYC2011 website, which will act as a clearinghouse for ideas and activities related to the year. As she explained, the simple, inviting website will provide a dynamic way for people to submit ideas, which can then be reviewed and vetted by IUPAC online. Meyers stressed that the first step in making the website an effective tool was for all IUPAC members to become part of the online community by signing up.
Report from the Treasurer
In other news, John Corish delivered the Treasurer’s Report in which he noted that despite the very difficult worldwide financial climate, IUPAC has held the value of its income streams during the past biennium and maintained its full range of activities. This was despite a decrease in the overall value of its portfolio, the income of which consists of both dividends and interest and gains and losses on the values of investments. Corish also reported on the continued growth and success of the project system, on the development of the Strategic Opportunities Fund, and on the challenge, and more importantly, on the strategic opportunities provided by IYC2011. He noted the need still very much exists for IUPAC to diversify and increase its income streams to provide for its future activities.
The treasurer also reported that the conservative investment policy pursued by the Finance Committee has served IUPAC very well during the recent turmoil in the world’s markets. It both ensured the continuation of the investment stream of income and rendered the losses due to the collapse in the value of equities much less than it might otherwise have been. Nonetheless, he said, there was a decrease in the overall value of IUPAC’s assets.
Corish also provided a short explanation of the IYC Fundraising Subcommittee, which he chairs. “We hope that we will be able to fund IYC on a cost-neutral basis,” he said. “We will raise whatever money we need to spend.”
At one point in the meeting, Secretary General David StC. Black formally recognized John Jost’s many years of service to IUPAC as executive director, asking Council to record its appreciation of his effective management of the IUPAC Secretariat. Since Jost will retire in August 2010, Glasgow was his last Assembly as executive director.
Council also heard a proposal from the Turkish Chemical Society to host the GA and Congress in 2013 and from the Korean Chemical Society to host the GA and Congress in 2015. Delegates approved both proposals unanimously.
The full text (all 272 pages!) of the Council agenda is accessible online at <www.iupac.org/symposia/conferences/ga09/>.
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About the article
Published Online: 2009-09-01
Published in Print: 2009-11-01