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Vol. 33 No. 6
November-December 2011

Past President's Column

The 2nd Century of IUPAC—Challenges for Reforming and Planning

Jung-Il Jin

It is true that happy memories tend to stay with us for long and sweeten our recollection of our historical paths. My case is not an exception. My occupancy of the IUPAC presidency and past presidency these past four years has given me the most unforgettable experiences in my life. This moment is a special one as it marks the end of my official, 20-year association with IUPAC. That said, IUPAC will continue to occupy a major part of my thoughts in the years to come as my concern for its future lingers on.

As we are all aware, this year, the International Year of Chemistry’s worldwide activities have generated enough—if not to the degree of total satisfaction—enthusiasm and momentum for global chemistry communities to engage more with the public and the youth. The officers, Executive Committee, and Bureau of this Union, together with the IYC Management Committee have been discussing the importance of keeping this “momentum” alive into IUPAC’s second century with the support of chemistry communities across the world.

During his Vice President’s Critical Assessment speech at the last Council Meeting (3 August 2011, San Juan, Puerto Rico), the incoming president of IUPAC, Kazuyuki Tatsumi, highlighted among other things, “Reforming IUPAC.” Now, we may ask ourselves why do we have to reform this Union and for whom? Is there anything wrong with it? There are many other questions and propositions. Kazuyuki Tatsumi also stressed on “Planning for the Future.” These two aspects are very closely related. In order to make any reforms, we have to make a firm plan acceptable to the community, equipped with a successful implementation strategy.

It is my belief that the most fundamental question that we, IUPAC members and outsiders, would ask is what is the “identity” of IUPAC as perceived by the global community. There is no doubt that IUPAC enjoys the reputation of an internationally recognized authority in nomenclature of chemical compounds, terminology of chemical terms, and naming of new elements (i.e., development of chemical languages).

This is by far the most important function of IUPAC, which should be further fortified. This function has made immeasurable contributions not only to the progress of chemical science but also to global trade, manufacturing, and economics. Nobody will question the importance of this critical activity of IUPAC. At the same time, each of us tends to ask if we are satisfied with just that image, or if we would like to reflect the fact that IUPAC members are involved in a much wider range of activities. Even I am not sure what should be IUPAC’s next important function. The expansion of the Union’s positive image is becoming the focal point of member discussions, whenever we start to tackle reforming IUPAC. Needless to say, such an expanded image can be built only on IUPAC’s strategy, which should define priorities in its activities or functions.

While a consensus on reform and planning for the future is reached, restructuring IUPAC, including the Secretariat, should be concurrently and critically reviewed. Financial implications for such changes should be analyzed, and a proper remedy which is implementable should be provided.

Before we take any action, the key issue we should try to answer is whether we want to see IUPAC take a leading role in innovative changes, both scientifically and socially, or maintain the present, conservative statue with minimal reorganization and redirection. The former requires major and rapid reform, while the latter means slower, gradual changes. I understand that there exist two major groups of thought in IUPAC bodies, and both parties have valid points. But what about the opinions of outsiders or non-IUPAC communities that desire to maintain steady communication with us, which we really should start to listen to seriously, before it is too late.

I wish all the best to the incoming president, Kazuyuki Tatsumi, and the new officers for their efforts in reforming and planning the future of IUPAC.

Last, but not least, I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the IUPAC members for their guidance, help, and cooperation during my presidency and past presidency. May God bless you!

Jung-Il Jin <jijin@korea.ac.kr> was IUPAC president in 2008–2009 and past president in 2010–2011. Previously in IUPAC, he served as president of the Polymer Division. Jin is a professor at the Korea University in Seoul, Korea.


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