Streamlining IUPAC Operations

President's Column

Streamlining IUPAC Operations

by Bryan R. Henry

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The goal of the ad hoc Committee for Streamlining IUPAC Operations, established in October 2006, was to find operational efficiencies within the existing IUPAC structure (see Nov-Dec 2006 CI, p. 2). The members of the committee were Michael Jaffe, Anders Kallner, Venceslav Kaucic, Fabienne Meyers, Kook Joe Shin, and myself as chair. The committee was aware that changes in the operational structure of IUPAC were debated, but not accepted at our last two Council meetings. However, there were significant expressions of support for measures to make IUPAC operations more efficient. Suggestions came from several members of the Union as well as from the committee members. As our starting point, the only real constraint was to consider suggestions that introduced streamlined procedures without altering the current structure.

The report of the committee will be presented at both the Bureau and Council meetings at the General Assembly this August in Torino. As a precursor to those discussions, I thought it would be helpful to provide some background to the committee’s deliberations and to summarize its conclusions. The report was considered at the recent meeting of the Executive Committee (EC). All but one of the recommendations could be implemented without changes to IUPAC Statutes and Bylaws. The committee report was approved by the EC, and the executive director was asked to add the appropriate recommendations from the report to the list of Bureau/EC action items. Thus, many of the efficiencies have been put in place and will affect our deliberations at the General Assembly in Torino.

At the outset, the committee sought to clarify the respective roles of the EC, the Bureau, and Council. The EC’s role is to make operational decisions, to present policy and strategic initiatives to the Bureau for decision, to establish and appoint ad hoc groups to address and give advice on specific issues, and to advise the president on the appointment of standing committee members and chairs. A change was made in the schedule of the meetings so that in the future EC members would have a brief meeting immediately after the conclusion of the Bureau meetings to review and implement pending actions. This would lead to two meetings of the EC per year (vide infra).

The Bureau elects three members of the EC, makes decisions on policies to be ratified by the Council, identifies and monitors strategic issues for in-depth discussion by the EC, reviews and identifies the role of the Bureau and the tasks of its members at the first meeting of the Bureau following Council, fills casual vacancies on divisions and standing committees as well as temporary vacancies among officers, and ratifies decisions of the EC. The streamlining committee recommended that a motion be brought to Council to extend voting rights on the Bureau to operational standing committee chairs. Despite the fact that these standing committee chairs are appointed to the Bureau rather than elected, it was felt that they should function as full Bureau members.

The duties of Council are clearly laid out in our Statutes and Bylaws. While the report emphasizes the key roles of Council, no substantive changes in responsibilities were recommended. However, several operational changes were suggested and will be implemented for the Torino Council meeting. We will have a more detailed annotated agenda for the Council with proposed time allocations for each item, references and links to any supporting documentation, and a series of expected actions and possible motions. Agenda items will be identified as “for discussion,” “for decision,” or “for information.”

“Information” items will generally consist of written reports received from IUPAC bodies, and these reports will be received for information without oral repetition. Discussion will be restricted to questions and clarifications. The purpose of these changes is to allow us to deal with routine matters more expeditiously. Hopefully, the changes will allow Council more time to think strategically and to engage in real discussions of matters that are important to the Union and its members.

The committee asked David StC. Black, John Jost, and Fabienne Meyers to reconsider the General Assembly schedule. A series of schedule changes have been instituted that will begin after the Council meeting in Torino. The main effect of these changes is the elimination of the Bureau meeting from the General Assembly. Instead, the Bureau will meet during the first quarter of each year (around April/May), while the EC will hold its annual meeting in the fourth quarter of the year. One advantage of this revised schedule would be a shorter overall General Assembly, but just as important is that the EC and Bureau members would begin work much earlier in the biennial cycle, with the EC meeting only two or three months after the General Assembly and the Bureau six months later. Currently, many of the Bureau members have no real contact with IUPAC for almost a year before the first meeting.

The committee recommended that priority be given to improving the communication potential and utility of the IUPAC website. It also made a series of recommendations to improve communication within the IUPAC community. These included assigning responsibility to elected members of the Bureau, and to division titular and associate members, for maintaining liaison with National Adhering Organizations (NAOs) and Associated NAOs. In addition, the Secretariat will determine if other parallel communication channels would be helpful in bringing information to NAOs and to the attention of chemical and other relevant national groups.

These changes are substantive. Some, like the change in schedule, will be put in place for a trial period and then reassessed. Overall, the committee and the EC are confident that the changes will result in a better operation, and in improvements in communication. These changes should enable a more efficient achievement of our six strategic goals and contribute to our overall aim of advancing worldwide chemistry.

Bryan R. Henry <> has been IUPAC president since January 2006. He is a retired professor of chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Guelph, Canada. He has been a member of the Canadian National Committee for IUPAC since 1995, and served as chair from 1998–2003.

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Chemistry International is the newsmagazine of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). News about IUPAC, its chemists, its publications, its recommendations, its conferences and the work of its commissions and committees is published bimonthly in CI.