Editorial

Editorial

[Judith Flippen-Anderson]I came away from the IUCr Congress in Florence with two lasting impressions: One – that Carlo Mealli, Paola Paoli and their respective committees did an incredible job in putting together a most memorable Congress and two – a deep disappointment with the way the Executive Committee (EC) organized the election process.

Let me give you a little background on the process. In the spring of 2004 the IUCr Executive Secretary, Mike Dacombe, sent notices to the National Committees of all countries adhering to the Union requesting nominations for the Executive Committee (EC) and for the various commissions. By the deadline two nominations had been received for both IUCr President and General Secretary/Treasurer; 16 names had been submitted as candidates for Ordinary Member positions and no nominations had been received for IUCr Vice-President. However, the slate of candidates presented to the delegates in Florence was surprisingly sparse in that it listed one candidate each for President, Vice-President and General Secretary and 6 candidates for the 3 Ordinary Member positions.

Since I have been old enough I have voted in every US election possible, and while I have often been less than pleased with the results I at least knew that the ballot would contain the names of all candidates that had qualified to be there. This is a fundamental part of the democratic process and, therefore, as a defender of choice in all areas I was extremely distressed with the slate as it was presented to us in Florence. I could not help but feel that the top three offices had been pre-selected and that the field for ordinary members had been pre-filtered by the EC.

My four companions on the US delegation shared this frustration as did a significant number of delegates from various other countries. As a result Maria Carrondo was re-nominated by petition. The petition carried the signatures of delegates from seven separate countries. We had expected that her name would simply be added to the ballot without bias, but instead there were expressions of strong disapproval by some members of the sitting EC both before and during the General Assembly meetings. It would be counter-productive to elaborate on this here and I would instead offer the following simple suggestions:

1. That, subject to current by-laws, all candidates who are nominated should be included on the ballot.

2. That the entire process should be carried out in the open – using the IUCr Newsletter to keep the community informed of progress.

3. That prior to the Congress an issue of the IUCr Newsletter should carry the following on each candidate: Background information (educational, relevant professional or organizational experience and research interests) and a personal statement describing why they think they should be elected and what they would hope to accomplish if elected.

I have high hopes that the newly elected members of the EC already share many of these views and that change will come from them. However, to ensure that change takes places I would further suggest that the National Committees give serious consideration to proposing changes to the IUCr by-laws governing election procedures.

Please understand that I hold the elected President,Yuji Ohashi, in the highest esteem and that my comments have been directed solely at the process and not at him personally. I also have only the greatest admiration for Maria Carrondo who was willing to be the flag bearer for those of us who attempted to change the status quo – to be willing to say that ‘because that’s the way it has always been done’ is simply not acceptable.

[National committee delegates]National Committee Delegates to the Congress
Unfortunately, many of us left Florence with the impression that there was also an undercurrent of gender bias in the elections. This is wrong-headed thinking that has no place within any scientific community, especially one that has benefited greatly from the contributions of women. Maria responded to the undercurrent most eloquently in the closing remarks of her statement presented at the general assembly – “I would like to think that all women crystallographers around the world (young and not so young) would regard a woman as President of IUCr as a stimulus and incentive for their careers, in the sense that they would feel encouraged in pursuing and achieving important goals, no matter how difficult, inaccessible or controversial they might seem.”

Change is healthy and should be a stimulus for the continued growth and evolution of the crystallographic community in which we are all equal partners.

Respectfully,
Judith L. Flippen-Anderson
flippen@rcsb.rutgers.edu