Title: Chemistry's contributions to humanity - A feasibility
Members: Peter Atkins,
Edwin D. Becker, Edward
Chandross, David Evans,
Wolfram Koch, Uday
Maitra, Nicole Moreau,
Teruto Ohta, Kip
Powell, and Leiv K.
Completion Date: 2005 - project completed
To evaluate the feasibility of developing a website that chronicles
historical innovations in chemistry that have contributed to the improvement
of human life. This site could serve as a source of information and
education that would enhance interest in and public appreciation of
the enormous contributions that chemistry has made over the past 150
years to the betterment of mankind.
The worldwide chemical enterprise suffers from a tarnished public image.
Chemicals are associated in the public press, radio and television with
bad things happening to the environment, to communities and to people.
Often the word that is used to convey the notion that whatever it is
that is creating a problem "has a chemical in it." To those
in the field of chemistry these notions are as ridiculous as they are
frustrating. They are not logical; nevertheless, they are widely used
and repeatedly used by the uninformed.
Public perception undoubtedly has influence on other activities ranging
from legislation governing the use of chemicals to the perception by
young people of the field of chemistry as a career option. Much effort
by industry and chemical organizations is directed toward a better public
understanding and to dispel some of the misconceptions associated with
Much work has been done in the past and continues today to educate
the public about chemistry and its value to society and to bring balanced
understanding about the benefits and risks of chemicals. We believe
that an international effort led by IUPAC could provide an authoritative
source of information on the ways in which chemistry and the industries
based on the chemical sciences contribute to a better life.
We envision a website based on major innovations in chemical science
over the past century and a half that occurred in many countries. The
format would be attractive and provide easy access for students in science,
for science teachers, for members of the chemical enterprise, for policymakers,
and for reference by the general public.
The website might contain an encyclopedia of major chemical accomplishments
that have contributed to the betterment of the human condition. It could
include a detailed information base of chemical innovations and developments.
Through the design of "access templates", it would permit
viewing this information through a variety of types of queries. The
access templates would be user-friendly and facilitate inquiries, for
example, on the evolution of innovations in engineering plastics, or
antibiotics, in which the user would be led through a series of connected
developments in applied chemistry. Another example of an access template
might lead the user through a series of innovations that had major impact
on portable energy, or plant protection chemistry.
In short, the website would provide a flexible, "living"
macro- and micropedia that could grow and develop in sophistication
as needs developed and changed. It would provide an interactive, multimedia
presentation illustrating innovations over the past 150 years that have
provided life-improving breakthroughs in: energy, transportation, environment,
food and agriculture, health and medicine, information and communications,
manufacturing processes, as well as the tools to study the world around
us at the molecular level. A structured website would allow the viewer
to delve into a given subject in sufficient depth to learn about the
chemistry involved, or to look at an overview of the many life-improving
products resulting from chemical research. It would offer an attractive
enhancement to general science studies and courses in chemistry, as
well as an interesting and informative source for the general public.
The website resulting from this project would help to strengthen the
essential bridge between the chemical enterprise and the public, a linkage
that is important for both communities for continued growth and development.
This is a very ambitious project - one that will take years to complete
and require substantial resources. The immediate focus of the current
proposal is a comprehensive analysis of the feasibility and potential
value of the overall project.
The task group has identified and compiled a list of books, pamphlets
and websites, that contain information on the theme of chemical contributions
to society > see list
(updated 24 Sep 2004)
This listing is by no means complete; the task group is soliciting
help from all members and the community at large to augment this list
or critique it from the standpoint of what is included.
The nature of what is available on that list, albeit limited, falls
into two categories: (a) historical and (b) current.
The historical information about past innovations and their contributions
to society is largely covered by museums (Nobel, Chemical Heritage Foundation
and chemical societies such as the Royal Society of Chemistry) and only
alludes to the societal value indirectly. Another historical dimension
in the present literature comes from anniversary celebrations or similar
events that recognize past accomplishments of chemistry in a given country,
i.e. Japan, Canada, Australia. These are in monographs or pamphlets.
The information that relates to current chemistry is more along
the lines of public understanding of chemistry, much of which has been
stimulated by the Responsible Care program of the ICCA and its member
organizations. There are a variety of websites and materials that attempt
to show how the products of chemistry surround us in all aspects of
our lives. Presumably, the message is how helpful chemistry is to today's
(As of in 2005) Most of these websites are in the early phases of being
used, so there is no valuation of their usefulness or how frequently
they are accessed. CEFIC has sent out survey information looking for
responses on how useful people have found their site. It is not known
how long these websites will survive.
Last update: 5 Jaunary 2006
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