Letter from the President

Letter from the President

[Larsen] Sine Larsen
This letter is devoted to an important ingredient of scientific life, namely money. Most science requires financial support from external sources and many scientists spend a significant amount of their time writing grant applications in order to obtain the funding necessary for their research. The grants allow purchase of state-of-the-art equipment and payment of younger researchers, and provide the basis for many of the exciting scientific achievements that are presented at conferences and published in journals. There are variations in the way science is supported in different countries, and this is obviously reflected in the resulting possibilities for scientific research and achievements. It is one of the missions of the IUCr to stimulate the development of crystallography all over the world - in particular, in countries where there is limited funding.

The IUCr lends support to the development of crystallography in a variety of ways; visiting professorships that enable eminent scientists to participate in workshops and seminars held in developing countries, sponsorship of international meetings and grants that allow young scientists to attend international meetings. This support is a very important component of the activities of the IUCr and about $150,000 is given yearly in support of meetings and young scientists.

You may have wondered how the worldwide economic crisis has affected the economy of the IUCr, and if it would have an impact on IUCr's support for crystallography. The economy of the IUCr is monitored carefully by the Finance Committee (www.iucr.org/iucr/index.html/finance.htm) through e-mail exchange and at two annual meetings. At a recent meeting (March 23-24) we had access to the almost final accounts for 2008.

The IUCr has three main sources of income, membership subscriptions, publications and returns from investments built up by income from journals since 1982 (90% of the total comes from publications). Publication of crystallographic journals was the driving force in the creation of the IUCr more than 60 years ago, and it is also the publishing activity of the IUCr (the eight journals and International Tables) that has provided the financial basis for the support of young scientists and international crystallographic meetings. Scientific publishing has undergone significant changes requiring major investments in the last 10 years, and in this period it was valuable to have income from the investments.  The IUCr investments are held in the US ($) and the UK (£), and in 2008 their value declined significantly. However, as the IUCr accounts are given in Swiss francs (IUCr is domiciled in Switzerland) and the Swiss franc strengthened in 2008 relative to the $ and the £, this led to a further decrease of the value of the assets when expressed in Swiss francs. The good news from the 2008 accounts is that the publishing activity brought in sufficient money to enable the IUCr to operate with a small overall surplus so that there was no need to sell any assets to finance its activities. Some other good news is that ICSU (International Council for Science), of which IUCr is a member, has decided to base the dues from the scientific unions on the fees they receive from the members and not on the annual turnover (as originally proposed), which will almost halve the IUCr dues by 2012 to EUR 3500. If the turnover criterion had been employed, the dues of the IUCr would have increased by 500%. You can find details about the finances of the IUCr in the annual reports of the Executive Committee published as open access in Acta Crystallographica Section A; the report for 2007 was published recently [Acta Cryst. (2009) A65 52-75].

The Finance Committee concluded that it was important to continue the careful monitoring of the international financial situation and appreciated the small surplus provided by the publishing activity. This is therefore the time to express a great appreciation for all the people that contribute to the continued success of the IUCr publishing activity, namely the authors, editors and reviewers and, last but not least, the staff in Chester.

Sine Larsen (slarsen@esrf.eu)