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Vol. 34 No. 6
November-December 2012

Vice President's Column: Our Roles, Responsibilities, and Legacy

It is a great honor to serve IUPAC as vice president. I have been privileged to work in IUPAC in several capacities, and as an industrial scientist I have a deep appreciation for the value of fundamental science in chemical innovation, the contributions of the chemical industry to improving the well-being of humankind, and the role of IUPAC as the enabler of progress in global chemistry.

I began in IUPAC in 1997 as a Young Observer at the General Assembly and Congress in Geneva. I remember how impressive the meeting of the Committee on Chemistry and Industry was, especially the enthusiasm of the members and scope of activities of the committee. At the end of its meeting I approached the incoming chair, Nelson Wright, and offered to help with anything that was needed. Nelson offered me responsibility for the Safety Training Program (STP). I took on the STP and have never looked back. My work in IUPAC has given me an unparalleled exposure to the global chemistry community and a deep appreciation for the strength of commitment and contributions of all of the scientists who work as volunteers in IUPAC. No doubt all of us, from our National Adhering Organizations to our Associated Organizations to our many individual scientist volunteers working on IUPAC projects, share the satisfaction of contributing to the furtherance of worldwide chemistry.

This is an exciting and challenging time for IUPAC. As it approaches its second century, IUPAC must continue to make meaningful contributions and increase its influence. IUPAC needs to draw on the creativity and expertise of chemists around the world to discover and disseminate fundamental scientific knowledge and apply chemistry innovatively and safely to improve the quality of life. IUPAC must work at the interfaces between academia and industry and among the sciences to create valuable and exciting programs and initiatives.
As you know, the most important task for the vice president, as called for in the IUPAC Statutes, is the preparation of a "critical assessment of the programs and projects of all IUPAC bodies." At the IUPAC Bureau meeting last April I presented a summary of the areas that I intend to focus on.

I have begun examining in depth the projects and programs of IUPAC as they relate to our current long-range goals to provide the basis for reviewing the scope of IUPAC's activities, to illustrate the areas where IUPAC has particular strength, and to reveal areas deserving of greater emphasis. The rapid growth of scientific research and chemical production around the world illustrates the increasing globalization of chemistry. IUPAC must maintain and enhance its unique and traditional strengths in nomenclature, standardization, scientific conferences, and education to serve the global chemistry community.

We have seen how successful the International Year of Chemistry (IYC) was in energizing chemists all over the world, and now it is important for all of us in IUPAC to carry forward that momentum as we approach the 2019 Centennial of IUPAC. As one views this "legacy" for IUPAC in light of its mission and long-range goals, the following themes emerge as areas for focus:
the roles of chemists at the interfaces of the scientific disciplines
IUPAC's scientific contributions and the public good
the legacy of IYC as an integral part of IUPAC activities

IUPAC has made great strides toward building capabilities at the interfaces of the chemical disciplines and other sciences (e.g., through its interdivisional subcommittees in Green Chemistry and Materials Chemistry). We can explore possibilities as well for new interdivisional subcommittees and new interactions with other unions. The collaboration between IUPAC and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) on the validation of claims for new elements, the interactions between the Chemistry and the Environment Division (Division VI) and the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), and the cooperation between the Chemistry and Human Health Division (Division VII) and the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX) can serve as models. All of the Divisions and Standing Committees are encouraged to explore new collaborations.
IUPAC should enhance its productive interactions with the chemical industries. As we often point out, the chemical industry of the early 20th century took an active part in the establishment of IUPAC in 1919. The chemical industries, including the traditional commodity chemical and fine chemical manufacturers, the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries, and the many new startup companies around the world focusing on areas such as medicinal chemistry and materials science, all have roles to play in expanding the scope of IUPAC activities. To this end, the Committee on Chemistry and Industry (COCI) is embarking on an effort to redesign and reinvigorate the Company Associates program. A task group to be headed by COCI will tackle this issue. COCI can also advise IUPAC leadership on how best to work at the academic/industrial interface to assist the chemical industry and to enable industry to assist IUPAC through collaborations with our divisions and standing committees through knowledge gained from its regional workshops in Western Europe, East Asia, the Middle East, and the North American Great Lakes region.

We chemists have a responsibility to the public to make our scientific knowledge available to decision makers so that sound regulations can be enacted that protect the public well-being and help the public appreciate the vital role of science, and chemistry in particular, in their lives. IUPAC can make its scientific intellectual property and knowledge bases available for the benefit of the greater society by exploring mechanisms for IUPAC, as an objective, non-political science-based organization, to offer its expertise to appropriate global parties interested in using this information for the benefit of the human condition. In the past few years, IUPAC has explored collaborations of this type with the UNEP's Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In both cases, these organizations sought out IUPAC for its expertise in providing the scientific basis for action, and they have found our input of great importance to their success.

Recently I explored the IUPAC records, reports, and documents for information relating to IUPAC's contributions in several areas, including sustainable development, chemical safety and security, and toxicology. The contributions that IUPAC has made in these areas, and in fact all the areas where IUPAC works, are extraordinarily impressive. We need to convey this message clearly to all of IUPAC's stakeholders—NAOs, associated organizations, and the worldwide community of chemists—so that they can see how valuable IUPAC's work is for them. Examining IUPAC's current portfolio will also provide the basis for a review of IUPAC's strategy. The last strategic review was completed nearly 10 years ago, and with the rapid advances in the sciences and in the world at large, it will be beneficial to take a renewed look at our vision, mission, goals, and activities.

In recent issues of CI, we have heard from our officers about their hopes and concerns for IUPAC in the coming years. Clearly, all of our officers believe strongly in the capabilities and accomplishments of IUPAC, and so do I. I am eager to work with our officers and with all of our volunteers and staff to lead IUPAC toward its next biennium.

Mark Cesa <mark.cesa@ineos.com> has been vice president of IUPAC since January 2012. Previously in IUPAC he served on the Committee on Chemistry and Industry as secretary (2000–2003), vice chair (2004–2005), and chair (2006–2009). Cesa is a process chemistry consultant with INEOS Nitriles in Naperville, Illinois, USA.


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