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Vol. 27 No. 1
January-February 2005

From the Editor

In November 2003, I read in Nature an article by Steven Weinberg titled "Scientist: Four Golden Lessons." Soon afterward I made his first lesson my new-year's resolution. As I embark on 2005, I think that his second lesson might be a good resolution for this year.

image of Fabienne MeyersWeinberg's first lesson was "no one knows everything, and you don't have to." He started by explaining that the ocean of bibliography associated with any scientific topic can be so overwhelming that it might discourage young graduate students from actually engaging in their own research. His advice is to just start the research, and pick up what is needed along the way. This might be true in graduate school, but it is also true in many other circumstances. In organizations such as IUPAC, new officers and new members have to gradually learn all of the rules and yet attend to their jobs to keep their momentum. Yet 2004 was a special year for the officer who is the "rules keeper" or can I say the "handbook master" (i.e., the secretary general). In January 2004, David StC. Black replaced Edwin Becker, who had served IUPAC relentlessly for eight years. While his encyclopedic knowledge of IUPAC retired with him, Becker made sure to provide his successor with all the information he needed to continue the job. Thanks to that, David StC. Black has lost no time following in Becker's foot steps and taking the lead, even though he probably did not know everything before he started.

Weinberg's second lesson is "go for the messes - that's where the action is." This advice is also pertinent to IUPAC; not that the Union itself is a mess, but that sorting out problems is what I think we are good at. Remember that one of IUPAC's objectives is "to study topics of international importance to chemistry that need standardization or codification." Everyone will agree that in any field it is the mess prior to standardization that justifies the need for standardization. So, if you like the messy topics and the challenge of resolving discrepancies, IUPAC is certainly a good playing field, and it is up to you to join the team.

For me, working with IUPACers -be it officers or members of any kind- is an endless game. I think of myself as an assistant referee, keeping score and helping new players to sort out the rules. (It might not sound like it, but seriously, it is a fun job!) To all of you on the field, may I say thanks for playing and best wishes for the new year.

Fabienne Meyers
fabienne@iupac.org
www.iupac.org/publications/ci


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