The following article was prepared for The Nucleus, the news-letter of the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society and reproduced from the October 2000 issue with the authorization of the editor - <>

IUPAC: A Glorious Past, Productive Present and Bright Future

Part I

Part II

Part I

by Mukund S. Chorghade*, Edwin D. Becker, John W. Jost, Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Cynthia Friend

Most chemists have heard of the venerable institution International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, IUPAC, through nomenclature rules taught in most introductory courses or via attendance at an "IUPAC Conference". One of us (MC) listened in awe as R. B. Woodward elaborated on his superb synthesis of Vitamin B12 at the IUPAC Conference on Natural Products, New Delhi, India in 1973. Others look upon IUPAC as an agency that stirred up needless controversy in naming of the trans-uranium elements. When asked about the other activities of the Union scientists may express bewilderment. This vibrant and prestigious organization has now relocated its Secretariat to the USA (after sojourns in France, Switzerland and England); we wish to enlighten the readership about the areas of interest and spheres of influence of the group.

What is IUPAC?
IUPAC is a scientific, international, non-governmental and objective body established to address global issues related to advancing the cause of the chemical sciences and to enhance the application of chemistry in the service of mankind. The Union was formed in 1919 by chemists from industry and academia who realized that international standardization of weights, measures, names and symbols in chemistry was of paramount importance to the well being and continued success of the chemical enterprise and to the smooth development and growth of international trade and commerce. For over eighty years the Union has succeeded in fostering worldwide communications in the chemical sciences and in uniting the strategic triad of academia, industry and government under a common chemical bond. IUPAC has long been recognized as the world's authority on chemical nomenclature, terminology, standardized methods for measurement, atomic weights and many other critically evaluated data. The Union continues to sponsor major international meetings that range from specialized scientific symposia to forums with societal impact. During the Cold War, IUPAC became an important instrument for maintaining technical dialogue among scientists on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Who belongs to IUPAC?
The organization is an association of bodies, National Adhering Organizations (NAOs), which represent chemists of different member countries. There are 45 NAOs, representing most large industrialized and many smaller countries; 16 other nations are also linked to IUPAC as Associate National Adhering Organizations. The Union has a small Secretariat in Research Triangle Park, NC, that provides professional and administrative support, maintains the IUPAC Web site, and edits the monthly journal Pure and Applied Chemistry and the bimonthly news magazine Chemistry International. Almost 1000 chemists throughout the world are involved on a voluntary basis, from the officers to members of task groups that carry out specific projects. Scientific work is conducted primarily through seven Divisions: Physical, Inorganic, Organic and Biomolecular, Macromolecular, Analytical, Chemistry and the Environment, and Chemistry and Human Health.

How are US interests represented?
The National Academy of Sciences represents the U.S.A. A 13-member U.S. National Committee for IUPAC (USNC), appointed by the President of the National Academy of Sciences, is responsible for

  1. advising the President and Officers of the National Academy of Sciences / National Research Council on all IUPAC matters;
  2. encouraging and providing liaison/ interfacing with professional organizations for cooperative international studies and activities that promote the advancement of the science of chemistry and chemical technology;
  3. providing advice on selection of U.S. chemists for membership on Commissions, Divisions and other organized parts of IUPAC and nominating U.S. chemists to serve as General Assembly delegates. The American Chemical Society participates by recommending five of the thirteen USNC members.

What are some high impact activities of the organization?
: professional chemists in academia, government and chemical industry throughout the world routinely use IUPAC's nomenclature books:
Gold: Chemical Terminology
Green: Quantities, Units and Symbols in Physical Chemistry
Red: Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry
Blue: Nomenclature of Organic Compounds
Orange: Analytical Nomenclature
Purple: Macromolecular Nomenclature
Silver: Nomenclature and Symbols in Clinical Chemistry

