I  U  P  A  C


Vice President's Critical Assessment - 1997


II.4.1 Listing

The IUPAC Handbook for 1996-7 lists and presents brief details of about 480 current programs of the Union, which are conducted in the standing committees.

Ad-Hoc Committee on Chemical Weapons Destruction Technologies
CHEMRAWN Committee
Committee on Chemistry and Industry - COCI.
Committee on Printed and Electronic Publications - CPEP
Committee on Teaching of Chemistry - CTC
Interdivisional Committee on Nomenclature and Symbols - IDCNS

and in the Committees and Commissions of the Divisions:

I Physical Chemistry
II Inorganic Chemistry
III Organic Chemistry
IV Macromolecular Chemistry
V Analytical Chemistry
VI Chemistry and the Environment
VII Chemistry and Human Health.

During 1994-5 about 160 reports of IUPAC programs were published, whose titles are published in the Handbook. The current guidelines for IUPAC projects are listed in the 1966-7 Handbook, pp. 120-122. IUPAC programs should adhere to the principles of response to current changes in chemical science and technology, maintenance of quality and relevance, impact, openness and international service. The very large number of current IUPAC programs requires careful guidelines, assessment, adherence to time tables, optimal use of resources and evaluation of results.

II.4.2 Indicators for Assessment of Projects

The assessment of the current projects and activities of the divisions should rest on the following specific indicators:

  1. Quality. To what extent do these programs catalyze novel, exciting, chemical research?
  2. Industrial impact. What is the contribution to the coordination and promotion of the activities of the chemical industry.
  3. Relevance. Uniqueness, true international importance.
  4. Mission-oriented service of chemistry. These encompass worldwide issues where chemistry should be of service, as well as contribution to science, education planning and special projects in developing countries.

Of course, these four criteria should serve as the basis for the entire integrated activities and projects of IUPAC. There should be diversity and different emphases in the activities of individual divisions. In the broad context, the major objectives of the Union are the research goals and the mission-oriented goals.

II.4.3 Evaluation of IUPAC Projects

During the past few years the scientific activities of IUPAC have been the subject of discussion inside and outside the Union. The scientific bodies inside the Union seem to be quite satisfied with their activities, whereas the chemistry community at large, including the chemical industry, is critical of many of IUPAC projects. For example, the US National Academy of Sciences commissioned in 1995 a review of the international scientific unions. The resulting report was highly critical of IUPAC's activities. Likewise, the industrial and part of the scientific community does not value, and sees little relevance, in many projects of IUPAC. Points of criticism are that such projects have a low priority, are not of sufficient international significance to warrant the involvement of IUPAC and take too long to complete. Indeed, using the indicators for project assessment (section II.4.2) quite a few suffer from these weaknesses.

To some extent the Union has been a victim of its own success, which reflects the remarkably broad scope of its scientific and mission-oriented activities. Nevertheless, the restructuring of the Union is necessary to fulfill its goals to cope with the complex problems which science and society now face. The creation of the two mission-oriented Divisions of Chemistry and the Environment (VI) and Chemistry and Human Health (VII), in conjunction with the recommendations presented herein for modifications in the structure and function of the Divisions of Physical Chemistry (I), Inorganic Chemistry (II), Organic Chemistry (IV), Macromolecular (IV) and Analytic Chemistry (V), is of prime importance.

We must realize that a majority of the Union's projects, as listed in the IUPAC Handbook for 1996-7, have remained unchanged in character for some considerable time. This is not surprising, as IUPAC's traditional role in chemical nomenclature remains significant. However, the adverse perception of many of the Union's activities should not and cannot be ignored. This calls for the evaluation of the Division projects. It is recommended that the evaluation of the projects will be conducted by the Divisions:

  1. The Divisions will be asked to make a critical assessment of their projects, based on the science-oriented and mission-oriented goals of each Division.
  2. The Divisions will be asked to look for ways to concentrate on activities which necessitate the involvement of IUPAC, resulting in fewer projects and faster response. This will require that for each new project, the need for IUPAC treatment has to be justified.
  3. The Commissions dealing with the core activities of nomenclature and symbols should be asked to be more alert than in the past. At an earlier stage than previously achieved they should identify rapidly-developing fields for which quick action is needed by IUPAC. In this context, IUPAC's implementation via the various Nomenclature Commissions, and its interaction with other organizations (e.g., Chemical Abstracts service or the Beilstein Institute), should be examined in detail.

Regarding external assessment of projects, attempts have been made to obtain the opinion of the entire chemical community on new projects. An external refereeing system for new projects was introduced by one division. This procedure may be useful for quality and relevance control of new projects and result in a better visibility of the Union. The divisions should consider the possible implementation of external refereeing.


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