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Vol. 27 No. 1
January-February 2005

Secretary General's Column: Did you say the IUPAC Conference?

by David StC. Black

One of the most-effective ways in which IUPAC promotes chemistry is through an array of international conferences that it sponsors. These events—which bring together a diverse group of researchers from all fields of chemistry to discuss the latest developments in research—provide tremendous stimulus for all chemists in the field, especially younger ones. Over the years, IUPAC conferences have maintained a high level of quality. In fact, one frequently hears comments to the effect that something needs to be achieved in time for "the IUPAC conference." While many researchers have one particular IUPAC conference or conference series in mind, because of the particular relevance to their field, it is important to remember that there are many "IUPAC conferences." However, these many conferences come in essentially four different categories.

1. A conference that is part of an established series coordinated by a division or standing committee. These conferences are specifically driven by IUPAC divisions and standing committees, to the extent that they take responsibility for ensuring the continuity of a series. Consideration is given to location so that there is wide geographical diversity. Although the particular conference organizers actually arrange and manage the details, the relevant IUPAC committee or subcommittee assists in terms of promotion and providing benign oversight of the scientific quality. These conferences are called division-sponsored and might also be referred to as "core" conferences.

2. A conference that is proposed by an IUPAC body as a one-time conference, but sometimes become the initial conference in a new series.

3. A conference organized with no IUPAC impetus, but for which IUPAC sponsorship is sought. These conferences are organized as one-time events or as part of a non-IUPAC series of conferences, but have no affiliation to IUPAC other than that the application for IUPAC sponsorship. When such an application is submitted, it is referred to any relevant division or standing committee for assessment or comment, and a decision is made—on the basis of quality and sound organization—whether or not to grant IUPAC sponsorship. It is perhaps worth noting here that such sponsorship is in no way financial, but is simply an endorsement of quality.

4. These conferences or workshops are part of an IUPAC project.

IUPAC, through the Executive Committee and the Bureau, is keen to enhance and publicize the role it plays in stimulating and promoting chemistry and chemical research, and in raising its profile among younger chemists, some of whom might subsequently be attracted to work in task groups on IUPAC projects. There is a need to improve the flow of information about IUPAC activity to the chemical community. One plan is to try to provide a little more information through the IUPAC conference representative, who is usually given a small role in the ceremonial part of a conference. Conference organizers are also frequently encouraged to set aside a little time during the conference for a general discussion of current, relevant IUPAC projects, and for identifying potential future projects. Clearly, it is easier to do this at division-sponsored conferences than at conferences over which IUPAC has less control. Consequently, IUPAC is deliberately targeting these "core" or division-sponsored conferences to develop some new programs.

One of these new programs is the IUPAC Poster Prizes, which recognize outstanding poster presentations at IUPAC Congresses and IUPAC division-sponsored conferences at which poster sessions are held. Also, at the request of a National Adhering Organization (NAO) poster prizes may also be awarded at a single chosen national conference each year. Typically two, or a maximum of three, prizes will be awarded, with the number deliberately kept low to add to the prestige of the prize. Prize winners receive a certificate signed by the IUPAC president, a copy of the Compendium of Chemical Terminology, and a two-year subscription to Chemistry International. It is hoped that what these prizes lack materially is more than compensated for by a prestigious addition to the winners' curriculum vitae. These prizes can therefore be awarded at conferences listed under categories 1 and 2 above, but are not available to those in categories 3 and 4.

At the latest Bureau meeting, held in October 2004, it was noted that the hosting of an IUPAC-sponsored conference was a significant benefit to the host country, not only in terms of chemical stimulus, but economic stimulus as well. Previously, the benefits of IUPAC sponsorship applied equally to NAO and Associate NAO countries. After a thorough discussion of the situation, the Bureau resolved that IUPAC sponsorship should be restricted to conferences held in NAO countries and not those of Associate NAOs. Under the previous rules, there was little incentive for a country to move from Associate (ANAO) to full status (NAO). The new ruling should not be seen as a penalty against ANAOs, but rather a contribution of real value to countries with NAOs, and a strong incentive for countries to participate in IUPAC as full status members.

There have also been some modifications made to the guidelines for the IUPAC program of Financial Support for Conferences. This rather modest support can apply either to conferences dealing with "New Directions in Chemistry" or to conferences in "Scientifically Emerging Regions." There are newly revised, separate application forms for these two categories. The current biennial budget for this program is USD 65 000. In the past two years, approximately 10 conferences have received support from this program. Applications must be made through a division or standing committee, and the funding decisions are made by the project committee. In order not to prejudice any support for "developing countries," which often are ANAOs, the restriction referred to above does not apply to the Financial Support for Conferences program. Here, the only restriction placed upon the geographic location of a conference is that it should not be held in a developed country that is not represented in IUPAC by an NAO.

I should like to return briefly to the issue of whether or not a country represented by an ANAO should change to NAO status, and the financial implications of the increase in subscription costs. Some countries make use of the Company Associates program to collect funds that cover the national subscription. The Committee on Chemistry and Industry is offering to assist adhering organizations with the recruitment of such company associates, as part of a seriously enhanced program to increase their number and influence in IUPAC.

Finally, I hope that the New Year of 2005 will be chemically successful and personally satisfying for all readers.

IUPAC Secretary General David StC. Black <d.black@unsw.edu.au> has been involved in IUPAC since 1994 as a committee member of the Division of Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, and served as Division vice president during 2002–2003.


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