I  U  P  A  C

 Organization and Management of Scientific Work

Most of the Union's core scientific programs have been built around the work carried out in its seven Divisions and a large number of Commissions (currently numbering 37), with support from the Standing Committees and several Divisional subcommittees. With limited financial resources from IUPAC, principally to defray costs of travel and administrative expenses, and far larger in-kind support from their employers, the members of these IUPAC bodies voluntarily devote enormous amounts of time to advancing chemistry. Their accomplishments in obtaining international agreement on nomenclature, symbols, terminology and methodology have produced a worldwide language of chemistry. Many of these groups continue to establish values for critically evaluated chemical data, from precise atomic weights to thermodynamic properties, while others provide physical and chemical characterization of various substances. Some IUPAC bodies are concerned with criteria for training and education in specific branches of chemistry, and many bodies traditionally organize high quality international symposia in a wide range of chemical fields.

In spite of the widely acclaimed past accomplishments of the Union and its continuing successes in very many areas, increasing concern has been expressed by the worldwide chemistry community and by several of IUPAC's National Adhering Organizations (NAOs) as to the overall impact of the Union's programs on contemporary problems in chemistry. Over the last decade there has been much introspective evaluation of the Union's scientific work, frequent calls to modify the structure of the Divisions and Commissions, and imposition of a large number of requirements designed to assure that only projects of high quality and high priority are undertaken. The results of these efforts have been largely disappointing in that they have resulted in little change in the organization and management of the Union's work. Moreover, these continuing efforts to change first one, then another IUPAC body have proved frustrating and sometimes demeaning to many of the dedicated individuals who voluntarily carry out this work.

Following detailed discussions among the IUPAC Officers and the Division Presidents and Vice-Presidents during 1996-97, the Secretary General presented an analysis of the problems and made recommendations for major changes in both organization and management of the scientific activities of the Union. The Secretary General's Report [SGR] was presented to the Executive Committee in April 1997 and after considerable discussion the basic concepts were accepted and the SDIC was assigned the task of assessing the feasibility of specific proposals and recommending in detail how the desired changes could be accomplished. The full SGR is given in Appendix 3. The Report has been widely disseminated within IUPAC bodies and among the Union's NAOs, and many comments on the Report have been provided to the SDIC to help guide its work and recommendations.

The SDIC's analysis of the present organization and of the means by which its projects are initiated and managed has highlighted a number of factors that are of concern, as follows:

  Responsibility for initiation, development and management of IUPAC's projects is divided among seven Division Committees and 37 Commissions.
  Largely because of this highly decentralized structure and resulting fragmentation of areas of responsibility ("turf"), it has frequently proved difficult, time-consuming and sometimes impossible to develop interdisciplinary projects in spite of the acknowledged importance of such projects to the future of chemistry and to the future of IUPAC.
   About half of the Union's limited financial resources are devoted to supporting the Commissions, with no clear relation between resource utilization and specific projects. Although individual expenditures are quite modest, collectively the sums are significant. A large fraction of the approximately $525,000 cost of a typical General Assembly pays for travel and subsistence of Titular Members, and much of the Divisions' collective biennial budgets of about $420,000 is devoted to meetings of Commissions in the years between General Assemblies.
   There has been a proliferation of projects (numbering more than 400 in the last biennium) of varying quality and urgency, often approved routinely without stringent outside review. There is little incentive to limit the number of projects or give serious consideration to priorities since there is virtually no relation between the importance of a project and the (often meager) financial resources allocated to it.
   Ideas for projects usually arise within Commissions, sometimes because the Commission has established a clear international need, at other times simply because an individual Member is interested in the subject and willing to devote time to pursuing the project. Overall, there has been relatively little formal effort to solicit views from NAOs, chemical societies and the worldwide chemistry community. Refereeing of proposed projects outside IUPAC has been spotty, and retrospective evaluation has been uneven.
   Although the Secretariat has, over the years, done an excellent job of providing administrative and logistical services to all IUPAC bodies, it has not been staffed to provide professional help to groups carrying out scientific projects. Even very modest professional staff assistance could be valuable in developing projects and in insuring their timely completion.
   The process by which Members of Commissions and Division Committees are selected has long given rise outside the Union to the view expressed in 1979 that IUPAC is a "charmed circle". Although the Union has made efforts to limit the length of terms in order to allow more people to participate, the procedure by which Members elect their own successors with no formal outside input strengthens the perception of an inward-looking organization.

The Secretary General's Report addressed many of these perceived deficiencies and advocated the conversion of most of the Union's scientific activities "from a primarily static Commission structure to one that is largely based on time-limited Commissions formed to carry out specific, well defined tasks." The Executive Committee approved this concept but recognized that many details needed to be examined. The SDIC was asked [Tasks 3 and 4] to determine whether such a radical change in IUPAC operations would be feasible and if so to provide specific recommendations on how to achieve this objective.

The SDIC concludes that it will be feasible to reorient much of the Union's scientific work to a project-driven system carried out by short-term Task Groups that report to Division Committees, with much less emphasis on long-term Commissions. However, implementation will require adoption of an integrated program, as described below. The timeframe for implementation has been carefully thought out in order to move the Union forward as rapidly as possible but to allow adequate time for completion of existing projects and for phased conversion from the present Division/Commission structure to one that is more dynamic.

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


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