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Vice President's critical Assessment - 1999

> Introduction
> Chemical Industry
> National Adhering Organizations (NAOs)
> Standing Committees
> UN Agencies
> Conclusions
> Recommendations

In considering the ground which I should and am able to cover in my Vice President's Critical Assessment, several factors needed to be weighed.

The most important was that Prof. Joshua Jortner conducted an excellent and wide-ranging VPCA which in particular was a penetrating analysis of how the scientific work of the Union was carried out, and perhaps more importantly, considered what were the challenges facing the Chemical Sciences and what should be IUPAC's contribution to the development of Chemical Science in the 21st Century, and how the whole process of IUPAC's scientific work, and thus its effectiveness, could be improved.

Prof. Jortner's VPCA led to the establishment of the Strategy Development and Implementation Committee (SDIC) and all that flowed from it, including the IUPAC Strategic Plan; restructuring and reform of the scientific activities into a task-oriented, time defined set of projects, without jettisoning the necessary appropriate considerations of experience and continuity.

With all this still taking up much effort and readjustment, it would have been duplicative and plainly inadequate for the present VPCA to visit this ground.

Just one comment may be appropriate: my view is that the way the Union has accepted the need for change and tackled the present exercise gives it great credit and has generated a good deal of admiration amongst many of our critics and other international unions.

What, then, remains to be done? After discussion with my colleagues on the Executive Committee, it was agreed that my VPCA should cover:

  1. The relationships between the Union and:
    the Chemical Industry;
    the NAOs, National and Regional Chemical Societies;
    the UN Agencies.
  2. Review the Union's Standing Committees.

Chemical Industry
It is often said that chemistry is the only scientific subject which is directly applied in a major global industry. Yet when looking at the linkages between the industry and the profession at an international level, they are not perhaps as strong as may be mutually beneficial, especially in the global conditions which now confront both the Industry and the Science.

The Industry has well-resourced, effective Trade Associations which represent industry interests in the national, and in some instances, regional areas very effectively. Typical examples are the CMA (Chemical Manufacturers' Association, USA), VCI (Verband der Chemischen Industrie, Germany), CIA (Chemical Industries Association, UK) etc. and CEFIC (Association of European Chemical Trade Associations, Europe). In recent years the industry has formed an international co-ordinating committee, ICCA (International Council of Chemical Associations), which meets twice a year to consider matters of global significance.

On the face of it, the way in which Chemical Societies and Trade Associations relate should be simple i.e.:

National Chemical Societies
National Trade Associations
National Chemical Societies
Regional Trade Associations

However nothing in life is ever simple, and one of the complicating factors is that in this age of globalization, many issues have a global dimension e.g. toxicology, environmental impact, so that it is often not possible satisfactorily to deal with a problem on a national, or even regional basis, either from a trade or regulatory point of view.

The work of the Committee on Chemistry and Industry (COCI), especially in its safety seminars and producing the special issues of Pure and Applied Chemistry on Chlorine and on Environmental Oestrogens has been noted, but is sometimes seen as a series of one-off involvements.

During this year, I have held discussions with the Presidents and/or Directors General of several Trade Associations e.g. CMA, CEFIC, CIA and the following points seem undisputed:

  1. Under no circumstances do IUPAC or the Trade Associations envisage IUPAC representing the industry in any forum.
  2. Many problems faced by the industry pose dangers to the public perception of chemistry and science. Society in general is particularly sensitive to how such problems are handled.
  3. There is a perceived need by governments, as well as chemists and industry, for a sound, trusted scientific base to be laid, upon which debate of an issue should take place.
  4. It could be helpful to all if a well-respected, independent body, such as IUPAC, were to lay such a scientific base, or validate one laid by some other body.
  5. If IUPAC were to be seen to fulfil such a role, then the Union would become more visible to the senior levels of industry management (and even some of its working scientists) and thus be better regarded.
  6. There is a need to identify projects where this hypothesis could be tested.

At the recent meeting of ICCA in Prague (two meetings per year are held: at the autumn meeting Presidents and Directors General attend) two projects were agreed, viz.: the toxicological investigation of all bulk-produced chemicals which have not been through a modern type toxicological evaluation; and a research project, funded at the rate of $2 million p.a., as to how chemicals react with factors in the environment to produce unwanted effects.

It has been agreed that these subjects could be suitable for IUPAC/ICCA co-operation and to this end, Dr. John Jost and I attended an Executive meeting of the ICCA in Brussels in April 1999. We made a presentation about IUPAC, its structure, operations, and strategic objectives. The reasons why IUPAC feels that collaboration and co-operation should be increased were presented.

After a very constructive discussion, it was readily agreed by the ICCA that there should indeed be closer links between the two organizations. The ICCA project on Long Range Research was identified as the best vehicle for a pilot project. The Vice President and the Executive Director are now following this up with the relevant people in the ICCA. Other international Trade Associations in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries have been contacted and will be followed up.

If these projects go ahead, it would be prudent to consider what structure should be created in IUPAC to manage/co-ordinate the Union's interface with industry. COCI does an excellent job but was not set up with this in mind. In fact the whole question of how the Union manages, co-ordinates and allocates resources to those areas not covered by the normal Divisional or Committee activities merits further development (see later).

National Adhering Organizations (NAOs)
We are all well used to the situation where the bodies which constitute the majority of IUPAC membership are the National Academies of Science (or their equivalent), in fact such bodies constitute 26 out of 43 members. In the other cases, the NAO is the National Chemical Society.

Those countries which are represented by a National Academy usually have what is essentially a "National Committee for IUPAC", however named, which co-ordinates the views of interested parties (whether individual or representing various societies) which then help to form that country's attitude toward IUPAC proposals. The membership and representation of various societies on these committees varies widely from country to country. In some places, senior officers of the National Chemical Society attend and play an active part, whereas in others, only those active in the various IUPAC Commissions, Committees and Divisions are involved.

There is no doubt that keeping the various National Academy of Sciences informed of what IUPAC is doing and can do, is an important issue. In addition, in many cases the national dues are routed through the National Academy by the National Government, so it would be imprudent to sever all contact with these important bodies.

The IUPAC Council is, of course, the forum where the NAOs participate in the policy approval and also give legitimacy to the delegation of specific authority to the Bureau, Executive and the Finance Committee for example.

Chemical Societies
The effect of globalization has accelerated over the past few years and many National Chemical Societies have given increased attention to international issues, especially on a regional basis, because of the impact on publications on a global canvas.

Although it is obviously right that scientific issues should be discussed in the Divisions, Commissions, and Committees, there are several other policy and resource allocation issues which have been accentuated by the Strategic Plan, addressing as it does several areas which have never been recognized as part of IUPAC's mission before (help towards developing nations in creating a sustainable chemical industry, education and training in several differing circumstances, public image of science especially chemistry, relationships with industry, etc.), which would benefit from the establishment of a closer coupling between IUPAC and the National Chemical Societies (NCS). In addition, with the new arrangements for the identification of topics to be worked upon in the Union and their implementation, together with the need to staff the new "project teams" with the right people, closer co-operation between IUPAC and NCS should be mutually beneficial. It should also help to raise awareness of what the Union is doing in the NCS. Such closer cooperation should at one level involve the senior officers of both IUPAC and the NCS at suitable intervals, and the forthcoming Presidents' meeting at the Berlin General Assembly would seem to offer an ideal opportunity to discuss this topic.

The co-operation could then be taken on in the context of the policy basis agreed, by the various committees in the NCS which deal with IUPAC or "International" matters.

The concept outlined above should not give rise to any conflict of interest between IUPAC relationships with the NAOs and the NCS.



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