President's Report on the State of the Union
Presented at the IUPAC General Assembly, August
It has been a very busy presidency up to now and I am convinced that
it will remain so until the end of the year. In these days of rapid
globalization, we can readily perceive the effects that the high-speed
changes taking place around us are having on IUPAC. Yet globalization
is not new to IUPAC: looking back over the unions history, we
see that globalization was an important topic as early as 1919 and that
it was the driving force behind the creation of IUPAC just after the
First World War. Globally accepted standards, codices and nomenclature
for chemicals had the same prime importance for academia and industry
then as they have now. This being said, however, I have to add that
IUPACs objectives, as set out in our Statutes, give the union
a much broader mandate.
Today, the rapid pace of growth and change in the basic experimental
sciences of biology, chemistry and physics is apparent to all. Looking
at the information explosion in these areas, our attention is frequently
drawn to the crossover between the sciences and to the fact that Nature
is - alas - not
organized like our universities. Adaptation and flexibility are needed
in academia as well as industry.
Moreover, it is our responsibility as scientists to ensure that both
government and the public at large are made aware of scientific progress
at an early stage. In particular, our task as chemists is to put over
the message that chemistry is already very important today and that
it will go on to be a key science in the world of tomorrow, with a tremendous
outreach into sister sciences, the environment, industry and the economy
as well as into our everyday lives.
Administration and Finances
As you are aware, Dr. Mo Williams, who was head of the IUPAC Secretariat
from 1968, retired this year at the end of April. You will also be aware
that our new Executive Director, Dr. John W. Jost, took up his post
at Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC, USA at the beginning of April.
The transitional period, during which there will be two Secretariats,
will last until September 1997. In October our Oxford office will ship
documents to RTP and then close down.
At this point in my report I feel privileged to have the opportunity
to express my sincere thanks to Mo Williams for his long and outstanding
service, and for his loyalty during his time with IUPAC. He personified
stability for a substantial part of IUPACs existence and was also
the leading authority on all matters relating to IUPAC. At the same
time I also want to extend my very best wishes to our new Executive
Director, who is building up our new USA Secretariat into a globally
active Secretariat, devoting special care to emphasizing activities
which will ultimately enhance IUPACs visibility.
As part of this process, our web site (current home page address ..) will be further enlarged
and made more accessible by setting up a main site at RTP with the domain
name of iupac.org. The site at the Royal Society of Chemistry, will
become our European mirror site. We expect soon thereafter to also have
an Asia/Pacific mirror site. It is intended that the site should become
the chief channel of communication with the community and especially
with those engaged on IUPAC projects.
Our finances are now in good shape, thanks to the work of our Treasurer,
as well as to the Finance Committee and the new USA banker taking care
of our securities. These have been supplemented by windfall money from
Barings Bank. The Executive Committee decided that the Treasurer should
set up a new endowment fund to harbor our surprise resources.
I would like to pick out just three of the many IUPAC-sponsored conferences
that have taken place or are still to take place this biennium.
This year, for the first time since 1967, the IUPAC Congress and General
Assembly (GA) have been scheduled to take place in the same city in
two successive weeks - "back to back",
so to speak. The venue is Geneva, Switzerland, and the two events will
be taking place in the last two weeks of August; the Congress first,
then the GA. The same pattern will be repeated in 1999 in Berlin, Germany,
after which IUPAC will be able to take proper stock of the new combined
event. Holding the two events in successive weeks obviously increases
the organizing committees workload substantially, and I would
like to express my thanks to the two organizing bodies in Switzerland
and Germany who have taken up the challenge.
In fall 1996 the CHEMRAWN IX Conference took place in Seoul, Republic
of Korea, under the heading "The Role of Advanced Materials in
Sustainable Development: Use, Disposal and Recycling of Materials".
Thanks above all to a magnificent effort by the South Korean industry,
the event was a great success. Incidentally, this was the third time
that IUPAC has had the pleasure of holding a CHEMRAWN Conference in
the Asian/West Pacific Rim region: the other two were "Chemistry
and World Food Supplies" in Manila in 1982 and "Advanced Materials"
in Tokyo in 1987.