Standards: IUPAC is well known for publishing definitive and up-to-date data on atomic weights, isotopic abundances and a wide variety of other chemical data of immense value to chemists and chemical engineers accepted throughout the world because of the IUPAC quality label and the participation of prominent scientists from diverse areas of science. For example: international thermodynamic tables of the fluid state; solubility data; stability constants; enthalpies of vaporization of organic compounds; thermodynamic and transport properties of alkali metals; reference materials for achievement of specific physicochemical properties; evaluated kinetic and photochemical data for atmospheric chemistry, etc. IUPAC is also widely involved in establishing / validating standard methods for use in analytical, clinical, quality control and research laboratories. Some examples are: methods for the analysis of oils, fats and derivatives; harmonized international quality assurance methods for analytical laboratories; protocols for self-auditing of analytical laboratories for ISO 9000 certification; quality assurance and sampling; standardization of immunoassays; methods for the determination of trace elements in body fluids; a format for the exchange of computer readable spectra; experimental thermodynamics and measurement of the transport properties of fluids.

Environment: An extensive array of environmental projects includes environmental particles, polymer recycling, trace elements, gas kinetic data for atmospheric chemistry, glossary of atmospheric chemistry terms, pesticides in surface water, etc.

IUPAC Congress and Other Meetings: IUPAC has no resources to conduct or support experimental research projects per se. The projects carried out by Divisions and Operational Committees provide information and networks furnishing important support for research. The Union organizes a biennial Congress and sponsors a large number of independently organized symposia covering a wide range of specialized topics in chemistry over the entire gamut of chemistry. Sponsorship by IUPAC confers a hallmark of scientific quality and pre-eminence and guarantees participation by chemists from many nations. Published lectures and proceedings of such meetings bring the information to a worldwide audience. CHEMRAWN (Chemical Research Applied to World Needs) conferences focus on topics in chemistry such as availability of raw materials, foods, etc. A workshop on Advanced Materials, held in Hong Kong in July 1999, was the first in a new series on New Directions in Chemistry, each of which will highlight the important role of chemistry and show the Union's commitment to encouraging research in areas of contemporary importance. The first workshop, timely in view of IUPAC's initiatives on materials chemistry, highlighted the field as one that builds on existing programs in physical, solid state, high temperature chemistry and physical properties of synthetic polymers.

What is the future of IUPAC?
Formulating and Articulating a New Vision
The venerable institution is undergoing a renaissance. During the last two years IUPAC has

  1. adopted a strategic plan to guide an array of activities,
  2. approved restructuring of its Divisions and changed operating policies to enable chemists worldwide to propose new projects and participate in activities,
  3. initiated prizes for the best Ph.D. theses in chemistry worldwide,
  4. revitalized the system of organic and inorganic nomenclature in conjunction with computer-assigned nomenclature/structure relationships,
  5. embarked on efforts to cement ties with the global chemical industry, and
  6. expanded sponsorship of international scientific conferences and symposia.

Readers may be interested in knowing what the new and improved IUPAC offers and how they can participate in its activities. The recent restructuring is gradually converting IUPAC from a rather static organization based on about 35 permanent Commissions covering various scientific specialties to a more dynamic organization in which small task groups will be formed to carry out specific projects in a defined time period - often 2-4 years. Rather than depending only on a relatively small number of volunteers who served as members of Commissions for a long time (usually more than 10 years), IUPAC now welcomes participation on task groups by all interested scientists worldwide and particularly solicits ideas for projects from all interested individuals and organizations. Information on contacting IUPAC about ideas for projects or volunteering to work on task groups is given at the end of the article. The range of topics that might be appropriate for IUPAC to address is indicated by the Union's broad mission statement and long-range goals.

Mission Statement: IUPAC's mission is to advance the worldwide aspects of the chemical sciences and to contribute to the application of chemistry in the service of mankind. In so doing, IUPAC promotes the norms, values, standards and ethics of science and advocates the free exchange of scientific information and unimpeded access of scientists to participation in activities related to the chemical sciences. (In recognition of the role of chemistry as a central science in a wide range of fields, the term "chemical sciences" is used here to refer to chemistry, broadly defined, and to disciplines and technologies making significant use of chemistry.)

