Letter from the President

Crystallography and its support

[E. N. Baker]Having spent much of the past few weeks writing a grant application, the question of funding for science has been very much on my mind. Most of us depend to some degree on being able to convince funding agencies that what we do is worthwhile, but we are still subject to the vagaries of political change. In many countries, support for science, especially at the more fundamental end of the spectrum, is under severe threat. For this reason we celebrate enlightenment when we see it. The proposed major boost for basic science in the United States seems, at least to this observer, to be a very welcome sign. Let us hope it spreads! Of course, crystallography has much to offer. It is equally at the centre of the current biological revolution and of developments in new materials. Over the coming months, the meetings of the regional associates of the IUCr will give a chance to celebrate these successes; the American Crystallographic Association in Washington, the European Crystallographic Association in Prague, and the Asian Crystallographic Association in Kuala Lumpur. These are occasions to meet together face-to-face (instead of over the internet!), to free the mind, to enjoy the science and to return home stimulated. But we should also remember to tell other people what we do. Both the IUCr, and meeting organisers, should strive to find new ways of involving the public and their representatives (politicians) in our programs, so that they can share in some of the excitement we feel. The meetings of the Regional Associates of the IUCr are a very important part of the crystallographic calendar. For reasons of geography, not everyone can easily participate, however, and I would like to increase the help we give to regions such as Africa and Latin America. The greatest challenge, perhaps, is in Asia, where the Asian Crystallographic Association has its third meeting in October. The countries of AsCA cover a huge geographical range, including many countries where crystallography is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, there is great cause for optimism here, too. Despite the current economic downturn, macromolecular crystallography is developing rapidly in Korea, and is beginning in Singapore, and new synchrotron sources are reportedly coming in several countries. When added to the traditional strength of Japan, India, China and Australia, these developments promise a vibrant future in the region. I hope that this meeting, in particular, will bring record numbers of participants.

Edward N. Baker