A third IUPAC workshop on Safety in Chemical Production was organized
in April 1997 by our industrial wing COCI, the Committee on Chemistry
and Industry. The workshop was held in San Francisco, CA, in conjunction
with the American Chemical Society, the US Chemical Manufacturers Association
and the US Environmental Protection Agency. The attendance of two 1995
chemistry Nobel laureates generated keen interest. After the first workshop,
which was held in Basle, Switzerland (1990), and the second, which was
held in Yokohama, Japan (1993), there is still continued interest in
holding workshops in other parts of the world.
I am happy that IUPAC is now able to submit a final list of names and
symbols for elements 101 to 109 to the Council for approval in Geneva
in August this year. As you are aware, the naming of the transfermium
elements was a lengthy, controversy-ridden process. The three laboratories
in Germany, Russia and USA which were involved in the discovery of the
elements have been consulted at length and their comments solicited.
Their input was most important, given that one of IUPACs responsibilities
is to formulate widely accepted recommendations capable of forming a
basis for international communication in chemistry. A press release
was issued in February 1997 and the final say rests with the Council.
I should also mention that activities have been started to enable IUPAC
to put forward proposals for the nomenclature of elements 110 to 112.
The process will be conducted in accordance with our Bylaws and in close
collaboration with the discoverers. Once these activities have concluded
the final decision will once again be made by the IUPAC Council.
Collaboration with UN and ICSU Bodies
Collaborative efforts with UNESCO, UNIDO and WHO have been substantially
intensified during the biennium.
CHEMRAWN IX was organized jointly by our CHEMRAWN Committee and UNESCO,
while COCI continued its three-way collaboration with UNIDO and UNESCO.
This gives safety experts from the third world the opportunity to spend
a period of approximately one month with IUPAC Company Associates and
discuss existing safety measures in a direct hands-on fashion. The visiting
safety experts, a substantial number of whom were government specialists,
subsequently returned to their home countries. We are thus constructing
a progressively expanding network of safety experts in chemical production
and also bringing IUPAC into closer contact with the developing world.
All the programs which IUPAC is undertaking in conjunction with UNESCO
are supervised by the International Chemistry Council (ICC), a body
comprising four chemistry Nobel laureates from Canada, France, UK and
USA, one Japanese industrialist and three developing world representatives
from Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America. The inaugural meeting took
place in Paris in January 1997. The executive part of the programs is
in the hands of IUPAC and UNESCO Officers. The ICC will convene every
second year to make a critical assessment of all joint IUPAC/UNESCO
activities. We will also be inviting representatives of our Committee
on Teaching for Chemistry (CTC) to take part in IUPACs annual
meetings with UNESCO. This is because CTC has been collaborating with
UNESCO for quite some time in areas of key interest to the ICC. Furthermore,
some of our Commissions have been enlisting UNESCOs help to have
larger-scale programs followed up. Such joint activity also presents
an opportunity for us to strengthen our links with the International
Organization for Chemical Sciences in Development (IOCD) and the Third
World Academy of Sciences (TWAS).
The President of our Division on Chemistry and the Environment is acting
as WHO liaison. He is representing our interests at the WHO-led International
Forum for Chemical Safety (IFCS) and International Programme for Chemical
Safety (IPCS). In the course of his duties, he will be maintaining very
close contact with the President of our Division on Chemistry and Human
Health. IUPAC together with IUPHAR, IUTOX and the International Life
Science Institute (ILSI), constitute the scientific ICSU-NGOs in these
UN bodies. IUPAC is currently acting as the groups spokesman.
Collaboration with ICSU executive bodies, a large number of sister
unions, ILSI and the ICSU Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment
(SCOPE) has improved substantially in 1996-97.
