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Vol. 25 No. 5
September-October 2003

Treasurer's Column - Money Talks

Christoph F. Buxtorf

by Christoph F. Buxtorf

The expression "money talks" is generally understood to mean that wealth equals power. In the case of an organization like IUPAC, contributors to the bottom line generally expect to receive something in return.

In recent years I have had several meetings with industry partners, industry associations, and National Adhering Organizations (NAOs). The discussions were mostly about money and they often focused on a perceived mismatch between dues paid by the organization in question and the benefits they receive in return. In 2002, some of our NAOs participated in a Financial Working Group, which addressed issues around National Subscriptions. The ensuing discussion, which often focused on the benefits that members of IUPAC receive, was an "eye


. . . some members and partners of IUPAC do not completely understand or appreciate the benefits that they receive. IUPAC has obviously not fully recognized this issue.


Opener" for all participants. The meeting made clear that some members and partners of IUPAC do not completely understand or appreciate the benefits that they receive. IUPAC has obviously not fully recognized this issue.

For IUPAC, the dissatisfaction over member benefits is compounded by the fact that funding is becoming more and more difficult to obtain. The worldwide economic downturn has and will continue to have an impact on government and industry funding of international science organizations. Science-driven organizations have the tendency to focus most of their efforts on inside issues and neglect the problems and needs of their partners who operate in an ever-changing world.

IUPAC must recognize that industry functions more and more using its own resources and through powerful trade organizations. In addition, IUPAC has serious competition from new international science organizations, which have become active in "our traditional fields." Therefore, we need to become much more alert in recognizing and anticipating change inside and outside our established area of science. The revised strategic plan is a step in this direction.

Because my professional life has been spent in industry–during which time I have experienced acquisitions, mergers, spin offs, and many strategic plans–I have finally realized that the only stable element in our world today is change. The worldwide economic downturn may be over in some months, but life afterwards will be different. So we will have to revise our goals with time–nothing will remain constant.

A quick look at our financial performance shows little movement on the capital bottom line. However, many changes on the expense and income side have to be carefully controlled. We definitely have to sharpen our pencils.

We certainly need to appreciate the huge amount of work performed by the many volunteers and enthusiasts in our organization–in the divisions and standing committees. Without their dedication and enthusiasm our work could not be financed.

I have further realized that change in a mature organization such as IUPAC is not easy, but we have made good progress with our project-driven approach to solving scientifically relevant problems. We constantly have to reassess our needs. Do potential projects make a difference in our quest to advance worldwide chemistry? And we need to listen to the world outside of IUPAC. We may have to make tough choices in the future and there will be disagreements about priorities, but if we listen to the needs of our partners in the world of chemistry–money will talk.

Christoph F. Buxtorf <ch.buxtorf@dplanet.ch> is the current treasurer of IUPAC. He is retired from Novartis Crop Protection where he was head of the Production and Technology Division and a member of the Executive Committee.

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