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Vol. 28 No. 2
March-April 2006

Secretary General's Column — Encouraging
Involvement Among Chemists

by David StC. Black

Since its inception in 1919, IUPAC has undergone constant change in order to maintain and increase its relevance to the international chemistry community. It has achieved an excellent reputation for its efforts related to the detailed infrastructure of the world of chemistry through its work in nomenclature, symbols, terminology, and standards and through its sponsorship of various conferences and publications. These activities remain at the core of IUPAC’s mission, and they rely on the voluntary work of many scientists who are experts in their respective fields. Indeed, the current project system involves the efforts of approximately 1 000 expert chemists drawn from the entire international arena. Although the value and importance of the outcomes of the projects and related activities are understood and valued by chemists directly involved in IUPAC work, they are not always appreciated by the wider chemistry community. In today’s climate, in which the general community, especially in Western countries, does not seem to hold chemistry in as high regard as it once did, it is incumbent upon IUPAC to publicize the benefits of chemistry to our quality of life — and the centrality of chemistry to life itself. The main goal of IUPAC must be to promote chemistry in the widest possible sense. The more important IUPAC can become in the day-to-day operations of the chemistry community,the greater its opportunities will be for promoting the importance of chemistry to the world at large. So how can we increase the number of individual chemists involved in IUPAC activities?

The project system is, of course, open to all chemists worldwide, including those from countries that do not have a National Adhering Organization (NAO) or even an Associate National Adhering Organization (ANAO). But despite the very few restrictions on participation, almost all projects are initiated through the various Divisions and Standing Committees, and it continues to be difficult to encourage chemists not previously involved in IUPAC work to participate. Attempts are made at some IUPAC conferences to generate enthusiasm among wider audiences, but success has so far been limited.

Another way to increase participation in IUPAC is through the Affiliate Membership Program (AMP), which was launched in 1986 with the express purpose of encouraging involvement among chemists throughout the world. A second aim of AMP was to disseminate information about IUPAC activities to a much wider audience. Affiliate membership provides some quite tangible benefits. Members receive bimonthly copies of Chemistry International (CI), which provides information about IUPAC programs and their operation, general news about developments in international chemistry, and discussion articles on contemporary issues in science. A diary of IUPAC-sponsored
conferences is also regularly included, as are interesting reports presented at these conferences. Readers of CI are also kept up to date on current projects and on provisional recommendations or draft technical reports seeking general comment prior to approval. One of the most important characteristics of CI is that it is a magazine for and by members, and their opinions, suggestions, letters, and articles are always welcome. Certainly CI has become a much more interesting, inclusive, and attractive publication in recent years. Although individual copies can routinely be found in the satchels of IUPAC conference attendees, a regular subscription is highly desirable. A year’s subscription to CI is also provided as part of the IUPAC Poster Prizes. CI is used as a mechanism for publicity, discussion, and stimulation, and it is produced in a reasonably cost-neutral manner, rather than for profit. It is more important than ever that CI’s circulation be as wide as possible, and increasing affiliate membership is one way to achieve this goal.

Affiliate members are entitled to a 10 percent discount on registration fees for many IUPAC sponsored conferences. The savings for just one conference far outweigh the cost of membership (USD 20, plus a small NAO handling fee). A discount of 25 percent on all IUPAC publications is also available to affiliate members. Such publications include Pure and Applied Chemistry, IUPAC nomenclature books and compendia of data, and reports of many IUPAC-sponsored conferences.

One of the special features of the AMP is that it is essentially managed by NAOs, who are in immediate contact with chemists in their own countries. National chemical societies that act as NAOs sometimes include IUPAC affiliate membership as an option when members pay their dues. Automatically offering IUPAC affiliate membership to all national chemical society members in exchange for an appropriate minor increase in membership dues may be worth considering. The very real benefits of affiliate membership would far exceed the small increase in cost—and the regular arrival of CI in addition to the usual publications of the national chemical society should be a significant added attraction for members.

Essentially, it is the prerogative of the individual NAO to promote and use the AMP as they wish. Various NAOs might see different opportunities for the application of the program in their respective countries. In cases in which the NAO is a separate organization from the national chemical society, it could liaise with the chemical society to implement an effective AMP. Regardless of the details of operation, all NAOs and national chemical societies should consider this excellent opportunity to expand the horizons of their members. Such a broadened outlook would enrich members’ expertise and possibly encourage them to more fully and actively participate in the international chemistry community. It would also bring added value to membership in a country’s national chemical society, and thus support ongoing efforts to retain membership. Finally, a significant increase in affiliate membership would greatly enhance IUPAC’s ability to speak with an authoritative, inclusive, and respected contemporary voice for chemistry in the world community.

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. He has served as secretary general since 2004.


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