The mission of the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is to advance the worldwide aspects of the chemical sciences and to contribute to the application of chemistry in the service of humankind.
To carry out its mission, in January 1998 the union adopted 10 long-range goals. These goals include facilitating effective channels of communication in the international chemistry community and broadening the union's geographical base to ensure that its human capital is drawn from all segments of the world chemistry community.
IUPAC affliate numbers have dropped since 1987
|NUMBER OF AFFILIATES
|Number of countries with affiliates
|SOURCES: Data for 1987: Chem. Int., 11, 10 (1989); data for 2001: IUPAC Secretariat
IUPAC has a viable mechanism, known as the affiliate membership program, for achieving these two goals. The program enables chemists around the world to keep in touch with IUPAC's activities and--in theory, at least--to support IUPAC in its mission.
The program was launched in 1986 with the aim of helping IUPAC to break away from its "old-boys' club" image, whereby only club members or those recommended by the club participate in the union's activities. The affiliate program allows chemists in IUPAC's member countries to become affiliated with the union through their national chemical societies for a fee. In the U.S., the program is operated by the American Chemical Society. ACS members can join simply by checking a box on their annual dues bill and adding $29 to their overall dues. Chemists in nonmember countries can affiliate themselves with IUPAC directly.
Affiliates receive the union's in-house magazine, Chemistry International, which is published six times a year. Affiliates are also entitled to a 25% reduction in the price of IUPAC books and a 10% reduction in registration fees for IUPAC-sponsored conferences.
Sadly, however, over the past 15 years IUPAC has largely failed to engage affiliates in its activities.
One of the aims of IUPAC's current changeover to a new project-driven system is to encourage wider involvement in the union's activities. In the new system, IUPAC's scientific projects are carried out by short-term task groups, whereas they had been traditionally carried out by permanent bodies known as commissions.
The affiliate membership program provides an ideal vehicle for recruiting fresh talent for IUPAC projects. Yet, curiously, minimal attention was paid to the program at the 41st IUPAC General Assembly in Brisbane, Australia (C&EN, Aug. 20, page 45). And there was little evidence of its existence at the IUPAC Congress that took place in Brisbane at the same time. Furthermore, the number of IUPAC affiliates has declined from a peak of over 7,800 in the late 1980s to fewer than 4,800 at present. It is not difficult to argue that IUPAC has neglected, if not turned its back on, one of its potentially most important constituencies: the international community of chemists affiliated with the union.
There are excuses for this neglect, of course. IUPAC has had a lot on its plate in recent years. Restructuring has consumed considerable time and energy in the union's top echelons. In addition, the union's secretariat office relocated from Oxford, England, to Research Triangle Park, N.C., in 1997, and new secretariat staff members were appointed. There has also been opposition within the union to individual paid membership. In 1995, for example, the IUPAC Bureau--the union's highest authority below the IUPAC Council--voted to terminate the program, mainly because of fears that the program would be a financial burden. The council overruled the bureau decision, and the fears have since proved unfounded, according to IUPAC Secretary General Edwin D. Becker.
In his report to the IUPAC Council in Brisbane, Becker recommended that, following implementation of the new project-driven system, IUPAC make an effort next year to revitalize and expand the affiliate membership program. One exciting initiative, he tells C&EN, provides an opportunity for chemists in developed countries to assist their colleagues in developing countries.
Starting next year, IUPAC will also be introducing a new look to Chemistry International with input from affiliates.
It's hoped that IUPAC will, in the long term, find ways of drawing substantially on its extensive affiliate membership base to help achieve its goals and carry out its mission. IUPAC needs the widest possible support and engagement of the global community of chemists to achieve its aims, in the same way that chemists need the support of their international union to develop and maintain the standards, values, and ethics of chemistry and to promote the public's appreciation of the science.
Further information about IUPAC and its affiliate membership program is available on the IUPAC website: http://www.iupac.org.
London-based C&EN Senior Editor Michael Freemantle was affiliate membership secretary at the IUPAC Secretariat in Oxford, England, from 198594.
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