President's Letter

Santiago García-Granda
The IUCr Executive Committee 2023–2026. Front row (l-r): Hanna Dabkowska, Santiago García-Granda, Graciela Díaz de Delgado. Back row (l-r): Susan Bourne, Maria Cristina Nonato, Atsushi Nakagawa, Angela Altomare, Thomas Proffen, Trevor Forsyth. Manfred Weiss was not present when the photo was taken.

The 75th anniversary of the IUCr marks a turning point in our organisation, where we still have a close memory of our origins and the people who have built the International Union of Crystallography, from both our personal experience and the references of many colleagues. This August, we had our 26th General Assembly and the triennial Congress of our Union in Melbourne, where we enjoyed our history as told by some of its protagonists. Many of our referents are no longer with us; very recently two of our former presidents passed away, Professor André Authier earlier this year and even more recently Professor Henk Schenk. Many other crystallographers of our community left us in these 75 years of history, and all of them deserve our recognition and our loving memory.

Although we stand on the shoulders of giants, we are facing a very different world from that encountered by our first General Assembly (GA) in 1948. That is why it is so important that we invigorate and adapt our organisation to face the future with confidence and renewed enthusiasm. The process that began in Melbourne to define our Purpose, Vision and Values in an open and participatory way is essential; we must find the keys that will allow us to face, with the new generations, women and men, the new challenges to continue developing and leading structural science in a very different world. The results of the consultation and discussion will help the new Executive Committee (EC) make the right decisions to ensure the scientific and social leadership of crystallography and structural science for the remainder of the 21st century.

The IUCr must keep going on and reinforce the initiatives started almost 10 years ago, on the occasion of IYCr2014, focusing on the following elements:

  1. Education, to provide new generations of crystallographers and structural scientists;
  2. Research, by fostering scientific collaboration and leadership in structural science through the Commissions and our journals and books;
  3. New generations, creating a young division to attract the early-career scientist to have a strong voice in and from the IUCr;
  4. Society, by reinforcing the impact of crystallography on society so as to obtain the support of stakeholders and put crystallography and structural science on the agenda of the decision-makers;
  5. Organisation, favouring the links between the Regional Associates, boosting their influence within the IUCr, and reinforcing our team in the Chester Office;
  6. Promotion, keeping the momentum and favouring gender equality at all levels and activities;
  7. Attraction, extending the family with child-friendly crystallographic conferences.

After IYCr2014, the IUCr has been more active in demonstrating, fostering and coordinating the impact of crystallography and structural science on humanity, thus providing networking between scientists worldwide and having an active role in the International Science Council. The experience with the successful hybrid 25th IUCr Congress in Prague offers new opportunities to adapt the IUCr to new environments.

Our organisation has grown in its geographical presence with the latest addition of AfCA, the African Crystallographic Association, at the Melbourne GA, completing the five Regional Associates that make up the IUCr. These regional branches of the Union will contribute to bringing science to new emerging countries where structural science is less developed and will allow for a more diverse voice to be heard from crystallographers all over the world, without exception. The collaborative projects being developed with governments, companies and non-governmental organisations will give an extraordinary boost to the development of science in all regions of the world. The Light Sources for Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East Project (LAAAMP) is one of them.

[Fig. 1]
AfCA President Professor Delia Haynes charts the development of the Association at the IUCr 75th Anniversary session at IUCr2023. (Online platform build and capture: ICMS Australasia.)

This Newsletter is a great tool to bring our community together, being a meeting point for philosophical discussions, not only on scientific issues but also on issues that affect our societies and the planet, contributing effectively to the discovery of our disciplines by the global society and giving us the possibility to disseminate our activities worldwide. Many thanks to the Editor, Mike Glazer, and all contributors.

We must be able to maintain the bonds of scientific collaboration above conflicts and align ourselves with the progress of global society in terms of peace, justice and equity, diversity and sustainability. We have to ensure that future generations have the resources and conditions to sustain life on the planet, and this is not only to maintain the human species but also to maintain the planet's biodiversity and the wildlife.

