Letter from the President
[Desiraju] Gautam R. Desiraju

To celebrate the International Year of Crystallography 2014, the IUCr and UNESCO will create a travelling crystallographic laboratory. In many countries there is a small but active crystallographic community, while in others crystallography is all but unknown. The travelling laboratory will have a diffractometer (single crystal or powder) that will be placed in a hub country in the region. It will be brought to nearby countries together with teachers and technical personnel. At each stop, 20 to 50 students will receive hands-on training. The purpose of the travelling laboratory is to increase the technological base in the hub country, spark greater interest in the threshold countries, and begin crystallographic activity in some less privileged countries. Four travelling laboratories are proposed for South America, South East Asia, West Asia and North Africa.

IUCr is the lead agency for the International Year of Crystallography 2014 (IYCr). The co-custodian of IYCr is UNESCO, which will act through its International Basic Services Programme. The formal opening ceremony for IYCr will be held in UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, on January 20, 2014. The closing ceremony will be held in Marrakesh, in mid-December 2014. The goals of IYCr are to disseminate 'the fundamental role of crystallography for the development of chemistry, mineralogy, physics, biology, medicine, materials science and geosciences', to emphasize the 'universality of science' and the 'pervasive presence of crystallography in everyday life', and to educate 'students of all ages'. The challenge for all of us is to render these lofty goals into a practically executable form. The progress of science is intimately linked to historical, social and cultural realities and these vary widely from country to country. Economic health can only be sustained by continuing technological advances. The spectre of wealth without education is to be avoided as it will cause other instabilities. In the developed world, we need to bring more young people into the scientific mainstream. In vast developing and emerging areas, some of which are economically vibrant, we must satisfy a hunger for education. Worldwide, we need further to encourage the participation of women scientists and those from countries that have been traditionally excluded from the scientific mainstream. There is an overall need to synergise science with social realities. We must think beyond borders and other distinctions.

Scientifically speaking, what should one expect from the second century of modern crystallography? Crystallography, like many other scientific disciplines, has developed through conceptual and instrumental advances. New ideas drive research projects but these projects cannot be realized without the requisite instrumentation. We have witnessed 100 years of crystal structure determination from three-dimensional diffraction patterns. Structures as complex as the ribosome have yielded their secrets. Can we expect a future where crystallography continues to be driven by analysis of relatively 'well behaved' diffraction patterns of relatively massive three-dimensional single crystals? The challenges and frontiers of crystallography may well lie in free-electron lasers, electron diffraction, amorphous and less ordered solids, one- and two-dimensional crystals, single-molecule diffraction and, in the computational arena, in the ab initio prediction of crystal structures of large and flexible molecules, the analysis of huge amounts of raw data and massive amounts of data corresponding to crystal structure determinations of big, complex systems that define a structural landscape of crystallization events rather than a single crystal structure. We look forward to working with you to make the commemoration of IYCr2014 a memorable event.

Gautam R. Desiraju (desiraju@sscu.iisc.ernet.in)