Calculating IUPAC National Subscriptions

Note from IUPAC incoming Treasurer, Colin Humphris

The subscriptions we receive pay for our project work and for the administration of the Union through our Secretariat. The work of the Secretariat was reviewed in a recent article in Chemistry International (CI May-June 2015, 2-3). It works and budgets in US Dollars ($) as it is based in the USA and because US Dollars remain one of the world’s major convertible currencies. The majority of our expenditure is for the activities of the Divisions and Standing Committees and their projects, enabling chemists from around the world to work together for the common good.

From its inception in 1919, IUPAC had to find equitable ways of calculating national subscriptions that took into account the differing size, wealth, and the importance of chemistry of the member countries. The minutes of the very first General Assembly (1920) show agreement to set subscriptions based on the size of a country’s population as an approximation for this. Reasonably reliable and objective census data would have been available. Over the years different approaches were developed as proxies for the relative importance of the chemistry endeavours in our member countries.

At the time of this year’s 2015 Busan Council meeting, however, it was clear that the formula adopted at the Council meeting in Lund in 1989 was failing to calculate equitable subscriptions. A temporary, across the board, calculation was adopted in Busan and a Task Force was approved to develop a new model for approval by Council in 2017.

So what went wrong, what must the Task Force do, and how can you help?

Taken together, the changing shape of the industry and applied chemistry and currency instability led to an untenable model for National Subscription calculations. Therefore, Professor John Corish, then Treasurer, proposed the establishment of a Task Force to seek a new, more equitable approach for the NAOs and IUPAC. This proposal was endorsed by the Council in Busan.

The objective of the Task Force’s work is:

“To determine a new method for calculation of National Subscriptions that equitably allocates the sum of money identified in an IUPAC Biennium budget and that is related to the relative importance of chemistry in each country for approval by the 49th Council at the Sao Paulo General Assembly in July 2017.”

The task force will consider two core elements: (i) the best “proxy” (or index) that reflects the relative importance of chemistry within a country based on readily available, objective, and comparable data, and (ii) how best to handle currency variation in a way that is fair but also manageable for IUPAC.

In considering these elements, the Task Force is expected to review the history of these calculations, benchmark relevant practice and experience in other Science Unions, and seek economic advice from global international institutions within, for example, the UN, World Bank, and IMF. You may have valuable experience from other organizations, and we encourage you to share this with the Task Force. The project will evolve iteratively and we encourage all members/ NAOs to engage and provide feedback.

The approved Task Force comprises:

  • Lynn M. Soby (chair, Executive Director)
  • John Corish (Ireland, Treasurer 2008-15)
  • Colin Humphris (UK, Treasurer 2016–19)
  • Pat Confalone (USA, Member, Finance Committee)
  • Chris Brett (Portugal, Elected Member, Bureau)
  • Kew-Ho Lee (Korea, Elected Member, Bureau).

The new method will need to be finalised before the end of 2016, to enable the preparation of the 2018/19 budgets for review by the Finance Committee, and for the Council 2017. The Task Force will collect and evaluate options for the two core elements and present them for consideration by the Bureau in April 2016. All of the members of the Task Force will be happy to hear your views on these, although it will be best to send any contributions you wish to make to the Task Force Chair via email at <LSOBY@IUPAC.ORG> by 4 March 2016.

This work is of fundamental importance to the ongoing efforts of IUPAC and to the delivery our new strategic plan.

Thank You for Your Input.

PS: A version of this call is published in Chem. Int. Jan 2016, p. 6;