Long-Range Goals: These have been set and strategies aimed at achieving them have been formulated. IUPAC will:

Illustrations of actions toward meeting those goals (involving extensive interdisciplinary activities) will exemplify the vitality and strengths of the organization. CHEMRAWN [Chemical Research Applied to World Needs) has acted through a series of ten international interdisciplinary conferences. Others on Education, Clean Energy and Green Chemistry are planned. They involve participation by world leaders from science, technology, government, industry, and the concerned public and will result in development of recommendations and planned follow-up actions to decision-makers throughout the world. New Divisions of "Chemistry and the Environment" and "Chemistry and Human Health" were formed. Environmental projects range from critical evaluation and compilation of basic data on the kinetics of atmospheric processes to potential problems of endocrine disrupters in the environment. The latter project, conducted in collaboration with the International Unions of Pharmacology and Toxicology and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), brought together objective technical and non-technical information to support sound public policy discussions. The findings were published in September 1998 in Pure and Applied Chemistry. In collaboration with ICSU SCOPE (Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment), IUPAC has initiated a further evaluation of the state of the art and of needed research in this area.

Several workshops aimed at developing recommendations for international cooperation in the utilization of bio-resources have been held to follow-up on meetings held in Phuket, Thailand (1997), at which a declaration concerning conservation and sustainable utilization of biological diversity was adopted. Similar workshops in Brazil and Thailand (co-funded by UNESCO) have identified issues to be confronted in different environments before recommendations are formulated in 2001. The ad hoc Committee on Chemical Weapons Destruction Technologies will complete a report, providing scientific background to policy makers, on the advantages and disadvantages of various technologies.

In collaboration with the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, IUPAC formed a Task Group to establish priority of discovery / synthesis of elements 110-112 prior to the naming of these elements following IUPAC procedures.

A number of projects related to chemical nomenclature and terminology have been completed during the past two years, ranging from an extension of the basic nomenclature book in inorganic chemistry to glossaries of basic terms in computational, medicinal, polymer chemistry, photochemistry and theoretical chemistry, along with updated nomenclature and terminology in analytical and organic chemistry. 27 separate documents provided definitive IUPAC recommendations for nomenclature, symbols and terminology. Critically evaluated data and standardized analytical methods were published in 29 Technical Reports mostly in Pure and Applied Chemistry. The subjects included spectroelectrochemistry, nanostructures in electrochemistry, properties of high temperature superconductors, kinetic data useful for modeling in atmospheric chemistry, environmental catalysis, proper use of reference materials in chemical analyses, and variations of isotopic abundances of elements from terrestrial and non-terrestrial sources.

The IUPAC website contains a great deal of information about IUPAC's programs and detailed information on submitting proposals for IUPAC projects. IUPAC Secretariat: PO Box 13757, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3757; Phone: 919 485-8700; Fax: 919 485-8706; e-mail:; URL:


by Mukund S. Chorghade*, Edwin D. Becker, John W. Jost, Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Cynthia Friend

Initiatives of Interest to Industry
IUPAC was formed with strong and essential support of the European chemical industry in Europe, emphasizing a connection to "applied" chemistry; many chemists in industry have made major contributions to IUPAC's work. Nevertheless, much of IUPAC's output has often been viewed as of only marginal relevance to industry.

