I  U  P  A  C


Vice President's Critical Assessment - 1997



The objects of IUPAC as defined by the Statues and Bylaws are:

  1. To promote continuing collaboration among the chemists of the member countries.
  2. To study topics of international importance to pure and applied chemistry, which need regulation, standardization and codification.
  3. To cooperate with other organizations which deal with topics of chemical nature.
  4. To contribute to the advancement of pure and applied chemistry in all its aspects.

The objectives were formulated at the genesis of IUPAC in 1919. The Statues and Bylaws of IUPAC were adopted in 1975 at the height of the cold war. At that time, the maintenance of international scientific communications was of primary importance with the enhancement of free worldwide collaboration among chemists under severe political constraints providing a major service to international science. In those days IUPAC was a dominant force in fostering worldwide communications in the chemical sciences. Also today the Union must continue to stand for the basic principles of free international scientific communication and the freedom of motion of scientists.

As the chemical enterprise has mushroomed in scope and the pace of research and industrial developments has increased, IUPAC must reassess the best ways in which it can contribute to international chemistry and enhance the contribution of chemistry to society and to world needs. It is recommended to modify some of the wording of the four objectives in the Bylaws of the Union as follows:

  1. The title "Objects" to be changed to "Objectives".
  2. Omit the word "regulation" in bylaw (2), in order not to create any impression of governmental interference.
  3. In section (4) extend "advancement" to "advancement and understanding", to emphasize the role of the Union in advancing education and public understanding of science.

It should be emphasized that the operational objectives (1)-(3) address collaboration, study and cooperation, i.e., the means for the Union's missions and activities. It is recommended to formulate and highlight the Goals of the Union. Consideration should be given to adding a new section in the bylaws addressing the Goals of the Union (Chapter I.2). This explicit specification of the goals should convey the message that the past important activities of the Union have been mainly interior, focusing on the means of service to international chemistry. These have to be supplemented by the extension of activities of exterior nature in the context of service of chemistry to society and to global issues.

These goals, outlined above, rest on the statutory objectives and should define the missions of IUPAC.

  1. Serving as an international, nongovernmental, scientific, authoritative and objective advisory body for global issues related to pure and applied chemistry.
  2. Contributing to the advancement, coordination and collaboration of worldwide academic and industrial research in chemistry.
  3. Providing effective channels of communication in the international chemistry community.
  4. Promoting the service of chemistry to society and to the international community.
  5. Contributing to education in chemistry on all levels.
  6. Encouraging young chemists in developed and developing countries.
  7. Advancing the service of chemistry to developing countries.
  8. Broadening the geographical base of the Union
  9. Addressing globally important issues of chemistry.
  10. Advancing the public understanding of science in the special context of chemistry.
  11. Serving as the "voice of chemistry".
  12. Enhancing the visibility of the activities of the Union for the sake of the discipline.
  13. Maintaining the norms, values, standards and ethics of science.

Although not explicitly incorporated in the bylaws, issues (10)-(13) are central for the international chemistry community and for the impact of science on society.

The interrelationship between Goals and Objectives is outlined in Table 1.

The science policy of IUPAC should rest on the dual function of a basic science and a mission-oriented Union involving the following principles:

  • 1) Response to Changes in Science and Technology.

The science-technology chemistry world is undergoing a metamorphosis, reflecting two major trends.

Firstly, the dominance of interdisciplinary research. The borders between the traditional research areas in chemistry are being eroded.

- Modern chemistry rests on the simultaneous utilization of a broad spectrum of disciplines. Physical-organic chemistry rests on the blending of advanced methods of organic chemistry and a variety of techniques and concepts (mass spectrometry, spectroscopy and NMR) from physical chemistry, while advanced analytical methods are based on sophisticated physical chemistry research (laser spectroscopy, molecular beams). Biological chemistry utilizes the technical and conceptual arsenal of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry (as an esoteric example, the most advanced research in photosynthesis employs femtosecond lasers). Molecular information is central for the characterization of biological materials.

