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Committee on Chemistry Education

Number: 2005-029-1-050

Title: Educational material for raising awareness of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the multiple uses of chemicals

Task Group
: Alastair Hay

Members: Edwin D Becker, Alberto Fratadocchi, Peter G. Mahaffy, Robert Mathews, Brian Rappert, Richard Robson, O.P. Sharma, Rolando A. Spanevello, Natalia P. Tarasova, and Ralf Trapp

Completion Date: 2007 - project completed

To develop educational material for IUPAC chemists and chemistry teachers about the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The material will start with the beneficial use of chemicals, and raise awareness about the possible misuses of chemicals, including the production of chemical weapons. Students will be encouraged to develop their own codes-of-conduct.

> see plan for Monday 6 Aug 2007 Workshop

The CWC and the role of chemists was the subject of a joint meeting of IUPAC and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons held in Oxford (UK) from 9-12 July 2005. (see project details) Two recommendations of the meeting were (i) the need for chemists to develop their own codes-of-conduct, and (ii) for the development of educational material which describes the CWC and the obligations it places on the 160 member states who are signatories. It was felt important to place the CWC in the context of the beneficial uses and misuses of chemicals, and raise awareness of multiple uses of the same substances.

Chemists played a formative role in the development of chemical warfare (CW) and the CWC aims to prevent any recurrence of this activity. But very few chemists know much about the CWC and what it covers, and few chemistry students realize that beneficial substances can be misused to produce chemical weapons. Educational material will fill this gap and help get the message across to those in a position to harm the convention but, more importantly, to encourage the peaceful uses of chemistry, which are legion.

We aim to encourage chemists to consider the issue and to engage in debate. Educational material will briefly describe the CWC and the types of chemical weapons used in the past. Three case studies will encourage much further discussion. The first will be on thiodiglycol, a solvent used to make the CW agent mustard gas, but which has many other legitimate uses. The second will be on how to identify orders for chemicals from suppliers which ought to raise suspicions about their legitimacy. The third will encourage students to think about what they do in the laboratory/industry and to develop their own codes-of-conduct.

Material will be provided for the basis of lectures and interactive workshops for chemistry educators. Reference sources will be provided to encourage wider enquiry. While much background work to prepare materials can be done electronically, it will be vital for key members of the team to meet in person to produce a draft set of materials and test it with teachers. This will be done in Moscow at a science education conference for secondary school teachers on October 30, 2005. Comments will be considered and the material modified before retesting of the package in 2006 in Delhi, Canada, the UK, and Seoul (at the 19th ICCE Conference). The final step in this project will be to identify partners who can participate in the revision, web delivery, translation into the five OPCW official languages, and broader global dissemination to chemistry educators. Pilot materials will be made available on both the OPCW and IUPAC websites at the end of this project.

Moscow at the end of October 2005 was the setting for the first workshop assessment of educational material produced for the project on multiple uses of chemicals and professional codes of conduct. Some 25 academics, high school teachers and chemistry students gathered in a seminar room at the D.Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology to consider 4 papers. Produced over a couple of months after the project start in August 2005 the papers covered 4 topics. These included an introduction to multiple use issues; background on the Chemical Weapons Convention ( CWC ); toxicology of selected chemical warfare agents; and codes of conduct. To facilitate their use all the papers were translated into Russian for the workshop and readers were asked about their suitability as teaching aids.

This first workshop was a trial run. Papers were introduced to the audience who were then asked to break into smaller groups and consider a number of questions. These referred to the subject matter in the papers but went far wider and covered questions about control of chemicals, availability of information and the responsibility of users of chemicals. Peter Mahaffy and Alastair Hay led the workshops with Natalia Tarasova translating. Discussion was lively and the feedback sessions equally so. Overall, the participants enjoyed the workshops finding them lively, dynamic and democratic. A wide range of opinions were expressed and it was clear that the topics had generated plenty of discussion, which was their aim. As for the working papers all were considered suitable as teaching aids with some slight modifications needed on two. The changes have been made.

Two presentations on the work covered by this IUPAC project were given by Alastair Hay to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons ( OPCW ) in the Hague. The OPCW oversees the CWC internationally. A meeting of national authorities at the OPCW was the venue for the first presentation on 5 November 2005. National Authorities carry out the day-to-day work in individual countries to collect data, organise inspections and uphold the CWC. The second presentation on 9 February 2006 was to the Scientific Advisory Board of the OPCW. Both meetings endorsed the work of the IUPAC project group and offered to help wherever they could.

Further workshops are now to be held at the University of Leeds in the UK, and in Russia over the next few months to increase the audience. The Leeds workshops will test different approaches to using the prepared written material. Feedback from the latest workshops together with the working papers, in what is hoped will be their final form, will be presented at the 19th International Conference on Chemical Education in Seoul in August 2006.

July 2007 - A workshop on this project is to take place during the IUPAC Congress in Torino on Monday, 6 Aug 2007, at 10:30am and as part of a session titled Duality of chemistry for both useful purposes and chemical weapons.

Session program:
- 10:30-11:10 - Ralf Trapp, The duality of chemistry for peaceul purposes versus chemical weapons
- 11:10-11:25 - G. Picheca, The operating role of the italian National Authority in the implementaion of the CWC
- 11:25-11:40 - P. Palanque, The universality of OPCW in the world chemistry
- 11:40-12.50 - workshop/discussion panel
Multiple uses of chemicals and chemical weapons: the role for science education in rising awareness, led by Alastair Hay, Alberto Breccia Fratadocchi, Peter Mahaffy, and Natalia Tarasova
[Check Congress program - session 1 for room assignment and last minute updates]


The background materials to be used in the workshop have been piloted earlier in Moscow, Seoul, Bologna, Leeds. Following comments from those pilots, four papers have been produced, written by Peter Mahaffy, Alastair Hay, Ted Becker, Ralf Trapp, and Brian Rappert. These papers have been translated by OPCW into their five other official languages and also used to produce a web version for which a pilot version can be seen at: <www.iupac.org/multiple-uses-of-chemicals>. This website is to provide resource materials to help teachers and students understand the multiple uses of chemicals, learn about the Chemical Weapons Convention, and develop codes of conduct to prevent harmful uses.

Project completed - A final report has been published in Chem Int Nov. 2007 (pp. 23-25) titled 'Multiple Uses of Chemicals: Clear Choices or Dodgy Deals'. A version of that report has also been presented at the OPCW Academic Forum in The Hague, on 18-19 September 2007, and will appear in the Academic Forum proceedings.

Last update: 28 November 2007

<project announcement published in Chem. Int. May-June 2006, p. 18>


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