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Vol. 27 No. 4
July-August 2005

Vice President's Column—Assessing the IUPAC Project System

by Bryan R. Henry

This year, the focus of my Vice President’s Critical Assessment (VPCA) is a review and analysis of our project system. This project system lies at the very heart of IUPAC activities and involves the volunteer efforts of close to 1000 scientists worldwide. It is nurtured, monitored, and organized by IUPAC’s eight scientific divisions, and by its standing committees. The range of projects covers the whole gamut of chemistry from chemical education, critically evaluated databases, and precise and reliable atomic weights, to the political arenas of chemical disarmament, sustainable development, meeting the needs of developing countries, the requirements of chemical industry, and a plethora of other areas.

The project system was fully phased in within the 2002–03 biennium. Three years have passed, and it appears that the project system is functioning very well, perhaps even better than expected. This report is based on information obtained from visits and interactions with the various divisions and standing committees. On the basis of these data, the VPCA attempts to provide an overview, to identify best practices, and to address a number of project-related questions. I also touch on a number of other areas of current importance to IUPAC.

. . . it appears that the project system is functioning very well, perhaps even better than expected.

A series of tables within the report provide an overview of the current project system. The number of projects has decreased as we moved away from a commission-based system. A number of projects were abandoned in the 1998–99 and 2000–01 biennia. These were primarily projects initiated under the commission system and not reviewed under the new system. Since January 2002, very few projects have been abandoned. The number of proposals submitted appears to be approximately constant from the 2000–01 to the 2002–03 and to the 2004–05 biennia. One of the difficulties that has persisted from the commission system is the time required for project completion, and the number of projects that do not meet intended completion dates.

There was a significant increase in the total funds devoted to IUPAC projects as we moved from the transition years of 2000–01 to the first years of the project mode in 2002–03. The funds for projects grew from USD 376 350 to USD 622 472, an increase of 65%. Based on the figures for 2004, we appear to be maintaining this level of funding for the 2004–05 biennium. Thus, the promise that was made upon the introduction of the project system appears to have been kept! Savings from the shift to the project mode are being passed on to scientific endeavors. The net result has been a marked increase in the average grant per project.

The VPCA presents a summary set of close to 20 observations and challenges concerning the project system. Several divisions have made a very successful transition to the new system, and the observations identify what is currently working well. On the basis of these observations, the final section lists a series of four recommendations directed towards project generation, project monitoring, project administration, and project activity in the standing committees. An additional recommendation is to achieve a consensus on how future increases in division/standing committee project funding can be tied to success within the project system.

Five additional observations focus on several other issues that relate to the profile of IUPAC, and its role in interactions with industry and with society. These observations form the basis for one final recommendation directed to an even greater role for IUPAC in helping to solve today’s global problems.

The VPCA owes a great deal to a number of people. In particular I would like to thank the division presidents and standing committee chairs for their openness, kindness, and hospitality. The VPCA will be presented to the IUPAC Council at its session in August, and the full text will then be available on the IUPAC Web site.

Bryan Henry <chmhenry@uoguelph.ca> is currently IUPAC vice president. He is a professor of chemistry at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Guelph, Canada. He has been a member of the Canadian National Committee for IUPAC since 1995, and served as chair from 1998–2003.

www.iupac.org/news/archives/2005/vpca_henry.html


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