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Letter from the President

[Duax] W. L. Duax

The XXth Congress and General Assembly of the IUCr in Florence in 2005 will surely be one of the most exciting and successful meetings in our 50-year history. Carlo Mealli and the members of the scientific program committee have issued a call for suggestions for plenary lecturers, microsymposia topics and microsymposia chairs. The program committee members are drawn from the Commissions of the Union and all National Committees have been asked to submit suggestions for the program. Suggestions are also welcome from individual crystallographers everywhere. Please exercise your right to participate in the affairs of the union. Write to Carlo or any member of the program committee with your program suggestions.

The Congress in Florence will provide a venue for the members of the Commissions of the Union to gather, plan and coordinate their activities, and appoint new members and chairs. The Commissions rely upon dynamic, imaginative and hard working members in order to prosper and serve the community. All the National Committees of our 40 member countries have been invited to nominate individuals for membership on the commissions. Your input in this process is vitally important. If you are willing to serve on a committee or wish to nominate someone else for such a post, contact a member of the National Committee in your country, expressing your thoughts.

Finally, there will be the usual turnover in the membership of the Executive Committee in Florence. A call for nominations for the position of President of the IUCr and other vacancies to be filled has been extended to all National Committees. If you have any suggestions, contact a member of the National Committee in your country. As soon as nominations for membership on the Executive Committee are received, they will be posted on the IUCr website.

This Newsletter is distributed to 15,000 individuals worldwide. However, there are only 9928 crystallographers listed in the IUCr World Directory and there are many countries in the world that do not receive any copies of the Newsletter. A list of countries in which fewer than 5 newsletters are distributed appears on Page 8. If you know of a scientist (ideally, a crystallographer) in any of these countries, please send his or her name and address to the IUCr Newsletter office so that we can add that person to the mailing list and write to them and ask about sending copies for distribution to appropriate institutions and libraries.

When the World Directory was assembled with assistance of regional editors, the total number of registered crystallographers reached 7959 (10th edition). The transition to an electronic directory, for which individuals were responsible to register, reduced the number of crystallographers who have updated their entry to 5840. If you are now or ever have been a crystallographer or have consorted or coauthored a paper on some aspect of diffraction, and you are not currently listed in the World Directory of Crystallography, please register. Instructions appear on page 30.

One major impediment to participation by many countries not currently in the Union is the cost of membership. While the cost is relatively low, it is not easy for crystallographers in some countries to identify a source of continuing annual support. In fact, political change and economic setbacks have made it difficult for some member countries to maintain their membership. Economic difficulties in Argentina and the Ukraine have jeopardized their continued membership.

When the question of suspension of the membership of Argentina and the Ukraine was brought before the general assembly in Geneva, the delegates voted to allow Argentina and the Ukraine to continue as non-voting members. Crystallographers in Argentina have since convinced government representatives of the importance of IUCr membership and obtained a commitment to pay current and future dues. However, the Argentinian government would not accept responsibility for payment of past dues. Because the IUCr bylaws require payment of past dues before current dues, some special action was required. I am pleased to say that the Spanish National Committee, the US National Committee and the American Crystallographic Assn (an IUCr regional affiliate) agreed to contribute equally to pay the back dues for Argentina so that they could be reinstated as voting members.

It may be appropriate to review the IUCr bylaws governing membership in order to address such problems in the future and to find ways to expand the membership of our Union to include all countries where diffraction physics and X-ray crystallography are conducted. The suggestions put forward so far have been a) to have a limited time non-voting, no cost membership, b) to establish a sliding scale for membership dues tied to an economic barometer (i.e. gross national product or the average salary of crystallographers in the country), c) membership in a Regional Affiliate (AsCA, ECA, ACA) that would allow a country to send a non-voting delegate to the Congress, and/or d) create a fund specifically for assistance to countries in need (similar to the fund established by the ACA for its Latin American Initiative). Any of these options might be an intermediate step towards full membership and participation. Delegates to the XXth Congress may wish to place matters such as this on the agenda.

Bill Duax