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Thoughts on far-flung crystallographers

[E. N. Baker]Macromolecular crystallographers are (or should be) well aware that peaks that are remote from the main regions of electron density should be looked on with suspicion. They probably represent errors. Fortunately, this does not apply to places where crystallographers are to be found, as otherwise New Zealand would have long ago been removed from the map! So would other small groups of geographically-remote crystallographers.

These thoughts came to me while attending the 3rd meeting of the Asian Crystallographic Association in Kuala-Lumpur; in fact, this letter is written between sessions. Some of the countries of the Asian region have long and rich tradition in crystallography, but others do not. Many of the crystallographers here have long distances to travel, and face extreme difficulty in finding travel money, yet there is great talent and enthusiasm that is very important for the future. There are exciting developments under way, including new instrumentation and new synchrotron facilities and the challenge is to see that all can benefit.

Our General Assembly and Congress, the next of which is to be held in Glasgow in 1999, is the culmination of each 3-year period. The meetings of the Regional Associations fill a different, but equally important role, however. They enable people to meet who share similar problems, or might benefit from closer ties and they provide opportunities to develop ways of sharing and utilizing regional resources. They also give confidence and encouragement to crystallographers from far-flung parts of the region.

These comments could, of course, equally apply to other regions such as Africa, South America and some parts of Eastern Europe, and I applaud the moves of the American and European Crystallographic Associations to widen their horizons. I would also like to have the IUCr do more to help crystallographers attend such meetings - not only young scientists, but also those more senior scientists who are struggling with great determination to develop crystallography in their own environments.

Edward N. Baker