It was very good to be back in Australia 36 years after the well-remembered 14th IUCr Congress in Perth in 1987. The scientific programme was excellent; the setting, the facilities, the organisation and the human atmosphere were perfect, managing to regain a sense of normality after our extraordinary experience in Prague. The participation of young scientists with excellent lectures put us in the best possible scenario for the future. The lecture of our Ewald laureate, Professor Wayne Hendrickson, led us through many years of the development of anomalous dispersion and its extraordinary influence on the development of macromolecular crystallography. The consolidation of new methodologies such as AlphaFold has revolutionised our approach, and the emerging development of artificial intelligence opens new and unimaginable future challenges for structural science. All of this was complemented by an ambitious programme for the social integration of our discoveries and the attraction of scientific vocations from the earliest ages, which will help ease the imbalances in science and technology. Many thanks to SCANZ (Society of Crystallographers of Australia and New Zealand) and to its President, Professor Charlie Bond, for inviting us to Melbourne. Thank you very much indeed to the organisers of the 26th Congress and General Assembly, to Professors Michael Parker, Brendan Kennedy and Megan Maher, and also many thanks to all the Melbourne team. You made us feel at home. Thanks to the sponsors and to the participants, and thanks to all of you who made this Congress and the IUCr possible.

[Fig. 2]
Dr Hanna Dabkowska (left) presents Professor Wayne Hendrickson with the 13th Ewald Prize during the IUCr2023 Opening Ceremony. (Photo credit: 26th IUCr Congress, SDP Media.)

I am very happy that my election as the 27th President of the IUCr was in Melbourne, in Australia, and at the heart of this magnificent conference and superb scientific framework, especially because of the contributions from young crystallographers. After this conference, we will start a new term after celebrating our first 75 years of history together. Some of the colleagues I met in 2014 in Montreal when I joined the EC, and later, are leaving the EC after Melbourne or have done so already; many thanks to all of them. In particular, thanks to the members who left immediately after the last GA: Sven Lidin, Jennifer Martin, Masaki Takata and Bo Iversen. Many thanks to past Presidents Marvin Hackert and Hanna Dabkowska, who will continue as Immediate Past President of the new EC, as well as to Graciela Díaz de Delgado, our new Vice-President, and I welcome the four new committee members: Trevor Forsyth, Atsushi Nakagawa, Susan Bourne and Maria Cristina Nonato. I would like to finally mention our wise convener, Professor Malcolm Cooper, and the members of the Finance Committee.

Last but not least, thanks must go to our IUCr team in Chester, who always work hard, especially in a Congress year, and to all our sponsors, who give the necessary support to make our meetings and many of our projects feasible.  

We have initiated a process to redefine our Purpose, Vision and Values. Let's do it in the next triennium. The new EC is ready to face the challenges of the Union until our meeting at the Calgary Congress in 2026. 

We all must support our team in Chester; we must be aware of their needs and ensure a suitable working environment and exciting projects that will enable their professional development and make the office attractive to new recruits, thus allowing for an orderly generational handover. The change of domicile from Switzerland to the UK, which is currently under investigation, would, if possible, improve the efficiency of our administrative processes considerably, with the consequent improvement of our activity in Chester.

One of our tasks will be to create a Young Division of Crystallographers and Structural Scientists as the generational renovation is of great importance for the Union, and their input vital.

[Fig. 3]
Young crystallographers discuss their research during the IUCr2023 poster sessions. (Photo credit: 26th IUCr Congress, SDP Media.)

A critical aim will be to improve our finances and revitalise our journals; this is one of our major issues. Everybody, the Chester production and marketing team, together with the Editor-in-Chief of IUCr journals and his team, should work towards making our journals more competitive. But not only them; our scientific Commissions must also play a key role in the development of our editorial work and so must our regional and national committees and each crystallographer by publishing his/her results in an IUCr journal.

The IUCr is in continuous evolution, and in this triennium, with the help of the new EC and the Chester Office, and with your support, our task is to maintain, revitalise and renew our activities, redefining our Purpose, Vision and Values, as well as to maintain the highest scientific and social impact with IUCr Congresses in Calgary in 2026 and Berlin in 2029, as was accomplished in Melbourne. 

We will work to maintain our excellent partnership with our associated companies in order to achieve the best possible integration of projects of mutual interest, generating constant interactions to establish a fluid relationship of trust necessary to tackle new initiatives.

We stand at the service of all IUCr members and humbly ask for your full commitment with your Union.

All of us are necessary to keep the IUCr strong, particularly the Regional Associates, the IUCr Commissions and Committees, editors, co-editors, referees and authors of our journals, and all individual crystallographers, women and men, collaborating in the best scientific and human environment. It's important for us that you feel comfortable in our Union and be proud to belong to the IUCr.

Many thanks to all for keeping the IUCr at the forefront of structural science.

5 October 2023

Copyright © - All Rights Reserved - International Union of Crystallography

The permanent URL for this article is