"What use is IUPAC to industry?" is a question, which is often asked. The major activities of the Union alluded to before are of seminal importance to industry. Over the past few years special issues of Pure and Applied Chemistry devoted to high profile topics of public debate have been published. Issues covering chlorine, environmental estrogens and sustainable chemistry merit special mention; the efforts of the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry and Industry (COCI) were instrumental in bringing these to fruition. COCI concentrates its efforts on programs and issues pertinent to industrial interests and concerns. Membership is open to representatives of all Company Associates; we encourage you to participate in the work of this group and facilitate closer relations with the chemical industry. IUPAC has a specific goal of assisting chemistry related industry in its contributions to sustainable development, wealth creation and improvement in the quality of life. It is now actively seeking proposals for suitable projects from the worldwide community of chemists and the chemical industry. The incumbent President, Dr. Alan Hayes, is committed to see that IUPAC better serves industrial needs. He will interact closely with leaders of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry and with national and regional organizations representing industry (such as the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) in the USA, Association of European Chemical Trade Associations (CEFIC), Chemical Industry Association (CIA) in the UK, Japanese Chemical Industry Association (JCIA), and Verband der Chemischen Industrie (VCI) in Germany). These discussions are designed to foster and provide a framework for close cooperation, to establish areas in which IUPAC programs might advance industrial development, and to suggest ways in which industry might appropriately participate in mutually important projects. Some examples of IUPAC programs that are particularly attuned to the worldwide chemical industry are:

  1. COCI's Workshops on Safety in Chemical Production. The Training Program for Safety and Environmental Protection, in conjunction with UNIDO and UNESCO, involves hands-on training for several weeks by experts in industrial plant safety
  2. Workshops on Reactions, Pathways, and Processes in Green Chemistry and
  3. A CHEMRAWN Conference on Green Chemistry in 2001

The Union makes a vital contribution to a number of International Measurement Evaluation Programs (IMEP) that determine trace elements in natural water, human serum, plastics and automobile catalysts. Several IUPAC projects of broad scope have important applications in the chemical industry: a Task Group on the Redefinition of pH scales is completing its work. Participation by representatives of industry and several national metrology laboratories will assure wide acceptance of the forthcoming IUPAC recommendations on this internationally important metric. Similarly, an interdivisional working party on Harmonization of Quality Assurance Schemes has made significant contributions towards reaching international agreement on guidelines affecting industry.

The large-scale compilation of evaluated thermodynamic data supported by IUPAC finds widespread application in industry and academia. An ongoing project on the Characterization of Carbonaceous Materials is assembling the various national standards for this important and widely used industrial material. Many IUPAC projects are devoted to synthetic polymers - work on recycling of polymers; the influence of reprocessing on structure-property characteristics of PVC; studies on biodegradable fibers made of poly (e-caprolactone); methods of characterizing molecular weights and molecular weight distributions in commercial and other polymers; polymers for microelectronic devices; and biomedical polymers.

IUPAC has established a Web page providing information on national and regional patent regulations relating to biotechnology and genetic engineering, and plans to expand this to include a tutorial on intellectual property.

Electronic Communication
The Secretariat is concentrating on development of means for effective international electronic communication. Additional resources have been deployed to develop the IUPAC Web Site as a reliable source of information about IUPAC and as a facile link to other World Wide Web sites of interest to chemical scientists. Descriptions of the activities of a number of IUPAC bodies are available on the IUPAC Web page with cross-links to other specialized Web pages maintained by individual Commissions and other groups. In addition to published material from Pure and Applied Chemistry and Chemistry International, other publications, such as the International Newsletter on Chemical Education (published by IUPAC's Committee on Teaching of Chemistry), have begun to appear on the Web site. The use of print and electronic publication is being explored as an inexpensive complement to conventional scientific meetings. Two Symposia-in-Print (Physical Organic Chemistry for 21st Century and Highlights in Bio-organic Chemistry) have appeared in Pure and Applied Chemistry. The CHEMRAWN Committee is also considering the use of computer- and TV-based "virtual conferences" to obviate the need to travel to one location. Much of the valuable work done by IUPAC bodies is published only in Pure and Applied Chemistry or in specialized books and journals. Greater efforts are being made to distribute this information as early and as widely as possible to the relevant scientific community via republication of reports in specialty journals, with references to PAC and hyperlinks to the IUPAC Web site. Special efforts are under way to present the public face of IUPAC in invited articles and editorials for national chemical news magazines and related publications, for example, Nachrichten aus Chemie, Science International and Chemistry and Industry.

