29 No. 2
Research Applied to World Needs
1865, in Cambridge, England, the 18-year-old William Perkin
undertook an independent research study that resulted in the
discovery of aniline dyes. Against the advice of his teacher,
Professor Hoffman, Perkin applied his research to world needs—and
launched the coal-tar-dye industry. Therefore, in reality,
the concept of CHEMRAWN, “CHEMical
Research Applied to World
Needs,” is not new. What is new is
the increasingly complex, interdependent world, with a burgeoning
population, limited resources, rising middle-class expectations,
vastly improved communications, the possibility of nuclear
war, and the new specter of global terrorism. These and other
major world problems are not unique to chemists, but afflict
the whole of humankind. Solutions to many of the world’s
material, economic, social, and even political problems depend
upon our ability to transform basic elements of raw materials
in order to increase food production, provide alternative
sources of energy and chemical feedstocks, deliver new drugs
for the alleviation of human disease, supply less costly and
corrosion-free substances for building and fabrication, and
innovate new materials for communications. These are the domain
of chemistry. Therefore, chemists have a special and vital
role to play. Stated simply, chemistry is a central discipline
that interacts with virtually every aspect of human endeavor.
Indeed, chemistry is the wellspring of life itself. Little
wonder then, that chemists should be called upon to address
the world’s most pressing needs.”
first chair of IUPAC’s CHEMRAWN Committee
the Effectiveness of CHEMRAWN
John M. Malin
28-year history of CHEMRAWN has produced 14 full-fledged CHEMRAWN
conferences. The meetings have varied in subject, location,
size, and budget, but they have all addressed a single goal—to
catalyze the use of chemistry and related sciences and engineering
to meet world needs. This article describes how the CHEMRAWN
process has fostered new ideas and supported solutions to
download full text <www.iupac.org/standing/chemrawn/history.html>
the introduction above and in the following paragraphs, Bryant
Rossiter, the first chair of IUPAC’s CHEMRAWN committee,
describes [extracted from an unpublished retrospective drafted
in 1994] the origins and goals of the CHEMRAWN conferences.
“In 1973, the IUPAC conference in Munich included
on its agenda a session on ‘opportunities for international
cooperation through IUPAC.’ The suggestion proposed
a new mechanism in IUPAC, a mechanism whereby member nations
could aid in identifying and solving important chemistry problems
that have a direct impact on world needs.
“The general idea was unanimously approved and the U.S.
delegation, which had begun the discussion, was asked to define
and elaborate on the proposal. The U.S. national committee,
of which I [Rossiter] was privileged to be a member, subsequently
drafted a statement under the heading ‘Chemical Research
Applied to World Needs.’ Like so many other long titles,
this one became known by its acronym: CHEMRAWN.
The CHEMRAWN statement, designed to reflect a set of purposes
around which various activities might be organized, proposes:
A. To identify human needs amenable to solution through chemistry,
with particular attention to those areas of global or multinational
B. To serve as an international body and forum for the gathering,
discussion, advancement, and dissemination of chemical knowledge
deemed useful for the improvement of humankind and our environment.
C. To serve as an international, nongovernmental source of
advice for the benefit of governments and international agencies
with respect to chemistry and its application to human needs.”
statement is still used today to describe the Terms of Reference
of the CHEMRAWN Committee. Rossiter explains that . . .
“To achieve these ends, it was proposed that CHEMRAWN
1. Provide scientific and organizational leadership for
the purpose of identifying chemically related needs, opportunities,
and priorities on an international and worldwide scale.
2. Organize, in cooperation with established scientific bodies
and international conferences, forums, workshops, symposia,
collaborative studies, etc., for the gathering, presentation,
discussion, evaluation, publication, and dissemination of
information relating to chemistry and the needs of humankind
in our environment.
3. Help provide an understanding of trends, consequences,
alternatives, and resources relating to raw materials and
supplies of chemical intermediates.
4. Act as a focal point, clearinghouse, and coordinating body
for individual conferences relating to chemical research and
5. As a part of the International Council for Science, serve
as an advisory body to the United Nations and its member nations
and agencies—with special attention to developing nations.
