I  U  P  A  C

 Appendix 3: Organization and Management of IUPAC's Scientific Work


Some Historical Perspective

Philosophical Basis for a New Organization

Proposed Course of Action


During the last few years there has been intensive study, discussion and debate within the Union on what was first termed "restructuring" but later broadened to the more general "Scientific Policy of the Union." A number of proposals have been advanced, some have been adopted, some have been rejected outright and others have been declined for the present but might be introduced at a future date. Concurrently, during the last year, there have been increased efforts to address the overall mission and strategy of the Union, partially with advice from leading chemists outside IUPAC. These broader ideas have been focused in Vice-President Jortner's Critical Assessment (VPCA), which presents recommendations for establishing overall Goals and for expanding the scope and emphasis of IUPAC's scientific work. The present document complements the VPCA in addressing questions of organization and management of the scientific work.

Within the last two years, three of our seven Divisions have been or are being restructured to create Divisions of (i) Chemistry and the Environment, (ii) Chemistry and Human Health and (iii) Macromolecular Chemistry and Materials [name subject to modification]. Although further restructuring at the Division level is certainly possible, it has been decided as a result of discussions within the last year that the remaining four Divisions will in the near future retain their traditional scope of Physical, Inorganic, Organic and Analytical Chemistry. However, at the level of the Division Presidents and the Executive Committee, there is a strong consensus that additional flexibility is needed to tackle projects within a specific and limited timeframe and to address problems that cross traditional boundaries within chemistry and between chemistry and other disciplines.

Some Historical Perspective

Most of the scientific work of the Union emanates from Commissions, augmented in many instances by Division Subcommittees, Working Parties and Task Forces. Over the years IUPAC has established a network of Commissions (currently numbering 37). Occasionally a new Commission is formed, sometimes there is a change in the name and/or terms of reference of a Commission and (quite infrequently) a Commission is abolished. Overall, there has evolved an organization that has the virtue of stability but the shortcomings of a static structure. Yet, the Statutes and Bylaws anticipate a more dynamic composition of Commissions. Statute 10.4 states: "Each Division and Section may include such Commissions as are approved by the Council", while Bylaw 4.301 prescribes a detailed procedure for analyzing the need for a new Commission, including a report to Council. B 4.301 concludes: "This report, if favourable to the creation of a new body [Commission], shall contain an indication as to the probable duration of the life of the new body and an estimate of its annual cost." [Emphasis added] Bylaw 4.302 states: "At each General Assembly, the Council shall in the light of the Division or Section President's report and on the recommendation of the Bureau decide whether or not to continue each Commission." [Emphasis added]

In spite of the flexibility built into the Statutes and Bylaws, the structure has been largely static. As long ago as 1955, President Tiselius observed that "... many of our Commissions do very fine work and have justified their existence beyond any doubt. ... Perhaps it would be practical to introduce a distinction between standing Commissions and Commissions set up for a definite, limited task. The second type should be limited in their mandate to, for example, two years (that is to say, between two Conferences of the Union), and should be given opportunities to meet within this period. Their task would, of course, be entirely different from that of a standing Commission which involves maintaining a more or less continuous survey of a given field and taking action whenever necessary." Yet, such limited lifetime Commissions have been formed only once - as an interim measure to postpone or avoid the creation of more permanent Commissions - and few Commissions have been abolished. In 1973, President BÈnard pointed out why this is the case: "It is easy to obtain general approval for the creation of new bodies, but it is difficult to decide to abandon existing ones. The reason for this is that it takes far more courage to say ëno' than to say ëyes', particularly when the consequences involve our friends." He went on to say: "An institution which does not have the strength to renew itself is an institution condemned at length to sterility."

The current concerns on restructuring stem from 1981, when President Zollinger made the first real "critical assessment" of IUPAC projects. According to his analysis, the problems seemed to stem from "(1) inefficiency and too long duration of a relatively large number of projects; (2) insufficient use of our traditional means to solve problems in a changing world; (3) the involvement of too small a circle of chemists in IUPAC work - a reporter in Davos even called this circle a ëcharmed circle'." Sixteen years after Zollinger's appraisal, and after a series of initiatives to correct these perceived deficiencies, we have many more projects than Zollinger had to contend with, the traditional means are not working well, and we still have a "charmed circle."

Let's be clear: Even with these shortcomings, IUPAC Commissions have done and continue to do outstanding work for the international chemical community. Our challenge is to insure that such high quality work continues but that the projects undertaken are widely regarded as relevant to today's world and are completed in a timeframe consistent with the fast pace of modern research and industrial development. We must reach out to a broad international community of chemists to help define the needs on which IUPAC projects are based and to recruit the most talented chemists worldwide to work on these projects. As evidenced by the quotes from 1955, 1973 and 1981, it has not been possible to achieve the dynamism needed within our present structure and mode of operation. We need to convert from a primarily static Commission structure to one that is largely based on time-limited Commissions formed to carry out specific, well defined tasks.

