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Vol. 34 No. 5
September-October 2012

Treasurer's Column: The Times They Are a Changing . . .

Three years ago in this column I commented on the rapidity with which the global recession had descended upon us and on its severity. Unfortunately, it has not yet gone away but continues to influence, and in some cases control, almost every aspect of our lives.

Despite the recessionary times, the International Year of Chemistry was a very significant success for us chemists, which we will better be able to quantify when the analyses that are underway have been completed. From a financial viewpoint, and as I indicated in an interim report on the IYC last year, we managed to live well within the monetary limit of half-a-million U.S. dollars of direct expenditure set by the Executive Committee. This was due principally to the generous sponsorship provided for the cornerstone events and general facilities, such as the website. The best estimate that is available for the direct cost to the Union is USD 146 000. There were, of course, also somewhat larger uptakes of some parts of our regular budgets, such as for printing and travel, because of the increased activity at the Secretariat and by the officers. Given the prevailing financial climate this is a very commendable outcome and we remain most grateful for the support given by our sponsors to the IYC, as well as to all who supported the year throughout the world.

We remain most grateful for the support given by our sponsors to the IYC, as well as to all who supported the year throughout the world.

The lingering recession has, however, adversely affected two of the Union’s traditional income streams during the past year. The first and more severe of these and the one that will have the more immediate impact is the income from our publishing operations. Libraries all over the world have had their budgets reduced and have been scrutinizing their purchasing more closely. We have seen and reported over the past number of years a falloff in the sale of our journal Pure and Applied Chemistry and of our books. However, the indications are that decreases during this past year have been even more severe than had been anticipated. In addition, the challenge, not unique to us, of striking the correct balance in production between the printed and electronic versions of the journal remains. One idea that has been introduced for discussion, and which we are currently considering, is to seek new arrangements possibly entailing forming a relationship with an established publishing house that will result in reduced costs for us as well as gaining access for our publications to enhanced marketing capabilities. It is important to remember that the publication and dissemination of Pure and Applied Chemistry is an essential link in bringing the fruits of our nomenclature, terminology, and standardization work to the worldwide community of chemists. The Union has always been most generous in making the fruits of its work available as freely and widely as possible. It is becoming clear that the changed circumstances in which we now operate make it imperative that we seek to realize at least some of the value of the work undertaken by our members by putting in place mechanisms that will charge and produce income for us in return for the benefits of its usage.

The second change that has asserted itself, particularly during the past six months, is that the type of investment instrument–namely bonds—that was best suited to our needs is simply no longer available on the market to us or to anyone else. At its meeting in February 2012, the Finance Committee had decided to continue to place a part of our portfolio in bonds, but now the rates have declined to such an extent that the resulting returns would cause a substantial reduction in our ability to carry out the data collection and collation, research, and projects necessary to maintain the flow of information and services as we now do. While this is a less immediate problem for us it is nonetheless serious and we clearly need to find a solution to preserve or replace the income stream from our investments. This situation is of course being continuously monitored by those responsible and alternative solutions will in due course emerge.

This changed order of things has brought calls for action on the financial front to find a new foundation that will enable us to continue our work programs and to bring the outcomes of our divisions, standing committees, conferences, and workshops to the attention of the worldwide chemistry community. It is most important for us to stabilize and ensure the continued publication of Pure and Applied Chemistry as the main vehicle for the dissemination of the basic outputs for which IUPAC is universally known. The same is true for Chemistry International, which serves important functions as a newsmagazine, highlighting and reporting on our activities and playing a unifying role between our various fields of endeavor. It is therefore essential that we maintain and hopefully increase our overall income so that we can support the project system from which our outputs emanate and also the other ways in which we promote our subject such as by assisting in the teaching of chemistry, by providing incentives through prizes for young chemists, and through assisting the Chemistry Olympiad. We also owe it to ourselves and to everyone who works pro bono for chemistry to become even more efficient in all of our operations so that we can do more with our funds. I am confident that we can achieve these objectives and will particularly welcome any suggestions that any of you may have as to ways in which you feel the work that you do for IUPAC can assist in our efforts to meet the challenges ahead.

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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