Letter from the President
[Marvin L. Hackert] Marvin L. Hackert

Best wishes to all for the New Year! We witnessed a lot of change around the world in 2016, but now look forward with excitement to 2017 and the opportunities that lie ahead. Already in January we have had some highs and lows. One high was the recognition and announcement that the eleventh Ewald Prize will be awarded to Sir Tom Blundell (Cambridge, UK) for his work as one of the worldwide leaders in crystallographic innovation, starting with the structure of insulin with Dorothy Hodgkin, championing methods enabling drug design, fragment screening, and computational modelling. I am happy to report that Tom will be in Hyderabad to accept the award and present his lecture on August 21. Another bright spot was that a beam circulated for the first time in the pioneering SESAME synchrotron on January 11, 2017. SESAME is the first light-source laboratory in the Middle East, established under the auspices of UNESCO before becoming a fully independent intergovernmental organization in 2004 (see article here).

In contrast to those highs, many of our community were subjected to a fairly sophisticated scam by someone targeting the general goodwill and trust of crystallographers and their willingness to help others in trouble. The culprit sent emails pretending to be me using a gmail account that looked similar to my utexas email account, naming prominent crystallographers who were supposedly stranded in an airport and needing help. The names, airport and currency requested changed as the scam worked its way around the world. Be assured that neither I nor any member of the EC will ask you for funds like that.

One of the most impactful issues facing the IUCr in 2017 will be to find a new Executive Secretary. The IUCr has been fortunate having Mike Dacombe manage the day-to-day operations for many years, but he has announced plans to retire after our XXIV IUCr Congress later this year. The IUCr office in Chester employs 25 staff, chiefly in its publishing operations. The successful candidate is expected to direct the financial and administrative affairs of the Union, which has 50 Adhering Bodies and 23 Commissions, as well as having responsibility for the staff. The Executive Secretary also works closely with our General Secretary (Luc Van Meervelt) and the Executive Committee.

Of course the most anticipated event of 2017 will be the XXIV IUCr Congress and General Assembly in Hyderabad from August 21-28 (see article here). Registration is now open and the abstract deadline is February 28. The International Programme Committee and the Commission representatives have put together an outstanding programme and Gautam Desiraju and his colleagues have worked on local arrangements, including an extensive web site for registration and useful information on visas etc. I have registered and encourage you to register early as well. In addition to looking forward to an excellent scientific programme, we will elect new members to the EC and all our Commissions. I have mentioned this frequently, but I cannot emphasize too much how important it is for the future health of our organization that we recognize the need for diverse representation in all phases of the IUCr - that starts with the nomination of delegates, and nominations for officers and Commission members to be voted on in Hyderabad. Last fall the IUCr emailed instructions to Chairs of all our Commissions requesting recommendations for the membership and Chair of each Commission and all National Committees for nominations to the EC.

At the present we have the following nominations for the EC:

  • President: S. Banerjee (India), W. Depmeier (Germany), A. M. Glazer (UK), S. Lidin (Sweden)
  • General Secretary and Treasurer: L. Van Meervelt (Belgium)
  • Vice-President: H. Dabkowska (Canada), M. R. N. Murthy (India)
  • Ordinary members of EC: D. G. Billing (South Africa), G. Diaz de Delgado (Venezuela), P. Grochulski (Canada), K. A. Kantardjieff (USA), P. Karthe (India), K. Lawniczak-Jablonska (Poland), J. L. Martin (Australia), S. Ravy (France), M. Takata (Japan), A. E. Voloshin (Russia), M. S. Weiss (Germany).

As a reminder, the election to the EC shall be arranged in such a way that there will not be more than two Officers from any one country and that amongst the six ordinary members there will be at least one Officer from a country of each of the three geographical regions (i) Europe and Africa, (ii) the Americas and (iii) Asia/Oceania. Of the current ordinary members on the EC, the terms of the two representatives from Asia/Oceania (Mitchell Guss, Australia, and Masaki Takata, Japan) and the lone representative from the Americas (Hanna Dabkowska, Canada) will expire. Masaki is eligible for re-election and Hanna has been nominated for Vice-President. As nominations currently stand, for ordinary members the Assembly will first be asked to elect one of the three nominees from Asia/Oceania and one of three nominees from the Americas before filling the remaining vacancies on the EC. We also have country applications from Albania/Kosovo, Tunisia, Singapore and Bangladesh to join our IUCr family. Additional nominations are still possible, but our goal is to post all the nominations in advance of the Congress so that the delegates know who the nominees are well in advance. We have therefore asked to have the full slate of recommendations to the Executive Secretary by May 1, 2017.

In Denver last summer the IUCr EC approved a modified version of the proposed voluntary IUCr Associates Programme. The intent is to have the Programme in place before the IUCr Congress in Hyderabad. The Chester office is working on ways to articulate the structure and benefits of the Programme. We also discussed ways that the Chester office can provide a broader range of services economically to assist our country members and Regional Associates. The IUCr already provides web services for some country and Regional Associate groups and recently signed an agreement with the ACA to archive searchable abstracts. Once the Associates Programme is fully implemented, the IUCr will have additional expertise and capabilities in house to offer additional services.

[LACA 2016 attendees] Second LACA conference in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, October 2016.

Last fall I had the privilege of attending the second meeting of LACA in Merida, Mexico, and the pleasure of being part of the opening welcome ceremony and also to speak about the IUCr and how the IUCr supports crystallography around the world. It was a great meeting with an impressive number of young scientists in attendance.

The only Regional Associate conference this year will be the ACA meeting in New Orleans, May 26-30 (see article here). 2016 Nobel Laureate, Sir James Fraser Stoddart, is scheduled to give a plenary lecture at the Opening Ceremony. The theme of this year's ACA Transactions Symposium is Cryo Electron Microscopy. Of the four workshops on May 26, 'Research Data Management' organized by John Helliwell, Brian McMahon and Tom Terwilliger is part of the IUCr's Diffraction Data Deposition Working Group efforts focused on the issues of raw diffraction data preservation. Information on the awards being presented at the meeting can be found here.

I mentioned last time that our umbrella organization ICSU (International Council for Science) has been in discussions with ISSC (International Social Science Council) about a possible merger of the two organizations. An extraordinary General Assembly of ISSC and ICSU was held in Oslo on October 24, 2016. The IUCr was fortunate that former General Secretary Sven Lidin agreed to be our IUCr delegate in Oslo. 76% of the ICSU members and 87% of the ISSC members voted in favor of a merger, in principle, of the two organizations. Many of the International Unions represented expressed concerns about handling dues, identifying official national representation, the fate of ICSU Commissions, and how to include medicine and engineering in the discussion of global concerns, etc.

Thank you for your continued support of our collective mission to support and advance crystallography around the world. Please do not hesitate to contact me or any member of the EC with your suggestions for how the IUCr can work more effectively to serve you.

Marvin L. Hackert (m.hackert@austin.utexas.edu)