Chemistry and Society
In October 1996 COCI published its first White Book as a contribution
from science to the debate on the effects of chlorine and chlorine-containing
compounds on the environment. This "White Book on Chlorine",
published as a special issue of the IUPAC journal Pure and Applied
Chemistry, is an independent and unbiased collection of original
articles written by renowned scientists from all over the world, which
critically evaluates various aspects of the subject. It has proven to
be a success and of interest not only to academic institutions, industry,
governmental agencies and environmental organizations, but also to the
The White Book is the first publication of this type and more are set
to follow. IUPAC is thus able to use its special position as a science-based,
non-governmental, non-industry foundation with a worldwide network of
experts from various fields of chemistry and sister disciplines to offer
a platform for publications.
State of the Union
Countries and Companies
A glance at the world map of National Adhering Organizations (NAOs)
and Observer Countries (OCs) shows that while IUPAC is represented in
all but a few areas of the Americas, the West Pacific Rim and Europe,
it has as yet failed to enlist broad participation from either the strip
of countries stretching from Syria to Kazakhstan or the countries of
Africa - with the exception of Egypt, the
Republic of South Africa and Tunisia. Egypt and South Africa have both
been affiliated to IUPAC for quite some time now. This year the Executive
Committee will have the pleasure of submitting to the Council in Geneva
the membership application of the Union of Yugoslav Chemical Societies
as well as requests for upgrading from Pakistan and the Philippines,
two of our Observer Countries. Let me add at this juncture that our
well accepted voting system is special in that it reflects the countries
actual chemical turnover figures as published by the UN. As a rule,
while NAOs with stronger chemical and pharmaceutical industries have
a somewhat larger voting share in the Council, they also make a greater
financial contribution to IUPAC.
The participation of single companies -
IUPAC is the only scientific union with direct industry participation
- is remarkable, and membership of the Company
Associate scheme remains astonishingly stable given the conditions which
industry has to contend with today. Top of the participating companies
table in 1996 was Japan with 46 companies, followed by USA with 23 and
Germany with 12. The EU15 have 44 altogether. Comparing financial contributions
for 1996, USA is on first place, followed by Japan and Germany. The
EU15 are on second place behind USA.
Adapting Mission, Goals and Structures
My predecessors state of the union reports discussed the critical
remarks voiced against some of IUPACs activities in considerable
depth. Incidentally, some of these criticisms are still the subject
of discussion. I would like here to inform you about the actions taken
in 1996-97 in response to valuable constructive criticism. I believe
that the steps we have taken will result in goals and structures which
reflect the tasks facing IUPAC in the next millennium.
Several brainstorming sessions took place during the biennium at which
IUPAC Officers, all of whom were very much involved in the organization
of the meetings, were able to discuss thoroughly IUPACs current
situation, mission, objectives and future. These always involved well-known
chemists from academia and industry, plus representatives from inside
and outside IUPAC. An initial meeting was held in Belmont, USA, during
June 1996. A subsequent European one-day meeting was organized in London
for February 1997 and a third brainstorming workshop for the Asia/Pacific
region took place in Singapore during June 1997. All were very fruitful
in clarifying IUPACs mission and goals as it heads into the next
millennium as well as in promoting an intensive and rewarding exchange
of opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of the Union. The meetings
reinforced the need for the changes being discussed in IUPAC. All were
extremely valuable, instrumental even, in the formulation of new objectives
and activities, and to increasing IUPACs visibility.
The IUPAC Officers also held an extraordinary meeting with the Divisional
Presidents/ Vice-Presidents and Section Presidents in Frankfurt, Germany,
on March this year. This meeting was an opportunity to go through each
Divisions restructuring plans. While the creation of the Divisions
on Chemistry and the Environment and on Chemistry and Human Health at
the last General Assembly represent a major step there are still some
desiderata. We need to find ways of integrating both the area of materials
and the major scientific activities taking place at the interface between
chemistry and biology into IUPAC. With the Divisional Presidents
input, the Frankfurt meeting yielded proposals for solutions which should
result in structural changes to eliminate overlap and provide IUPAC
with the missing activities and structures. The meeting was also used
for a thorough discussion of the Vice-Presidents Critical Assessment
and to some extent for discussion of further proposals for structural
These proposals and the Vice-Presidents Critical Assessment were
taken up again at the Executive Committee (EC) meeting at Jerusalem
in April 1997. After detailed discussions the EC decided to establish
a Strategy Development and Implementation Committee (SDIC) to define
the science policy of the union and to examine the feasibility
of converting the bulk of IUPACs scientific work to a project-driven/project-financed
system with time-limited Commissions, as described in the concept endorsed
by the EC. The eleven members of the SDIC were appointed by myself following
consultations. The Committee was placed under the chairmanship of Vice-President
Joshua Jortner and it met for the first time in June.
