Chemistry International
Vol. 22, No.4, July 2000

2000, Vol. 22
No. 4 (July)
..Chemistry in Argentina
..News from IUPAC
..Report of Accounts 1998-99
..Reports from Symposia

..Reports from Commissions
..Provisional Recommendations
..Awards and Prizes
..New Books
..Conference Announcements
..Conference Calendar

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Chemistry International
Vol. 22, No. 4
July 2000

News from IUPAC

 

Pure and Applied Chemistry: The Special Topics Project

Prof. James R. Bull (Department of Chemistry, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa; E-mail: special.pac@iupac.org), IUPAC Special Topics Editor, has submitted the following article:

Background

The special topics project has its origins in a series of one-of issues of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PAC) published during recent years. These issues comprised collections of critical reviews on aspects of pure and applied chemistry that were deemed to be of compelling public interest, and were instrumental in broadening the readership base of the journal and publicizing the role of IUPAC in interdisciplinary ventures. As a consequence, a decision has been taken by the Executive Committee to introduce the concept as a regular feature of PAC. This innovation is intended to find expression in publication of thematically related collections of papers, as before, and occasional stand-alone review articles. These features will complement the traditional role of PAC as a medium for publishing articles based upon plenary lectures of IUPAC-sponsored events and reports and recommendations generated by the activities of IUPAC Commissions, and they are intended to supersede some of those special publication ventures formerly referred to by terms such as "White Book", etc.

The publication of a first issue of the journal under this new dispensation (PAC, Vol. 72, Nos. 1-2, pp. 1-331, 2000), is devoted to a collection of short critical reviews and research papers arising from presentations made at the first IUPAC-sponsored Workshop in the series "New Directions in Chemistry". This event was conducted at Hong Kong University on 14-18 July 1999, and the topic "Nanostructured Materials" offered an ideal model for the special topics initiative, because it reflects an emerging interdisciplinary branch of science in which hitherto unimagined new opportunities for future development and exploitation of molecular structure and properties are under investigation and in prospect. The resultant exciting mix of current discovery and future promise perfectly exemplifies the themes that should enjoy high priority in this new publication venture.

What Is the Purpose of Special Topics?

The concept of special topics should be considered in the context of the status and future prospects of PAC, and its role in the global business of scientific publications. The traditional uniqueness of the journal, as an "official" scientific organ of IUPAC, through publication of outputs from organizationally sponsored conferences, and deliberations on nomenclature and symbols, is no longer a guarantee of widespread obligatory readership in the international scientific community. The distinctiveness of this role has been diminished by growth of alternative forms of access to information and review material, and the inevitable replication of published versions of conference proceedings or topics accompanying the massive proliferation of review media. Furthermore, these organizational constraints on publication policy have hitherto obliged the journal to adopt a reactive role that competes unfavorably with the more market-sensitive editorial policies of numerous comparable publications.

Simply expressed, the special topics initiative is designed to introduce a new dimension of relevance and immediacy into the publication policy of PAC, and to reflect the responsiveness of IUPAC to the new challenges facing science in society. At the same time, it will target opportunities to demonstrate and exemplify the centrality of IUPAC as an authentic voice of the international community of chemists. Societal and regional diversity is one of the distinctive characteristics of the organization, and the special topics project will be guided by initiatives that reflect and foster this principle.

What Are Special Topics?

The term "special topics" implies something out of the ordinary but can comprise the publishable output of any legitimate activity of IUPAC, and reflect any aspect of current and future-directed chemical sciences. In reality, this initiative merely extends the current scope of PAC publication policy from the traditional, reactive role to a more flexible and dynamic approach, in which IUPAC members and interest groups can propose and undertake projects leading to publication of feature articles and collections of thematically related reviews. The concept can certainly be extended to include collections sometimes referred to as "symposia-in-print", comprising overviews together with research papers. In all special topics projects, the essential criteria governing publishability will, therefore, be peer-review evaluation of scientific merit and aspirations toward IUPAC "distinctiveness". It is hoped that the application of these criteria will ensure that PAC occupies a unique and indispensable place in the ever-proliferating review literature, which complements those of comparable publications.

How Are Special Topics Projects Initiated and Implemented?

The task of the Special Topics Editor is to seek out and encourage the formulation of projects leading to publication of special topics, and to provide the appropriate technical support and liaison to bring the projects to conclusion.

A proposal for a special issue should first be submitted to the Special Topics Editor, and should outline the intended scope and coverage of a theme, together with a draft proposal on prospective authorship and a target date for publication. Ideally, a project editor (or editors) should be nominated to take responsibility for ensuring that the appropriate level of scientific rigor is brought to bear on the content of the proposed special topic issue.

It is perhaps worth emphasizing that the role of the Special Topics Editor is essentially that of a facilitator, and in no way usurps the central function and responsibility of the project editor(s), whose task it is to ensure that contributions are thematically appropriate and scientifically rigorous. In practice, this necessitates a central role for the project editor(s) in advising on referees and refereeing procedures, and ensuring that manuscripts are appropriately revised. In addition, the project editor(s) will assume or delegate responsibility for drafting introductory and/or summary material for incorporation into the special topic issue, where these are necessary.

The Special Topics Editor's first role in a defined project will be to establish communications with prospective authors and notify them of guidelines for manuscript preparation and a timetable for submission of manuscripts. Manuscripts will be submitted to the Special Topics Editor, who will implement and coordinate the refereeing process in close collaboration with the project editor, and liaise with the IUPAC publications office on communications and Chemistry International, manuscript management. The Special Topics Editor will also assume responsibility for ensuring overall consistency in the scientific standard and style of the issue, in consultation with the various project participants.

Who Should Participate?

The activities and projects of IUPAC Divisions provide natural outlets for joint ventures, which may well be candidates for special topic publications of PAC. Individuals and interest groups serving on IUPAC bodies are urged to take advantage of opportunities to promote their areas of specialized interest and expertise through this medium.

In addition, the Special Topics Editor will welcome proposals for authorship of stand-alone feature articles, intended to capture the essence of those new and emerging concepts and principles that may be expected to wield a major influence in the chemical sciences during the next decade and more. In addition to welcoming nominations for authorship, the Special Topics Editor will consider topic proposals submitted directly by would-be authors. These proposals should take the form of a short outline of the suggested topic, and its perceived appropriateness as a feature article in PAC. Proposals of this nature may be subject to peer evaluation, prior to the issue of a formal invitation to submit a manuscript.

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