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  Latest News  
  May 25,  2005
 

C&EN TALKS WITH

  Simon Campbell
President of Royal Society of Chemistry is heading campaign for chemistry in the U.K.
 

BY MICHAEL FREEMANTLE
   
 
 
8322talks_Campbell.tifcxd
Campbell

RSC PHOTO

Simon Campbell is well-known as the chemist who initiated the research project that led to the discovery of Viagra--the first oral treatment for male erectile dysfunction. Over recent years, he also has become increasingly familiar to a wider audience, particularly in the U.K., as an enthusiastic advocate of chemistry and the prime mover of the Royal Society of Chemistry's (RSC's) Campaign for the Chemical Sciences.

Campbell joined Pfizer Central Research in Sandwich, England, as a medicinal chemist in 1972. He was a key member of the research teams that discovered the *-adrenergic blocker Cardura, which is used for treating high blood pressure and prostate problems, and the calcium channel blocker Norvasc, which is used to treat high blood pressure and angina.

"Both of these novel medicines became the leading agents worldwide in their therapeutic class," he says. "I'm pleased to be an inventor on the patents for Cardura and Norvasc and the senior author on the research proposal that led to Viagra."

Campbell retired from Pfizer in October 1998 as senior vice president for worldwide discovery and medicinals R&D in Europe. Since then, he has remained professionally active in numerous ways. He has, for example, served on various professional and research bodies and on the scientific advisory boards of companies in the U.K., the U.S., and Asia.

In July of last year, he became RSC president. In the same month, RSC formally launched its Campaign for the Chemical Sciences. The campaign aims to drive home the message that if the chemical sciences are not cherished and promoted in the U.K., Britain's future health and wealth will be severely eroded.

"Chemistry is going to be at the forefront in solving major economic, scientific, and human challenges this century," says Campbell, who is leading the campaign. "Tackling global warming, improving energy efficiency, and developing new materials and medicines will all depend on advances in the chemical sciences. Chemistry is the basis of clean water provision, stable food supplies, and the control of infectious diseases.

"At the professional level, I think the main challenge we have is communicating to the wider community the impact of chemistry on our everyday lives," he continues. "In the Western world, it's a common phenomenon that interest in science has waned and is even looked upon suspiciously in some quarters. So we want to help the public to understand scientific advances. We want to encourage school students to pursue careers in science, and we want to influence government and funding agencies so that chemical sciences are adequately supported."

The Campaign for the Chemical Sciences integrates various disparate RSC initiatives under a single umbrella, according to Campbell.

"We've moved into a campaigning mode, whereas before we were in a responsive mode," he says. "We now try to anticipate what's going to happen. We develop facts-driven cases so that we can move quickly when necessary. The society is now much better known by the government and the funding agencies. When we walk in and start talking, they know about the campaign. They've heard our message. But we have yet to see action."

Campbell cites an independent report, "The Economic Benefits of Higher Education Qualifications" (available online at www.rsc.org/pdf/policy/PWCreport05.pdf), as an example of RSC's proactive mode. The report, commissioned by RSC and the London-based Institute of Physics, was produced by the accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in January. It demonstrates that someone with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry or physics makes at least $350,000 more in earnings over the course of a career compared with someone without the degree. This figure is significantly higher than for people with a bachelor's degree in subjects such as English or history.

"WE KNOW that careers in chemistry and physics are personally rewarding because chemists and physicists make so many contributions to our everyday lives," Campbell says. "We now have independent evidence that the financial rewards of studying chemistry and physics are much more attractive to individuals and to the U.K. than for most other disciplines. Chemical sciences and physics also bring economic rewards to the country through the taxes graduates pay and by the vast contribution they make to the wealth of the nation through industry. The report is a vital tool in helping us to convince government of the value of these subjects and the need to safeguard the science base in the U.K."

Campbell explains that his role as RSC president is divided into three major components. "First, I act as an ambassador for science in general and chemistry in particular on the international stage, working in collaboration rather than in competition with other learned and professional societies so that we have common goals," he says. "For example, we have good relations with many chemical societies, including the American Chemical Society. "

The second component focuses more on the U.K. and Europe. "We seek to convince governments and funding agencies that chemistry is indispensable and must be properly funded," he says. Last December, Campbell led an RSC delegation that met with U.K. Science Minister Lord Sainsbury to raise the issue of chemistry department closures at universities. "Chemistry department cuts are largely cost-driven and represent a very serious threat to the British education and economy," Campbell points out.

The third component concerns the modernization of RSC. "We are in the process of changing our governance structure, which will reduce the size of our council from 55 to 18," Campbell says. "This change is the first step in transforming the society into a more efficient and effective organization that is relevant, receptive, and responsive to members' needs."

 
     
  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2005
 


 
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