The IUCr’s good works aka why you should send your best articles to IUCr journals

Alex T. Ashcroft
[Alex Ashcroft]
IUCr Executive Secretary, Dr Alex Ashcroft (

By the time this issue of the Newsletter is published, it will be two years since I joined the IUCr. When I was preparing for my interview for the position of Executive Secretary, I read the Triennial Report from the Montreal Congress and was hugely impressed by the generosity of spirit of the IUCr members and the sense of a crystallographic community. Whether it was editors donating their hard-earned honoraria to the Education and Outreach Fund, Commission members giving their time to organise schools and workshops or the IUCr itself providing money it couldn’t afford to support scientific meetings, it was clear that this was an organisation and a community that really cared, and that believed in the value of what it was doing. After more than 20 years working for a large multi-national company, it was very refreshing and extremely motivating to read.

Two years on, those things still impress and motivate me, but I have been surprised that much of the IUCr’s light seems to be hidden under the proverbial bushel, particularly at a time when the IUCr is fighting to survive in a very difficult economic environment, so when Mike Glazer asked me to write something for the Newsletter, I was delighted to take this opportunity to let people know what we are doing, and why we would love you to think of the IUCr journals when you are deciding where to publish your best papers. In the last issue, Massimo Nespolo warned you about unscrupulous publishers; now I can tell you why the IUCr is different.

Those of you who have looked at the IUCr’s accounts at the ends of the Annual Reports in Acta Cryst. A will have noticed that the IUCr lost about USD 2 million between 2013 and 2016. A few more years like those, and the IUCr would have emulated John Cleese’s parrot and “ceased to be”. Even with the cost-cutting measures that the Finance Committee has implemented, we still only recorded a surplus of around USD 20,000 for 2018. Despite this, from the Executive Committee to the Finance Committee to the Sub-committee on the Union Calendar, the determination to continue to support young scientists, Education and Outreach and the Africa initiative is very apparent. Since 2014, the IUCr has spent over USD 1.6 million on these causes, and probably the most rewarding part of my job is to be able to distribute financial support to schools and workshops around the world. Apart from the IUCr’s accounts, the Annual Reports also list the meetings that the IUCr supported that year (usually in section 7), and you can also find them on the IUCr’s website here.

Apart from supporting the meetings themselves, we also offer IUCr books and open-access vouchers to IUCr Journals poster prize winners. Another uplifting part of my job is when I hear from an editor, author or Commission member that early in their crystallographic career they were the recipient of an IUCr award and that the service they are now providing to our community is to help to pass that opportunity on to another generation.

The IUCr accounts also show that almost all of the IUCr’s income comes from its journals. The hard work and dedication of the Editors, Co-editors and Chester staff are vital to this, but we don’t forget the important contributions of the reviewers and the authors. We know you have a choice of where to publish your papers, and we are grateful to those of you who choose to publish with us. We haven’t outsourced any of our publishing operation, so your papers receive the personal attention of one or more members of our Chester staff and if you haven’t published with us before, you might enjoy the experience of working with staff who care as much about your paper as you do. You can also take pride in the fact that your paper is helping to support our journals, and that the income from our journals is supporting our Outreach and Education efforts around the world.

An important part of the IUCr that I haven’t yet mentioned is the IUCr’s scientific Commissions and Committees. You can read about their hard work in the Annual Reports (usually in section 6). If we are going to survive, it’s important that our Commissions and our journals support each other, so the Executive Committee has encouraged each Commission to publish a review or lead article in an IUCr journal during the triennium, and the journal editors are keen to hear from the Commissions as to how they can better serve their needs.

Finally, if you would like to support the work of the IUCr, you could join our Associates Programme. Of the benefits we offer to Associates, the 50% discount for personal use copies of International Tables seems to be the most popular. I haven’t needed to use any of my Associate benefits, but every time I put on the lapel badge, I’m reminded of how I felt when I read the Montreal report, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have joined this great community.

4 June 2019

Copyright © - All Rights Reserved - International Union of Crystallography

The permanent URL for this article is