Regional news

European Crystallographic Association

[ECA logo]As current President I have this wonderful feeling of making a British contribution to the European, including African, organisation of our crystallographic science. Furthermore ECA, to be very practical about it, is one of the three regional associates of the IUCr and as such we have reserved some space in the IUCr Newsletter, a most significant point regarding an important channel of communication to our members and the whole world of crystallographers.

My duties thus far have been multi-faceted, and I give you here an overview spanning short, medium and long term matters. Most immediate is to help support our colleagues in Morocco led by Prof Abdelmalek Thalal with their hosting of the ECM24. I visited the Congress Centre in Marrakech in November for helping to finalize the Program and the chance to offer comments on the local facilities. At the ECA website (www.ecanews.org/) I share with you some photos of my visit, including a real collector’s item of me in a blue turban! (www.ecanews.org/exc_news.htm). The Marrakech Congress Centre is superb and the attached Hotel also marvellous. I had an afternoon free to visit Marrakech and see some of the sights. From the very positive impression I had of my whole visit one outcome is that my wife and I are now booked on a 2 weeks holiday in several places in Morocco following ECM24! Most importantly the ECM24 scientific programme is advancing very well; for example the number of Microsymposia has been expanded to cope with the diversity of demand and the range of our field. The Chairs of the ECA SIGs especially have done a great job in community consultation and speakers’ selection. Further talks will be selected from the submitted abstracts for each Microsymposium.

At the recent ECA Executive Committee meeting held in Manchester we also discussed the planning of ECM25 to be held in Istanbul in August 2009; and yes it is the 25th ECM, clearly a cause for a special celebration. The ECA Executive also reviewed in detail the ECA SIG structure; my Committee colleague Prof Garcia-Granda will expand on this below. Another item of business included the establishment of a ‘risks management folder’ for the ECA. Also we initiated the setting up of an ECA archive, to be based at IUCr in Chester, as an essential start towards a writing of the History of the ECA; Past-President Hartmut Fuess, with his long standing and strong involvements with the ECA will be our Archivist. This also is our first step towards establishing a base for an ECA office; in the long term we would like to have our own employees, like the ACA for example have at Buffalo.

Taking ECA forwards also means making stronger efforts in offering our members more diverse benefits. Firstly, the ease of joining; we now have a credit card possibility to join as an Individual Member (IM). Besides the IM category there are the national association derived members and the industrial ie corporate members. In terms of benefits to members much of course revolves around the ECM. At ECM24 we will have a training workshop, before the main conference on “Computational methods and use of synchrotron facilities for crystallography”, where this is an example of a training opportunity for ‘Continued Professional Development’. There are two other ECM24 Satellites that I must mention: “Science meets industry” and “The enchanting crystallography of Moroccan ornaments”. Most recently, in terms of ECA Individual Members benefits, we are pleased to now be able to announce, here, that we have entered into an agreement with the publisher Taylor and Francis for a reduced personal subscription to Crystallography Reviews; the practical details will be announced at the ECA website.

John R Helliwell, President of the ECA 

Since the ECA was created from the European Crystallographic Committee (ECC), around 1997, the Special Interest Groups have been key for the development of ECA. The statutes define the SIGs in Statute 12 as “Special Interest Groups in any area of crystallography may be proposed by four (4) or more Councillors or twenty (20) or more Affiliate or Individual Members. The establishment of any Special Interest Group requires the approval of the Council. Rules about the establishment, dissolution and procedures of Special Interest Groups shall be specified in the By-Laws.”

The current structure of the SIGs within the ECA includes thirteen SIGs covering most aspects of Crystallography, each is devoted to a particular yet wide crystallographic topic: SIG 1 is Macromolecular Crystallography, SIG 2 is for Charge, Spin & Momentum Density, SIG 3 deals with Aperiodic Crystals, SIG4 is oriented to Electron Crystallography, SIG 5 covers Mineralogical Crystallography, SIG 6 deals with Instrumentation and Experimental Techniques, SIG 7 gathers the Molecular Interaction and Recognition community, SIG 8 groups the Powder Diffraction (EPDIC) community, SIG 9 promotes Crystallographic Computing, SIG 10 is interested in Diffraction Physics and Optics, SIG 11 is dedicated to Crystallography under Extreme Conditions, SIG 12 covers Materials Science and SIG 13 promotes activities within the Molecular Structure and Chemical Properties field.

