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Slow recovery but still recovery

Hanna Dąbkowska
[Hanna in Chester]
On a visit to the IUCr offices in Chester, UK, in May 2022.

I do not think that all our worries and problems are over but many things are moving in the right direction for the IUCr community. COVID-19 is not over yet – it probably never will be – but we are less terrified of it, and some of us are heading for in-person meetings. We have learned how to handle Zoom and hybrid meetings – we will probably have to live with them forever. The IUCr Regional Associates are all planning in-person meetings – all following local health rules and common sense. This summer I hope to meet some of you at ACA2022 in Portland, OR, USA, or at ECM33 in Versailles, France. Masks are still very much recommended even though many colleagues are double- and triple-vaccinated and some have already recovered from COVID-19.

CEO not ExecSec

In May 2022, I visited the Chester offices in person to help to appoint our new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). As many of you know, Dr Alex Ashcroft, who has served in the role of IUCr Executive Secretary (ExecSec) since the Hyderabad Congress, has decided to retire in August 2022. Alex has done an excellent job for the IUCr community and for the Chester Office. I respect his decision to leave and I wish him a happy and healthy retirement.

Now it is my great pleasure and honour to confirm that Dr Alex Stanley has accepted the position of the IUCr ExecSec/CEO, as offered to her by the General Secretary and Treasurer, Professor Bo Brummerstedt Iversen. She is assuming the role of CEO with slightly different duties than those of the ExecSec and she is starting on 18 July 2022.

Alex Stanley holds a PhD in Chemistry and Crystallography from Professor Orpen's Group at the University of Bristol, UK, and she may be known to some of you as, over the years, she has been an active member of the British Crystallographic Association (BCA). She has attended General Assemblies during many IUCr Congresses and now she is coming to the IUCr from her successful career at Rigaku.

Her skill base is broad as she has experience in managing people, projects and budgets, in product marketing, building a brand identity, and in governance at committee and corporate levels. She has a good understanding of many scientific fields related to structural science.

We are very pleased to have Alex join our ranks for the years to come. In the first month, Dr Ashcroft will be helping Dr Stanley to understand the nuances of the ExecSec position. Many of us will have a chance to welcome Alex Stanley and to say goodbye to Alex Ashcroft in person as they both will be present at the IUCr Executive and Finance Committee meetings in Versailles in August. I would like all of you to join me in welcoming Dr Stanley to her new position.

[Fig. 1]
Retiring Executive Secretary, Alex Ashcroft (left), and incoming CEO, Alex Stanley.

At the Chester Office, arrangements are now in place for hybrid working. Some of the staff are now working full time from Abbey Square and others continue to work from home.

Science in Exile

Tension around the world and especially the destruction happening in Ukraine have a lasting effect on many of our colleagues and friends. The political situation in Europe is not improving. Organizations like Science in Exile make a big effort to help displaced scientists from disadvantaged countries, but much more funding is needed to even temporarily resolve this problem. Science in Exile is an initiative led by The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (UNESCO-TWAS), the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the International Science Council (ISC). The IUCr applauds many colleagues from different countries and institutions who provide temporary workplace and support to displaced scientists.

Melbourne Congress 22–29 August 2023

In preparation for the 26th IUCr Congress in Melbourne, the International Program Committee (IPC) meeting took place in two locations: Melbourne and Prague. This innovative but very challenging approach resulted in interesting proposals for the program where there is something appealing for everybody in the area of structural science. The members of the IPC are listed on the Congress website here, where the program will appear as soon as the invited speakers accept. We can expect a very exciting Congress with excellent science in Melbourne in 2023, which happily marks the 75th anniversary of the first IUCr General Assembly and the launch of Acta Crystallographica. Expect some celebratory events!

The IPC met online and in person in Melbourne (left) and Prague in April 2022.

Please make plans to attend the Congress in person. We hear that Melbourne is such a beautiful, inviting place. Obviously our plans have to be flexible as many decisions are being taken above our heads. Pandemics happen, countries close their borders, airlines cancel pre-booked flights, unwelcome wars derail our plans, universities and employers dramatically cut travel funding, forcing us to make tough and unpopular decisions. But with some effort we can plan to appear at the IUCr Congress – either in person or on screen – and to publish our newest, most interesting results in IUCr Journals. This will help our community to thrive and allows us all (chemists, physicists, biologists, engineers etc.) to be part of the large and important network of structural scientists.

IUCr Journals

Recently, I took part in a virtual Journal Management Board (JMB) meeting. Thanks to very effective work by the whole team, the journals are flourishing despite the pandemic, which is reflected in the increases in their impact factors. The JMB meeting also reported on the development of the IUCr's data-sharing policy, which requires the crystal structure data supporting the results in an article to be peer reviewed and archived either with the IUCr or in an appropriate public repository. More information can be found here.

Crystallography in Africa

The OpenLab in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, using remote diffraction facilities, co-organized by Professor Claude Lecomte, was a real success. Thanks to efforts like this, even more African crystallographers will be trained soon.

Further outreach

This month sees the launch of two global initiatives of great interest to our community: the UNESCO-approved International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development 2022 (IYBSSD2022) and, under the IYBSSD's patronage, Mineralogy 2022. The IUCr is proud to be one of the Founding Unions, and the IUCr Executive Outreach Officer, Professor Michele Zema, is on the Steering Committee. Read more here.

IUCr Prizes

At this time, one year before the Congress, I encourage everybody to nominate colleagues and peers for IUCr Prizes. It is the most important recognition of personal scientific achievements and now we have tools to handle this recognition at different academic levels. These prizes signal to the world the importance of the work being done by the crystallographic community.

Ewald Prize

The thirteenth Ewald Prize for outstanding contributions to the science of crystallography will be presented at the Melbourne Congress. Nomination forms and more information is available here.

W. H. & W. L. Bragg Prize

The second W. H. & W. L. Bragg Prize, to be awarded to up to two promising early-career crystallographers, will also be presented in Melbourne. Nomination forms and more information can be found here.

Struchkov Prize

The Struchkov Prize will be awarded for the first time to the IUCr community at the Melbourne Congress. A call for nominations for this Prize, which is aimed at young researchers working in the field of small-molecule crystallography, is also open; more information can be found here.

My congratulations to the 2022 Guinier Prize winner, Professor Jill Trewhella (University of Sydney, Australia), in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the field of small-angle scattering (SAS).


One thing I learned recently is the value of being not only respectful of other people's decisions but also grateful. I am very grateful to Professor Mike Glazer and the IUCr Newsletter team for being very open-minded and for encouraging discussions. As long as we all agree to disagree we are safe. The discussions can be and are tough but at least they do not lead to destruction and open conflicts.

I wish you all a safe and relaxed summer. We all need a bit of a break from everyday routine and a slowing down of our busy lives. Please stay safe.

9 July 2022

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