I  U  P  A  C

 Project-Driven System


Current status of Commissions.

Proposed funding for Commissions.

Formation and Termination of Commissions.

National Representatives.


The proposal in the SGR to convert the bulk of IUPAC's scientific work to a project-funded system with primarily time-limited commissions has elicited considerable discussion at all levels within IUPAC. The Division Presidents who have expressed opinions seem to be completely in favor of a project-funded system, and a number of individuals from Commissions also have given a positive response to this concept. In fact, many Commissions already carry out individual projects with short-term Working Groups, usually composed partly or entirely of Commission members, and in some instances modest funds are allocated to specific projects.

The second part of the proposal, "time-limited commissions," and its corollary of giving up "permanent" commissions has elicited considerable concern from most Commission members. The SDIC is well aware of and sensitive to these concerns. Abolishing a single Commission might appear to be tantamount to saying that the sub-field covered by that Commission is of little importance. Moreover, there are questions as to how suitable projects could be generated without a Commission devoted to a particular subject area.

Current status of Commissions. The existence of a more or less permanent Commission in a particular subject area has many virtues: There is a cadre of chemists who have accepted responsibility to think about that area and to develop ideas for useful IUPAC projects. The awarding of the title "Titular Member" or "Associate Member" of a Commission often provides sufficient prestige to enable the individual to obtain his/her employer's approval to devote time to IUPAC work - an important consideration in a company or government laboratory but not generally in academia. Also, the "Member" designation often permits an individual to obtain financial resources for travel and administrative costs - important in all employment sectors, especially for Associate Members. In addition, the existence of a permanent Commission provides an opportunity for appointment of National Representatives - an important consideration for many NAOs in bringing forward some of their better chemists who might not be widely known.

The SDIC believes that the principal shortcomings of the present system of "permanent" Commissions are (i) perpetuation of the Commission's membership by self-selection, with only nominal approval at higher levels; (ii) generation of projects largely within a Commission in accord with the interests of its members; and (iii) allocation of a large fraction of IUPAC's budget to maintenance of the Commissions and provision for their meetings, irrespective of the quality, quantity and timeliness of the work carried out by the Commission.

Proposed funding for Commissions. These problems disappear if there are only time-limited Commissions to carry out specific projects, where the project is defined and the Commission membership is chosen by someone or some group outside the Commission. The question addressed by the SDIC was: How can IUPAC best accomplish these goals and yet retain some or all of the advantages listed above for "permanent" Commissions? The SDIC believes that the answer is to have projects carried out by short-term Task Groups reporting to the Division Committee, while permitting a limited number of Commissions to be formed, under strict conditions, as advisory groups that would meet only as needed.
One key aspect in effecting such a change is to break the link between Titular Membership and financial support. This could be accomplished most cleanly by a repeal or modification of Bylaw 4.307:

Titular Members of Commissions have the right to receive contributions towards travel and subsistence expenses from funds of the Union as authorized by the Treasurer acting on behalf of the Union. Contributions may be made to Associate Members or members of subcommittees on recommendation of the Division or Section President and with the agreement of the Treasurer.

Removing the "right" to receive contributions changes an entitlement to a discretionary expenditure that is related to the need for particular travel. Rather than having each of its Commissions meet at every General Assembly, a Division Committee could authorize meetings and travel only when necessary. This change in policy would leave permanent Commissions in essentially an advisory role unless some or all members were actively engaged in one or more projects for which funding has been approved. However, such an advisory role can be very important in developing new projects. With modern communications technology, much can be accomplished, even without regular meetings.

Formation and Termination of Commissions. Withdrawal of automatic funding for TMs would not solve the problem of having in perpetuity 37 Commissions on subjects that might not be optimal, even for advisory groups. Experience has shown that it is virtually impossible to terminate a single Commission unless there is almost unanimous agreement among all members of the Commission. The SGR [Appendix 3] gives illustrations dating back to 1955 of efforts by IUPAC Presidents to terminate permanent Commissions. However, Council can be asked to exercise its authority under Bylaw 4.302 [see Appendix 4] not to approve the extension of any current Commission beyond 2001. The SDIC believes that it will be less divisive to the Union and more acceptable to each Commission to have all Commissions formally terminated than to try to terminate some and leave others.

Under this plan, Division Committees would examine their needs during the period 1999-2001 and request the Bureau and Council to form new Commissions as needed. These could be long-term (but with a specified term - no more than 8-10 years) to provide continuing attention to a field or to organize or manage a continuing activity, such as a series of symposia. In some instances they could be short-term (2-4 years) to accomplish a specific task for which the prestige of a Commission, not just a Task Group, is needed. For each proposed Commission, the Division Committee would have to make a persuasive case and follow the procedures given in Bylaw 4.301 [see Appendix 4]. To prevent a recurrence of the present situation with a large number of long-term Commissions, the Bureau should go beyond the requirement in Bylaw 4.301 for "an indication as to the probable duration of the life of the new body" by specifying a lifetime and thus ensuring the automatic termination of the Commission unless positive action is taken to extend its life. The SDIC believes that this can be done at present on the basis of Bureau policy but that eventually Bylaw 4.301 should be modified.

National Representatives. National Representatives (NRs) play an important role in increasing the geographic breadth of IUPAC bodies and permitting the close involvement of individual NAOs with IUPAC work. Bylaw 4.305 [Appendix 4] defines the participation of NRs in Commissions, and there are many active NRs. Although there is no statutory underpinning, two of the seven Division Committees and several Standing Committees also have NRs.

Under the new structure proposed here, NRs can still participate in any Commissions that are formed, but opportunities may be limited. There should be provision for direct links of NRs to all Division Committees, which will become the centers of scientific activity. Such NRs could provide extremely valuable links to NAOs and thus facilitate the generation of ideas for projects and suggestions for individuals to serve on Task Groups. The SDIC recommends that the Bureau, after consultation with Division Presidents, establish a policy for appointment of National Representatives to Division Committees as non-voting members, and for participation of NRs in the work of the Divisions' Task Groups.

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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Copyright © 1997, 98 International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

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