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Letter from the President

[Henk Schenk]First of all I wish you a happy and prosperous 2001. According to some this is the real first year of the century, as important as 2000 itself. On the other hand, through our involvement with computers we start counting at 0 so for us 2001 may not be special at all. However, for the IUCr it will be special as we will have the first back issues electronically available for subscribers to our journals. The number of these will then quickly increase until all are available, unleashing the real power of Crystallography Journals Online. Also it is the year that we prepare for the General Assembly in 2002 and we hope all of you will participate in this process by coming up with initiatives, suggestions and nominations. Just a comment as so many of you have approached us: the Executive Committee is aware of the concerns about the site of the Congress and General Assembly and is working on it.

Whereas at the start of the last century science was a minor subject in society, now it has a much different stature. For instance, in 1900 diffraction was still to be discovered and now the number of X-ray diffractometers is numerous. Nevertheless, as far as I can see, the position of science is no longer changing positively. Money, as we all know, is necessary for mankind to use imagination and skills to make new discoveries, develop new products etc. But lately it looks like money is being used less for this purpose and is more and more just focused on itself. Changes in society are dynamic processes and all of us have an influence, so let us try to do what we can to facilitate imagination and skills to continue playing a leading role.

As you may know, the IUCr is member of the International Council for Science (ICSU), comprising 26 international, single-discipline Scientific Unions and 126 other bodies. ICSU closely works together with UNESCO. I call your attention to the web site of UNESCO and, in particular, to the Newsletter about the follow-up of the 1999 World Conference on Science at, where you will find very interesting information. There is also a section about the International Forum of Young Scientists, a continuous platform to discuss general issues and challenges to science. I cite their main conclusions:

  • Scientists should increase their responsibility to inform the public openly about research and its wider implications and therefore learn communication skills;
  • Science education at all levels should be strengthened and scientists should collaborate with educators;
  • Education should present science in a cross-disciplinary manner;
  • Ethical aspects should be a part of all scientific undertakings and a special focus on ethics should be included in all education programmes;
  • Scientists should take full responsibility to provide help to the scientific communities in less developed countries and should urge their governments to support long-term grants for fundamental research to maintain sustainable growth;
  • Scientists should assume increased responsibility for environment and development programmes;
  • Young scientists should participate in decisions made about science.
Henk Schenk