In the 10 years of the ECA, the role of the SIGs was generally recognized as the driving force of the ECA. In order to maintain the leading role of the SIGs in the ECA’s development, especial attention is to be paid to all developments related to their activities. Whilst allowing for the internal activities and self organization of each particular SIG to have a ‘personality’ this should be combined with a more formal common organization. Basically, considering the number of existing SIGs, it is essential to follow some common guidelines in the number and type of SIG Officers and the minimum information to be shown for every SIG on the ECA website. One point of discussion is the adoption of a common reporting style. The SIG Officers’ structure should comprise:- Chair, Vice-Chair (Co-Chair) and Secretary. Exceptionally there may be, for instance, two Co-chairs for the most populated SIGs. Each SIG manages its membership, maintaining a website and link to the ECA website. The ECA maintains obviously a distribution list, including all the SIG officers and the SIG’s Executive Committee Members, in order to facilitate a quick communication among all. The SIGs’ memberships, although not yet known as precisely as we would like, can be measured via the number of abstracts around the ECM Microsymposia.

The activity, based on the five last years activity reports, of the existing SIGs and their impact on the ECA activities has been analysed producing some interesting conclusions:-:

Most SIGs develop their activities in the ECM (IUCr in some cases) meetings, including Satellite Symposia and Workshops. In addition other activities were reported by some SIGs, such as involvement in schools and teaching activities, which are likely, hopefully, to be important in their impact in the longer term in sustaining the health and growth of our field. In general the compiled Activity Reports follow quite different styles, and are a mixture of projects and reports. The suggestions for the future are to standardize the annual Activity Reports, promote more joint activities between the SIGs and give an increased priority to support the activities promoted by more than one SIG and/or a number of IMs. Other possible improvements will be to support the web hosting costs of each SIG by the ECA. An especially interesting idea is that there should be one hour reserved for SIG meetings during ECMs when no other simultaneous meeting would be held. One member of the Executive Committee will be appointed to coordinate and supervise the SIG´s activities and particularly their ECMs’ activities. In particular the ECA will try to further the aims of achieving adequate Geographical, Nationality and Gender distributions. Anther important issue to develop concerns the possibility of ECM ‘focus areas’, harnessed in the Durban ECM meeting, to increase the level of overlap and harmonisation among the SIGs. This possibility is to be put into discussion with the SIG leaders, ahead of the ECM25 Program Committee meeting.

With the aim of clarifying the SIGs’ membership, and to persuade and promote Individual Membership in ECA, the following guidelines have been agreed by the ECA Executive Committee to be recommended to the ECA Council in August 2007 at the ECM24 in Marrakech:

- Becoming a SIG officer - Chair, Co-Chair or Secretary - is restricted to Individual Members (IM), with the caveat that the Individual Membership is not a priori required for a person to be a candidate but must be effective after election.

- National Associate Members (NAM) may be ‘registered’ SIG members. Some SIG’s, however, may require that you are an Individual Member for being listed as a ‘Founding Member’ (thus showing the interest towards European cooperation in crystallography)

- Colleagues from non-ECA countries may be IM’s and therefore SIG members and SIG officers.

- Colleagues from non-ECA countries who are neither IM´s nor NAM´s of course are very welcome as ‘Guest Members’ of a SIG General Meeting, but the ECA Executive Committee would hope they would join the ECA as IMs as soon as possible. This would thereby encourage a global participation to the ECA.

Santiago Garcia-Granda, ECA Executive Committee Member, responsible for coordinating the ECA SIGs