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Recognizing that there is no material substance that does not involve chemistry, IUPAC responded to suggestions, initially from Russian and Korean chemists, that the Union should organize an International Year of Chemistry. Consultation occurred with UNESCO representatives and the UNESCO Executive Board and then with the UN General Assembly to approve the year 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry. IUPAC appointed a Management Committee which assumed responsibility for the organization and/or monitoring of three international Cornerstone Events, a highly successful website and the Global Water Experiment. Local leadership of IYC 2011 was assumed by national chemical societies, academies of science, academic institutions and industry such that thousands of successful activities were held under the IYC rubric and posted on the IYC Website. In this Virtual Colloquium, we will introduce the genesis of IYC 2011 and also outline the purposes and legacy of the International Year of Chemistry.
An Introduction to the International Year of Chemistry – 2011
John M. Malin, Chair IYC 2011 Management Committee and Bryan Henry, IUPAC President 2006-2007, University Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph
All known matter – gas, liquid and solid – is composed of the chemical elements or of compounds made from those elements. Humankind’s understanding of the material nature of our world is grounded in our knowledge of chemistry. Indeed all living processes are controlled by chemical reactions. After initial suggestions from Russia and Korea, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) first discussed the possibility of an International Year of Chemistry in April 2006.
The IUPAC Executive Committee formally endorsed the idea of IYC in 2007. Because only the United Nations can declare an International Year, IUPAC contacted UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, with a proposal that it was time to celebrate the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind. Almost simultaneously IUPAC President Bryan Henry appointed a task group chaired by Prof. Peter Mahaffy to begin working with UNESCO staff and with the Ethiopian Ambassador to UNESCO to bring about a UN declaration. The UNESCO Executive Board in 2008 officially endorsed the concept of an International Year of Chemistry. In response to a motion by Ethiopian representatives, the United Nations General Assembly declared shortly afterwards that 2011 would be the International Year of Chemistry.
In addition, Henry appointed in 2007 a Management Committee, chaired by Dr. John Malin, to implement and oversee the management of IYC 2011 from IUPAC’s perspective. The IUPAC Executive and the committee concluded that the broad goals of IYC 2011 were: (1) to show how the science of chemistry helps in meeting the eight stated UN Millennium Goals, (2) to publicize the science of chemistry as both intellectually vital and essential in meeting the needs of humankind, and (3) to provide a worldwide voice for chemistry. Four specific IYC objectives ultimately were formulated: (a) to increase the public appreciation and understanding of chemistry in meeting world needs, (b) to encourage the interest of young people in chemistry, (c) to celebrate the role of women in chemistry – noting especially that 2011 was the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awarded to Madame Sklowska-Curie and also the 100th anniversary of the founding of the International Association of Chemical Societies, predecessor to IUPAC, and (d) to show how chemical science and engineering contributes to meeting the UN Millennium Goals.
A number of subcommittees were charged with organization of the “cornerstone” events to be produced by IUPAC itself, particularly the Opening Ceremony in Paris in January 2011, the IUPAC Congress and General Assembly held in August 2011 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Closing Event held in December 2011 under the patronage of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. A cornerstone event that turned out to be especially important was the Global Experiment on Water, which grew to involve students and teachers around the world.
The Management Committee and the IUPAC Executive endorsed creation of an IYC 2011 Website, managed by Dr. Fabienne Meyers, which listed national contact points around the world, described how organizations or individuals could become active in IYC 2011, and publicized a list of some 2000 individual IYC projects and events being carried out. Using the website and through personal contacts made by IUPAC officers and other contributors, the organizing partners, IUPAC and UNESCO, encouraged participation in IYC by the chemical industry, regional federations, national chemical societies, NGOs, Universities, Educational and Research Organizations, and individuals. A Fundraising Committee was appointed, chaired by IUPAC Treasurer Prof. Sean Corish.
Some diverse IYC 2011 operations and events in support of chemical education around the world will be described in other contributions to this Virtual Colloquium. We are certain of four major results: First, IYC 2011 projected to chemical professionals, students, policy-makers and the public the awareness that chemistry makes significant contributions to our lives. Second, the Global Water Experiment showed students worldwide that by working together they themselves could contribute to science and study the environment in meaningful ways. Third, organizations in many countries leveraged their participation in IYC 2011 to enhance and publicize their own national activities. Fourth, IYC 2011 highlighted the many contributions women have made to chemistry
We note that human understanding of the fundamental nature of our world is grounded in chemistry. Molecular transformations are basic to production of foodstuffs, medicines, fuels and materials – essentially all manufactured and extracted products. Humankind will rely on this science to maintain a sustainable, wholesome environment for all the earth. IYC 2011 was a unique opportunity for everyone to celebrate these central contributions of chemistry.
Acknowledgement: The IUPAC Management Committee for IYC2011 sincerely thanks Global Partners DOW and EPCN and Global Sponsors BASF, CEFIC, EVONIK, L’Oreal and Solvay for their kind support.