Letter from the President
[Sine Larsen] Sine Larsen

It was my intention that this letter should be completely devoted to the International Year of Crystallography, but I have to start by expressing my great sympathy and support for our friends and colleagues all over the world whose personal and professional lives have been affected by natural catastrophes – most recently in Japan, where modern media and means of communication give a clear picture of the almost overwhelming difficulties that our Japanese colleagues are facing. Several of the large facilities in Japan have suffered from the devastating effects of the earthquake, which may take a long time to remedy. Therefore, I was very pleased to learn that facilities from other parts of the world have offered their help by hosting students, providing access to beamtime at other facilities and sending instrumentation that can help our Japanese colleagues to restore their science in the coming months.

Increased international collaboration and global awareness should be an important outcome of the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr). The idea of an IYCr originated in the centennials of the famous experiments carried out by Max von Laue and the Braggs (father and son) in the second half of 1912 and early 1913, which mark the start of modern crystallography. The IYCr will create the framework for the Laue–Bragg centennials, and it should also be used to increase the public awareness of and education in crystallography. Crystallography is intimately linked to the large research facilities. Virtually all the experiments that are carried out at synchrotrons have a scientific basis related to one of the Commissions of the IUCr. The IYCr could be used to strengthen the strong links between crystallography and the large facilities. The IYCr should create many activities worldwide on both the national and the international level that will require planning and preparation. It is my hope that the upcoming Congress in Madrid will be used to establish international contacts between different countries that can form the basis for sharing experiences on dissemination and education in crystallography and give enough time to plan the activities for 2013 and to obtain the support of the IYCr from important international organizations. It is to gain the appropriate time for the planning and to obtain the international support that the IUCr Executive Committee decided to make 2013 the IYCr. The IUCr has contacted all the International Scientific Unions that are members of the International Council for Science (ICSU) asking for their support for IYCr–2013. The many positive responses show that the IYCr will form an excellent basis for collaborations between the IUCr and other scientific unions. The next step is the most difficult, namely to obtain UNESCO support for the IYCr. Although the overall aims of the IYCr are in excellent agreement with the mission of UNESCO, it is not a simple matter to obtain UNESCO’s approval. It is a long and non-trivial process that requires support from as many member countries as possible and, most importantly, there needs to be a country that is willing to do the work and present the proposal for IYCr–2013 to UNESCO. Morocco is one of the African countries where crystallography has developed very rapidly in recent years, and I must admit that I was very happy when I learnt that the Moroccan crystallographers would work to present the case for the IYCr to UNESCO and even more delighted to learn that they have taken the first successful step to obtain UNESCO approval for IYCr–2013. The support from many other countries is essential for the next step, so it is my hope that many other countries will follow in the steps of Morocco.

Some crystallographers have asked me what we can expect to get out of the IYCr. It is my hope the IYCr will lead to the sharing of ideas and material for education in crystallography between different countries, which will help to promote crystallography to all levels of society, and create new international interactions. You may have many other good ideas – remember to bring these ideas to Madrid and share them with your colleagues!

Sine Larsen (sine@kemi.ku.dk and sine.larsen@maxlab.lu.se)