Letter from the President
[Sine Larsen] Sine Larsen

This issue of the IUCr Newsletter will reach you at a time when many of us are looking forward to meeting with our colleagues and friends at conferences and meetings all over the world. It is my impression that these activities represent one of the professional highlights of the year providing a much appreciated opportunity to meet other scientists who share our research interests as crystallographers.

What is a crystallographer? It is not so easy to explain this to a person not engaged in science. One answer could be that this is a person who is listed in the World Directory of Crystallographers (WDC). The WDC is a valuable resource that contains information on your colleagues and can help you to identify other scientists that share your interests. If you visit the IUCr website (www.iucr.org) you can still find the excellent description of the importance of the WDC written by Iris Torriani, who has been the General Editor since 2008. Together with the Chester staff Iris is working hard to make sure that all scientists who consider themselves a part of the crystallographic scientific community are listed in the WDC. It will be a great help to all crystallographers if you remember to amend your entry in the WDC for any change that occurs in your professional life. It is very easy to make the corrections, and the Chester staff can answer any question you may have. If you are not yet listed in the WDC, I encourage you to visit wdc.iucr.org/ to create your entry.

Being listed in the WDC cannot be considered as a fully satisfactory answer to the question, what is a crystallographer? One reason why this question is difficult to answer is the enriching aspect of crystallography - namely its scientific width. The diversity of crystallographic science is well illustrated by the names of the 18 IUCr non-publishing commissions, ranging from Aperiodic Crystals through Biological Macromolecules to Small-Angle Scattering and XAFS (dealing with studies of the fine structure of inner shell excitations). The IUCr Commissions have an important role stimulating international collaboration in crystallography and its relations to other sciences. The IUCr does not have a programme directed towards bringing knowledge about crystallography to the public. This is an aspect that is handled by National Committees for Crystallography in the member countries, as we saw last year with the successful exhibition Voyage dans le Cristal organized by the French Crystallographic Association.

The many Nobel Prizes where crystallographic methods have been instrumental for the scientific achievements that led to the Prize help to give a focus on crystallography. Celebrating the centennial for a discovery would be another good way to bring crystallography into focus. In the near future there will be the centennial for the diffraction of X-rays by crystals directed by Max von Laue as well as for the Braggs' (father and son) use of X-rays to determine crystal structure. I hope that you agree with me that these two major scientific breakthroughs, both of which were awarded the Nobel Prize, deserve to be celebrated.

Some of you may be aware that 2005 was the International Year of Physics, 2009 the International Year of Astronomy and 2011 will be the International Year of Chemistry. In this perspective the IUCr Executive Committee found that celebrating an International Year of Crystallography in 2013 would be an appropriate framework for the Laue and Bragg centennials.

Organizing an International Year of Crystallography (IYCr) in 2013 will require a great deal of work from crystallographers all over the world, the Regional Associates and the National Committees for Crystallography, but it should give so many benefits that it should be worth all the efforts. The IYCr could provide an excellent opportunity for the IUCr to provide information for dissemination to the general public, and it could also be used to bring crystallography to parts of the world where it is less established as a scientific discipline. It should be used to organize and bring together all the material on crystallography that many National Committees have created over the years, to form a basis to give a focus on crystallography by bringing it to the general public, and it should be used to create more interactions between the IUCr Commissions, to mention a few examples. The proposal to have 2013 as the IYCr was strongly supported at a recent meeting of the International Council for Science (ICSU). International Years have to be approved by the United Nations and this is what the EC will work on in the coming months.

Let me finish by wishing you all a good meeting season.

Sine Larsen (sine@kemi.ku.dk)