6. Develop the means to assist public understanding of chemistry
and its relationship to the world economy and the betterment
is important to realize that CHEMRAWN conferences are designed
to identify and focus attention on world needs and to recommend
actions that should be taken by the global scientific community.
Normally, a CHEMRAWN Future Actions Committee has been formed
at each conference to promulgate the conference’s recommendations
and to encourage appropriate sectors of the community to carry
them forward. However, it was never the intent of CHEMRAWN
to lock academia, industry, and government into any particular
structure to solve world problems, or to follow up to ensure
that they did.
A study of the recommendations developed by CHEMRAWN conferences
and their Future Actions Committees leads to the conclusion
that most are being carried out, or have been carried out
somewhere on the globe. Many CHEMRAWN recommendations have
informed the science policy of nations and the actions of
engineers and scientists. However, it is difficult to take
credit for specific CHEMRAWN contributions to society because
so many people and factors have been involved. One hopes and
expects that the world needs under discussion will always
be addressed by a plethora of individuals, organizations,
and governments. CHEMRAWN contributes especially by pointing
the way to solutions and by establishing consensus. That it
is rarely the only positive influence evidences the strength
and synergy of the process.
The value of CHEMRAWN conferences to societies and governments
can be judged on the type of leaders it has been able to attract
to its cause. World-class leaders are very busy, have reputations
to protect, careers to advance, and cannot afford to waste
time and effort on activities that do not pay high dividends
to themselves and the institutions they represent. Past conferences
have attracted national presidents, eight Nobel laureates,
presidents of major universities, and senior industrial scientists
and managers. In addition, CHEMRAWN events have raised significant
resources: some USD 3 000 000 in support costs and the collaboration
of hundreds of scientists.
Important CHEMRAWN results have often been imbedded in some
aspect of the bigger picture and were not widely recognized.
For example, Alan Bromley, science adviser to U.S. President
George H.W. Bush, informed Rossiter that the Perspectives
and Recommendations from CHEMRAWN VII—Chemistry
of the Atmosphere: Its Impact on Global Change, represented
a very important input to the U.S. government, resulting in
policy changes regarding global warming and atmospheric change.
This policy change was aided by the fact that Representative
Ron Packard, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Ways and Means Committee, ensured that every member of the
House and Senate received a copy of the CHEMRAWN VII Perspectives
order to understand fully the results of CHEMRAWN, it is necessary
to examine the conferences themselves, to remain mindful of
each event’s epoch and venue, and to consider the state
of the particular chemical discipline and its needs. Following
is a summary of the first CHEMRAWN conference. Summaries of
all the other CHEMRAWN
conferences can be found online
see conferences listing online @ www.iupac.org/standing/chemrawn/conferences.html
I: Future Sources of Organic Raw Materials
IUPAC’s first CHEMRAWN event was the “World Conference
on Future Sources of Organic Raw Materials” held 10–13
July 1978 in Toronto, Canada. The conference was the first
significant gathering of major international scientists and
decision-makers from industry, government, and academia to
address a major problem in a concerted way. It was held shortly
after the OPEC oil embargo during a frantic effort to find
a substitute for oil. Solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, coal,
and shale oil deposits were being highly touted, with an accompanying
cry for money to fund the research.
Approximately 800 scientists from 48 countries attended. The
organizing committee and attendees included not only internationally
recognized technical experts, but also board chairpersons,
presidents, vice presidents, and research directors from industry;
world banking leaders; advisers to top government officials;
and other high-ranking influential people. The purpose of
the conference was to seek solutions to the problem of increasing
world consumption of organic materials—petroleum and
biomass. Particular attention was given to the needs of developing
nations. Leaders from those nations were instrumental in many
stages of the conference planning and were prominently featured
in the plenary, technical, and summary sessions.
Max Tischler (USA) chaired the program committee. The opening
plenary session was organized under the chairmanship of Glenn
T. Seaborg of the University of California at Berkeley, recipient
of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1951. The final plenary
session was organized under the guidance of William O. Baker,
president of Bell Telephone Laboratories.
program also included eminent personalities, such as the chairman
of the Board of E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company; the
assistant director general of the United Nations Forestry
Department; a counselor to the prime minister of Egypt; the
chairman of the Board, Bayer A.G; the ambassador of Brazil
to the UK; the president of the University of Tokyo; a representative
of the French Scientific Mission from Washington, D.C.; the
chief scientist of the UK Department of Industry; and the
vice-president of Exxon Chemical.
