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Vol. 30 No. 5
September-October 2008


Was Midas a Chemist?

by John Corish

A modern Midas among our members would be a unique and welcome asset in the current uncertain and predominantly gloomy global financial environment. However, even without the magic of the alchemist the Union remains on a sound financial footing. For this I wish to sincerely thank my predecessor as treasurer, Christoph Buxtorf, and also the Finance Committee and John Jost and his colleagues at the Secretariat for their excellent management and husbandry of our resources. Buxtorf has generously agreed to extend his IUPAC service by now chairing the Finance Committee in which forum his experience will continue to be most beneficial.

Our financial statement for the year 2007, complete with an independent auditor’s assessment, was issued in June of this year. It was a healthy report with IUPAC showing an admittedly modest increase in its overall assets. But this gain was after a very full and active year. On the income side, national and other subscriptions held up as might have been expected, but the values of the income streams from publications and investments were also thankfully maintained.

Taken together, these three sources provide the funds to drive our publication output and the work programs of our divisions and standing committees, to finance all the projects undertaken on our behalf, to let us maintain our position as one of the most active scientific unions in the world, and to maintain our infrastructure and administration. The two latter parts of our budget are very necessary because they are instrumental in keeping the first, the annual subscriptions, at a reasonable and manageable rate. The budget for the current biennium has been set at just less than USD 2.94 million, which shows a small increase.

The Strategic Opportunities Fund, boosted by the addition of unused monies recovered from completed or abandoned projects, was set at USD 120 000. This fund is intended to support projects that are particularly relevant to achieving IUPAC strategic plans, with allocations made by the Executive Committee on recommendation of the Project Committee.

A second source of additional funding for projects, over and above division and standing committee budgets, is available in the Project Committee reserve. This is intended for interdisciplinary projects, including joint projects with standing committees, and projects that are too expensive for a division to fund. This reserve fund provides real opportunities for new initiatives to increase the impact of the Union. The fund will greatly enhance our work programs if it can be fully utilized.

Perhaps it is again necessary to state that it is not the purpose of IUPAC to accumulate reserves per se nor is it the intention of the Finance Committee to attempt to do this. However, as all of us face into a less certain financial future it is vital that the Union continues to have the funding necessary to support and even expand its work, as well as the flexibility to be able to seize strategic opportunities as they arise. The upcoming International Year for Chemistry is a prime example.

So, what are the most useful things a Midas could do for us? He could endorse the decision of the Finance Committee to continue the prudent and defensive policy that it had adopted in 2007 and which has proved to be effective in managing the IUPAC portfolio in the current financial climate. He could advise us on how we can diversify to find novel income streams as this will almost certainly become necessary to compensate for the anticipated eventual decline in income from our current publications. It is most important that we all now consider how best we can use our knowledge bases and our other service activities to generate new routes to boost our income.

John Corish <jcorish@tcd.ie> has been treasurer of IUPAC since January 2008. He has served IUPAC at many levels since 1979, including chair of the Subcommittee on Materials Chemistry, president of the Inorganic Chemistry Division, and member of the Finance Committee.


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