- Dominance of a unified approach to a broad spectrum of diverse fields. NMR techniques span the interrogation of structure and dynamics practically in all areas of chemistry. Computational and simulation techniques (utilizing technically and financially accessible large computers) encompass a broad spectrum of problems in structure, function and dynamics in molecular, inorganic, organic and biological chemistry.

- Outstanding problems in chemistry which are of simultaneous great scientific and industrial interest are truly interdisciplinary. A central example involves catalysis, which requires the application of advanced techniques of physical, analytical and biological chemistry (e.g., surface and cluster science, scanning-tunneling microscopy, kinetics, electrochemistry and enzymatic catalysis), as well as materials science.

Secondly, the integration of academic and industrial research in chemistry reflects major developments. The borderline between "pure" and "applied" chemistry (if they ever existed) are definitely disappearing. With the increasing quality and sophistication of chemical research we encounter:

- The merging between basic research and industrial applications in areas such as biophysical, biological and pharmaceutical chemistry (drug development), material science (materials for electronics), and medical diagnosis by chemical methods (NMR imaging).

- Industrial adaptation of advanced research results. The utilization of advanced concepts or techniques from undirected basic research for advanced industrial application may involve molecular recognition, neural networks and nanometer technology.

- Research fields of concurrent basic, industrial and environmental interest. An outstanding example involves the field of catalysis.

  • 2) Maintenance of the Standards of Quality and Relevance.

The dual nature of IUPAC, as a basic science and a problem oriented international body requires adherence to high-quality activities in the areas of science and to relevant contributions to the problem-oriented missions. Of course, there is no dichotomy between quality and relevance, which are complementary.

In the realm of chemical sciences the initiation and enhancement of the international level of modern, high-quality chemical research is imperative. This amounts to two directions. Firstly, the science-oriented core activities of the Union (Congresses and relevant publications) have to emphasize high standards of chemical research. Secondly, highlighting novel, important research areas is a primary goal for international chemistry. Some of the current publications of the Union, i.e., the series of monographs on "Chemistry for the 21st Century" serve well this goal. The restructuring of the IUPAC biennial Congress (section I.4) constitutes a touchstone for IUPAC activities in promoting high-quality worldwide chemical research.

In the context of relevance, the Union should strive to contribute to the interface between academic research and industry, plan and advance unique activities, and enhance projects of true international importance, but choosing topics that are not adequately pursued elsewhere. In the latter context, the CHEMRAWN Conferences and Conference Proceedings and the publication of the White Books serve this goal. Two extensions of activities in this context will be imperative. First, the extension of service of chemistry to industry. Second, the enhancement of the service of chemistry to society. Well defined programs have to be planned and implemented.

The perpetuation of quality and relevance by IUPAC requires the affiliation and participation of high-quality senior and junior academic and industrial scientists in the Union activities. IUPAC should actively search for scientifically qualified, highly motivated people, willing to significantly and powerfully serve the Union.

  • 3) Impact of Chemistry on Broad Fields.

Modern chemistry is expanding beyond its traditional boundaries and encompasses a broad spectrum of new scientific activities, e.g., biological chemistry, environmental chemistry and material science. Outstanding and most challenging general scientific problems, e.g., the origin of life, require the integration of chemical fields, techniques and concepts. The impact of chemistry on the broad fields of materials, health and the environment has to be emphasized in the activities of the Union. This should rest on both organizational and conceptual bases. The formation of the new division of Chemistry and the Environment and the division of Chemistry and Human Health constitutes an important organizational step in that direction.

  • 4) Openness and International Communications.

The Union must maintain a continuous dialogue with the international science community and with the chemical industry. The interaction and exchange of information with the NAOs and the activities of the Committee on Chemistry and Industry (COCI) are of prime importance in this context.

  • 5) Mission-Oriented Service of Chemistry.

IUPAC should contribute to the service of chemistry to society in the areas of the interface between government and industrial interests, service to education and to public understanding of science, to global issues and to the developing world. In the context of education, the activities of the Committee on Education in Chemistry are relevant. In the context of service to society, to global issues and to developing countries the activities of the CHEMRAWN program (since 1978) are important. A significant contribution to global issues was made by the ad hoc committee for the scientific aspects of the reduction of chemical weapons.

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