25 No. 1
January - February 2003
the Public Understanding of Chemistry Encouraging
the Flow of Ideas
An important objective of
IUPACs revised chemical education efforts was to give
increased attention to the critical interfaces between chemistry
and society. Chemistry as a science cannot flourish in isolation,
but must develop within a context of public understanding
and mutual trust. Thus, one of the Unions longrange
goals is to "advance the public understanding of chemistry."
Im pleased to report
that IUPACs efforts to focus on the two-way flow of
ideas between chemistry and society have had a fruitful beginning
with the formation of the CCE Subcommittee on the Public Understanding
of Chemistry (PUC). The subcommittee held its first informal
meeting at the 17th International Conference on Chemical Education
in Beijing in August 2002. The five out of eight members who
were able to attend set the directions for the committees
The contexts for chemistry
and for its interactions with society are fundamentally different
in the various parts of our global village. It is therefore
a daunting task to map what projects in this area are being
undertaken by chemical societies, industry, educational institutions,
and non-governmental organizations. The subcommittee is aware
of the impressive existing initiatives in this area and the
limited resources within PUC. The biggest challenge will be
to avoid duplicating existing efforts and to explore what
activities will best fit with IUPACs mission and focus.
The PUC subcommittee agreed
to prepare a proposal for an IUPAC project to initiate this
mapping and evaluation of existing public understanding of
science efforts and to propose a focus for PUC activities.
Consistent with IUPACs focus, activities will likely
be centered on facilitating communication among those responsible
for on-going public understanding initiatives, and encouraging
others to fill in the gaps that are identified. It is clear
that much of our work will be done electronically, and the
Internet will be an important tool in communicating what is
being done. Bob Bucat <[email protected]>
has agreed to coordinate the preparation of a project proposal.
He welcomes your comments.
A public launch of the IUPAC
CCE Public Understanding initiative will take place on 14
August 2003 at the 39th IUPAC Congress, held jointly this
year with the 86th Conference of the Canadian Society for
Chemistry (session CE03 of the Congress). On that date a series
of three symposia featuring invited speakers will be held,
focusing on various aspects of the public understanding of
chemistry. Symposia titles and the committed invited speakers
are as follows:
Flow of Ideas Between Chemists and the Public Through the
by DOW Canada, and featuring Madeleine Jacobs, editor in
chief of Chemical & Engineering News, as one
of the confirmed speakers. Other representatives from the
media and chemists dedicated to promoting the public understanding
of chemistry will also be featured.
Flow of Ideas from the Research Lab to Industrial or Public
Use, sponsored by Imperial Oil, featuring Howard
Alper, president of the Royal Society of Canada as one of
the confirmed speakers. Other representatives from government
and industry will also address this interface.
Flow of Ideas Through Society, sponsored by Shell
Canada Chemicals, featuring Tim Faithfull, president of
Shell Canada, and Stuart Smith, past chair of the National
Round Table on the Economy and Environment, as confirmed
speakers. Other speakers will also address the interactions
among chemistry and other key disciplines concerned with
the health of people and the environment, social justice,
economic growth, and general public aspirations.
Finally, an international
poster contest for 1016 year old students on the importance
of chemistry in daily life is being launched this spring.
Selected entries will be displayed at the Congress and published
in Chemistry International. PUC member Lida Schoen
<[email protected]> is the contest coordinator through
the Science Across the World network.
Members of PUC include Dr.
Anthony D. Ashmore (UK), Dr. D. Balasubramanian (India), Professor
Robert B. Bucat (Australia), Professor Choon H. Do (Korea),
Dr. Lida Schoen (Netherlands), Professor Joseph Schwarcz (Canada),
and Professor Yoshito Takeuchi (Japan), and myself (Canada)
The subcommittee welcomes
your suggestions for priorities and would like to be made
aware of activities and efforts in your country or region.
Please contact me with your comments.
Mahaffy <[email protected]>
is professor at the Kings University College,
in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
last modified 30 December 2002.
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