I am delighted at the large number of committed volunteers who devote
their time and scientific expertise to furthering the IUPAC cause. More
than 1000 scientists are actively involved in IUPAC, an achievement
which I strongly believe to be cause for congratulation. That this is
an enormous strength goes without saying, and we have to safeguard its
continuity under the best possible circumstances. It also goes without
saying that the limited financial resources available to IUPAC and the
small time window available for new scientific endeavors are forcing
us to choose our projects carefully.
As the only purely scientific global chemical organization mandated
to undertake this kind of work, it is essential that IUPAC continue
with its codification, nomenclature and standardization activities.
It has to do so at a much faster pace than in the past and in close
association with the professional bodies which are also involved in
these activities. They are working rapidly using their excellent skills,
and IUPAC should try to find a collaborative basis with them which is
not only acceptable to all stakeholders, but which will also enable
all parties to benefit from the special advantage which IUPAC derives
from being a global, strictly scientific, non-governmental organization.
It is also my belief that collaboration with UN and ICSU bodies has
to be intensified and focused. Here IUPAC has a special responsibility,
arising from the immense outreach of chemistry into the other sciences
and the remarkably close relationship which has existed for quite a
long time between chemistry in academia and the now giant chemical and
pharmaceutical industry. This relationship has no parallel in physics
and has started to emerge in biology only relatively recently with the
advent of small biotechnology companies, the first of which was set
up in California in 1976. Chemistry is a pervasive part of our everyday
lives and one that accompanies us throughout our lives.
For these reasons, IUPAC should also increase its activities in the
field of "Chemistry and Society". Here again the Union occupies
a very special position, maintaining as it does close contact with all
the major stakeholders in innovation, i.e. academia, industry, government
and society. We have been successful in strengthening our links with
society, and through society, with governments as well, nevertheless,
I think, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
As always, there are still some issues to be resolved. One is that
all of us in IUPAC have to make greater efforts to recruit the best
scientists for our activities. This is extremely important to IUPAC
since all our collaborators are volunteers. One of the advisors whom
I had the pleasure of consulting during my period as Vice-President
summed it up by saying that serving IUPAC comes under the heading of
A second unresolved issue is that we have to be very careful in selecting
the activities in which we wish to get involved. We have to make sure
that we are resolute in the pursuit of our goals once they are defined
and that we come up with the desired result quickly. Let me also add
that we have to remain true to our scientific base, unswayed by any
pressure of a non-scientific nature, irrespective of whether it comes
from academia, industry, governments or society.
Significant progress has been made, but a lot still remains to be done.
I have enjoyed having responsibility for a large number of teams, and
I feel privileged to have been able to work with such colleagues as
my fellow IUPAC Officers and the members of the Secretariat, Executive
Committee and Bureau as well as to have interacted with the Council,
IUPACs highest body. I am also very pleased to have been given
the opportunity to establish contacts with our Divisional Presidents
as well as with the Chairmen of CHEMRAWN, COCI, CTC, the Committee for
Printed and Electronic Publications (CPEP) and the Committee on Affiliate
Membership (CAM). If we look at CAM, it becomes apparent that although
progress has been made, there is still a need for further action. Additionally,
CPEP is in need of a new policy on the submission of papers for publication
in Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Let me close by thanking all members of IUPAC bodies for their efforts
and the dedication with which they have worked for our Union over the
last biennium in particular, even though I am aware that most of them
have been working on IUPACs behalf for substantially longer. It
is due to them, their commitment, flexibility and creativity, that we
can look with confidence to the future of IUPAC.
Albert E. Fischli