Philosophical Basis for a New Organization

Under this concept, the IUPAC organization would continue to consist of Council, Bureau, Standing Committees and Divisions (including Division Committees). However, the norm would be that Commissions should not be regarded as part of the ìregularî organization but rather as the temporary working groups that carry out specific projects developed by the Division Committees with the help of the Governance and the Secretariat. There may be areas in which continuity is needed, such as organization of a regular series of symposia. Such activities might now be carried out by a Commission, but a continuing Subcommittee of the Division Committee could take over such functions.

Divisions should regard the entire worldwide chemical community as the resource for both ideas and for volunteers to carry out projects, not the "charmed circle" of IUPAC insiders. Likewise, ideas for projects should come from the worldwide community. Just how to generate such ideas, develop projects and seek out people able and willing to work on the projects is, of course, the key to success or failure. I am convinced that ideas for useful work usually originate in a "bottoms-up" manner, not as directed from "top-down". In fact, the establishment of the pool TMs was to permit the undertaking of such "top-down" projects generated outside the mainstream of Commission activity, but after several years there are very few such projects. If we implement the type of structure envisioned here, but without a good mechanism to identify and develop projects - and to secure the services of experts on the Commissions - we will kill the useful work that is now being done. A great deal of thought and planning is needed to insure that IUPAC can develop the processes to do this without the large cadre of long-term members of Commissions. I do not pretend to have the answers, but I think that the following steps would be desirable:

o Insure through the nomination process that the members of the Division Committees are people with a broad outlook in their discipline. This will help in generating ideas and in finding good people to work on Commissions.

o Include on Division Committees (wherever possible) editors of major journals, who have databases of potential project referees and Commission members. Also, editors may be more aware than the average chemist of areas in which IUPAC work on standardization, terminology, etc. is really needed.

o Establish close relations between the professional staff of the Secretariat and national chemical societies and NAOs to identify potential workers.

o Use IUPAC-sponsored symposia more effectively to advertise IUPAC activities and to solicit ideas for projects through brainstorming sessions at such symposia. The Secretariat should play a stronger role than it now does in the arrangements for symposia, and a staff member could attend to note what ideas are generated.

o Ask Division Committees to organize planning meetings of carefully chosen people to evaluate the need for a Commission in a given field or to define a project and suggest Commission members.

o Insure that a real refereeing system is in place for projects proposed by members of Division Committees or members of any existing Commission.

Under this concept, each Commission would have a defined task with a defined product and a defined time in which to carry out the project, along with a budget, expressed in dollars, not Titular Members. It would be expected that the members of a Commission which has completed its task will consider their current active involvement in IUPAC to be over until they are asked to serve on a new Commission. Clearly, some people who distinguish themselves on such projects may also be asked to serve on Division Committees or in some other capacity, but there should be no general expectation of a long-term active involvement. However, creation of an IUPAC Fellows Program [as will be proposed to Council in Geneva] would, over the course of time, insure that anyone who has ever worked on any IUPAC activity or project would have the opportunity to remain in touch with current activities and to make suggestions for new projects and Commission members.

Proposed Course of Action

The first step, completed at the Executive Committee in Jerusalem, was to discuss the ideas articulated here and to integrate those with proposals from individual Divisions and with aspects of the VPCA. The EC endorsed the concept of an organization based primarily on time-limited Commissions but recognized that implementation will be dependent on solving a number of problems, some of which are given above.

The EC also endorsed in principle the recommendations in the VPCA to establish clear Goals for IUPAC but, again, recognized that further thought and discussion are needed to refine the Goals. The EC concluded that a broad-based committee would be needed to develop the necessary strategic thrusts and to consider their implementation in terms of the structure and guidelines for scientific activity. The EC therefore authorized the formation of a Strategy Development and Implementation Committee (SDIC), to report back to the EC in April 1998. From the findings and recommendations of the SDIC, the EC expects to formulate specific proposals for approval by the Bureau in September 1998 and for necessary action by Council in 1999.

The examination of these issues by the SDIC and the possible implementation of broad changes in goals, structure and operation of IUPAC and its constituent parts should not negate actions currently underway in and between several Divisions to effect a number of specific structural and functional changes during 1997.

Edwin D. Becker

Secretary General

Executive Summary
Formation of the SDIC
Strategic Plan
Organization and Management of Scientific Work
Responsibilities of Division Committees
Election of Division Committees and Division Officers
Project-Driven System
Conversion to a New Project-Driven System
Operation of a Project-Driven System
Evaluation of Projects
Role of the Secretariat
Financial Considerations
Summary of Recommendations on Organization and Management
Summary of Formal Actions Required
Concluding Statement
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4


Home - News and Notices - Symposia/ Conferences - IUPAC Organizations and People
Recommendations - Provisional Recommendations - Divisions - Commissions
Standing Committees - Publications - Links - IUPAC Affiliates
Page last modified 5 October 1998.
Copyright © 1997, 98 International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

Questions or comments about IUPAC
please contact the Secretariat.
Questions regarding the website
please contact Web Help.