The major conclusion of the conference was that there is no
substitute for oil and we should stop pretending that expending
massive amounts of money will solve immediate problems. In
the short term, the conference recommended, we should promote
conservation, exploit untapped oil and gas reserves, begin
research on alternative sources of organic raw materials,
and pay close attention to the economics necessary to make
the alternatives viable in a modern society. The conference
adopted the following recommendations:
1. An international group should be formed to assess the organic
supply problem in a continuing way.
2. An assembly of high-level government science advisers should
be formed. The group should consider the problem of organic
supply in terms of governmental actions, determine priorities
for budgeting research and development, and provide socio-technical
plans for inevitable changes in lifestyle.
3. Industrial research and development bodies must address
the problem. Industrial organizations should form a group
to monitor and assess technical progress.
4. The leading scientific societies should form a group to
ensure that the basic scientific issues are identified, publicized,
and presented at scientific gatherings.
5. A task force should be organized, including media experts,
to publicize the prospects and consequences of shortages of
members of the Organizing and Future Action Committees were
asked to disseminate the results among their respective institutions
and countries. As a direct result of CHEMRAWN I, Eastman Kodak
and several other companies started research programs in photovoltaics.
Bryant Rossiter, CHEMRAWN chair, was asked by Calvin Rampton,
the governor of Utah, to join a four-person multidisciplinary
panel to help the State of Utah develop its coal, oil shale,
and geothermal resources while avoiding the environmental
damages seen in other states. James F. Mathis, senior vice
president of Exxon, stated that Exxon revamped its approach
to alternative sources of energy as a result of CHEMRAWN I.
The Philippine government dropped a project promoting coconut
oil as a substitute for diesel fuel because it failed to meet
economic requirements, although it met technical requirements
superbly. Baker, chairman of the Future Actions Committee,
presented the results of CHEMRAWN I to the U.S. National Research
Council. William Schneider, organizing chairman, presented
the same to the National Research Council of Canada, of which
he was president. T. Mukaibo did this in Japan and the pattern
was followed by many other institutions and people throughout
There were many side benefits to CHEMRAWN I. The CHEMRAWN
concept was judged to be a viable forum for addressing world
needs. Thomas F. Malone, foreign secretary of the U.S. National
Academy of Sciences and treasurer of the International Council
of Scientific Unions, wrote to Colby Chandler, president of
Eastman Kodak, that “CHEMRAWN is part of one of the
more important processes of our generation—in addressing
directly human needs amenable to solution through chemistry.”
The ability of CHEMRAWN I to draw the very top leaders from
all segments of the industrial, academic, and governmental
enterprises captured worldwide attention, and in many ways
would redirect some of the major IUPAC programs as well as
other international programs. CHEMRAWN I demonstrated that
conferences devoted to world needs could be financial as well
as scientific and technological successes.
In light of more recent petroleum shortages, CHEMRAWN I was
prescient in detailing the importance of conservation of petroleum
resources, the need for utilization of biomass, and the dearth
of alternate energy sources. It was noted particularly that
the chemical industry is primarily petroleum based, and that
increases in energy prices lead directly to increasing costs
for chemical feedstocks.
early history of CHEMRAWN is described in History of IUPAC
1919–1987 (Fennell, 1994); and History of IUPAC
1988–1999 (Brown, 2001). Coverage of CHEMRAWN I
appeared in Chemical and Engineering News (Krieger
1978; pp 28–31, 24 July) and in a Perspectives and
Recommendations volume (St-Pierre, 1978; Multiscience
Publications Limited, Montreal ISBN 0-919868-06-01).
M. Malin <[email protected]>
is the chair of the CHEMRAWN Committee; he has been involved
with the committee since 1998.
errata published in
Nov 2007 CI
last modified 28 November 2007.
Copyright © 2003-2007 International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Questions regarding the website, please contact [email protected]