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Vol. 30 No. 2
March-April 2008


The Role of ICTNS in the Project System

by Jack Lorimer

In the May-June 2006 issue of CI, Gus Somsen, then chairman of the Project Committee, highlighted some features of the IUPAC project system. His article described how a project progresses from an initial idea to preparation and external review of a project proposal, to assembling a Task Group and financial resources, and, finally, to starting work on the project. This article reviews what happens once a project has been completed and the Task Group prepares to publish a report. While many Task Group leaders are familiar with the requirements for publication in Pure and Applied Chemistry (PAC), the IUPAC Handbook contains new guidelines for preparation of reports that were published by ICTNS (Interdivisional Committee on Terminology, Nomenclature and Symbols) in 2004. These guidelines have been updated from time to time since that date to provide extended assistance to authors.

The terms of reference of ICTNS include, among other responsibilities, “. . . submission to the Bureau/Council . . . for publication or otherwise, any IUPAC document concerned with terminology, nomenclature, symbols, and other conventions.” In practice, for publications destined for PAC, ICTNS conducts the review of all Technical Reports and Recommendations. The chairman of ICTNS, after acceptable reviews by external reviewers and by members of ICTNS, recommends publication of an IUPAC project as either a Technical Report or as Recommendations. IUPAC Recommendations actually become official IUPAC documents after acceptance by the Council at a General Assembly. Again, in practical terms, the goal of ICTNS in the review process is to ensure that any document published in PAC meets IUPAC-approved standards for terminology, nomenclature, symbols and units and is of high scientific quality.

Before a Task Group prepares a Technical Report or set of Recommendations, it is expected that the authors will have consulted the Procedure for Publication of IUPAC Technical Reports and Recommendations, available on the IUPAC website under “Handbook,” which sets out criteria for determining if a report is to be classified as a Technical Report or as Recommendations. The authors also are expected to have paid close attention to the next section in the “Handbook,” Guidelines for Drafting IUPAC Technical Reports and Recommendations, and also have consulted a current issue of PAC for the style of formatting references. Authors should note that PAC has no copyeditor as such, but has an excellent production editor. Cheryl Wurzbacher relies on ICTNS to supply a manuscript that is as correct as possible in all details, so it is important to prepare manuscripts with care.

When the authors are satisfied with their report and its classification, they submit it to the division president for approval for submission to the IUPAC Secretariat. Upon receipt at the Secretariat, the officers of ICTNS are informed that the manuscript has been submitted, and are asked to confirm the type of manuscript and its suitability for formal review in its current form.

Occasionally, problems arise as to the nature of a manuscript: Is it a Technical Report or Recommendations? Is it acceptable for PAC? One new type of report that ICTNS has had to deal with is the database. The usual solution is to accept a manuscript describing the database for publication in PAC, but also to review the database for proper use of IUPAC terminology, nomenclature, and symbols. A few manuscripts continue to be submitted that contain new experimental material. The policy in these cases is to review the manuscript for conformity to IUPAC standards, but to inform the authors that it is not acceptable for PAC and that their work would get better exposure if published in a research journal.

Review of Technical Reports and Recommendations then follows two somewhat different paths. Technical Reports are reviewed within ICTNS. Reports from ICTNS reviewers are sent to the corresponding author, and usually a revised manuscript is requested. The chairman or secretary, in these roles and also in their roles as editors for PAC, also review the manuscript very thoroughly to check in particular that IUPAC or other acceptable names are used for all chemicals, that all symbols and units are acceptable, and to verify other editorial details such as proper formatting of references. In many cases, the editors exchange messages with the authors until all details have been settled. In other cases, other experts (usually within ICTNS) are brought into the discussion of controversial details.

IUPAC Recommendations receive a much more thorough review. Reviews are requested from all members of ICTNS, from up to 15 independent external experts suggested by the appropriate division, and from the scientific community, reached mainly through CI (for example, see page 25 in print) and by posting the provisional recommendations on the IUPAC website. The public comment period lasts five months, but reviews from within ICTNS and from outside should be available within three months after posting on the website. IUPAC Recommendations, as mentioned above, eventually become official policy of IUPAC, so the extensive review provides a considerable degree of confidence that the Recommendations in question represent a consensus within the community of chemists. At the end of the public comment period, the manuscript is processed by the editors in the same way as a Technical Report, except that compatibility with, or reasonable modifications to, entries in the online “Gold Book” are also checked carefully.

It is clear that the review process for either Technical Reports or Recommendations is, in general, considerably more rigorous than the review process for manuscripts submitted to main-line research journals. The key difference is that articles in research journals contain new work that is always subject to revision if new experimental or theoretical studies so demand. IUPAC Technical Reports, on the other hand, should represent accurately the current state of a given subject, while IUPAC Recommendations are intended as firm guidelines for the world-wide chemistry community. As an editor, it is always refreshing to encounter a wide variety of comments from reviewers, comments that rarely overlap significantly.

Thanks are due to members of ICTNS for suggestions in preparing this article, and especially to Danièle Gibney, Royal Society of Chemistry, who was an observer at the 2007 Torino meeting of ICTNS and provided valuable insights from the perspective of a new participant in IUPAC.

Jack Lorimer <lorimer@uwo.ca> is a long-time member of IUPAC. He has been chairman of the former Commission on Solubility Data (V.8) and of the Project Committee, and an elected member of the Bureau. He is currently chairman of ICTNS.


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