Service of Chemistry
In July 1998, IUPAC organized a joint meeting with the African Association of Pure and Applied Chemistry (AAPAC) to investigate topics on which the two organizations can cooperate in improving the climate and infrastructure for chemistry. Three other examples of specific activities designed to benefit developing countries might be noted:

  1. Conferences and workshops in developing countries or aimed at attendees from developing countries, for example a workshop on bioorganic chemistry (1998, Egypt), a postgraduate course in polymer science (Czech Republic, 1999) and a workshop on environmental analytical chemistry (Czech Republic, 1999).
  2. A global microchemistry program mounted by IUPAC's Committee on the Teaching of Chemistry and UNESCO.
  3. Production and certification of a standard reference material with contributions from many Latin American analytical chemists in several countries to benefit Latin American economies and to improve the competence of Latin American analytical chemists. At the request of the presidents of the world's chemical societies, IUPAC will organize a meeting of leaders in chemistry from developed and developing countries to develop an action plan for continuing cooperative efforts.

In the more developed world, IUPAC's contributions to society are embodied partially by the appointment of formal representatives to many organizations outside chemistry such as those involved with metrology and regulatory development [e.g., the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Committee on Weights and Measures (BIPM), and various committees of ICSU]. The names of chemicals, often ignored by chemists in using chemical formulas and computer-generated tables, are important in the legal and regulatory arenas, and the standardization of chemical measurement and analytical methods are of crucial importance to commerce and society.

Scientists everywhere recognize the pivotal role played by formal and informal education at all levels, from kindergarten through graduate school, not only for future scientists but also for the general public. Educational systems, administration and curricula vary drastically by country, locality and individual school and teacher. IUPAC is exploring the roles it can realistically play in international science education with the aim of developing appropriate long-range policies. Plans are being drawn for CHEMRAWN X: The Globalization of Chemical Education: Preparing Chemical Scientists and Engineers for Transnational Industries. A report giving details of twenty-one tested and evaluated "Teaching Experiments in Solid State Chemistry" will shortly be made available to interested users through the IUPAC Website. This educational resource is complemented by a bibliography on solid-state chemistry to aid faculty in adding this material to introductory and inorganic chemistry courses.

Specific recent projects relevant to education include a series of computer-based teaching tutorials of solution equilibria with contributions from analytical chemists in many countries; the creation of standard curricula and recommendations for minimum topics for lecture courses in polymer science; and a book on the Principles of Nomenclature which provides an easy-to-understand and usable overview of official IUPAC recommendations across the length and breadth of chemistry.

Younger Chemists
Future development of the chemical sciences lies largely in the hands of the younger generation of scientists, who often encounter severe obstacles in an era of constrained resources. IUPAC is trying to develop programs that are perceived by "younger chemists" to be helpful to them and feasible for the Union to undertake within its resources. Through the recently established IUPAC Prize for Young Chemists, the Union will encourage outstanding young research scientists at the beginning of their careers by making up to four awards each year for the most outstanding Ph.D. thesis in the general area of the chemical sciences, as described in a 1000-word essay. Each prize will consist of $1000 cash and travel expenses to the next IUPAC Congress. Where possible, special funding is sought for the attendance of young chemists at CHEMRAWN conferences. Often workshops for young chemists are held in conjunction with the conferences. Some Divisions have been making special efforts to rejuvenate their membership and to recruit younger scientists.

Concluding Remarks
All of us from academia, government or industry have a lot to gain by participation in the many activities of IUPAC. Any of the authors of this article may be contacted via the IUPAC Secretariat for additional information. We encourage every chemist to develop new ideas for projects and submit them for consideration. We hope that the illustrations given here will stimulate novel ideas by which IUPAC can further contribute to global advances in chemistry. The Union relies on volunteers to propose and carry out projects. IUPAC's limited financial resources are used primarily to help cover travel expenses for meetings of task groups and to pay for small miscellaneous expenses.

The IUPAC website contains a great deal of information about IUPAC's programs and detailed information on submitting proposals for IUPAC projects.

IUPAC Secretariat: PO Box 13757, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3757; Phone: +1 919 485-8700; Fax: +1 919 485-8706; e-mail:; URL:


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