Project Details IUPAC's role in developing interdisciplinary/ collaborative work in the Chemistry community and beyond - the focus for the 2017 WCLM

Project No.:
Start Date:
24 January 2017
End Date:
31 July 2018
Division Name:


WCLM2017 flyer


Organize the World Chemistry Leadership Meeting (WCLM) for the 49th General Assembly with a theme of addressing IUPAC’s role in developing interdisciplinary/collaborative work in the Chemistry community and beyond.

Chemistry is increasingly becoming multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary as it also depends closely on other scientific disciplines (e.g. physics, biology) to tackle problems of socio-economic importance. This has been highlighted in the role that chemistry plays in contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which was the theme of WCLM2015. It is hoped that the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary themes can now be developed in depth in the WCLM2017.


IUPAC began as an organization to develop a common language of chemistry for both academic and industrial communities. Today, 100 years after the founding of IUPAC, most societal and technical challenges require the use of diverse disciplines working together in a collaborative approach. The need for a common, well understood, carefully thought out vocabulary is as strong as ever.

The concept of multi/inter-disciplinarity in chemistry, chemistry education and training has been a topic of discourse since the turn of the millennium and its associated challenges of “understanding the concepts underlying a discipline other than one’s own, finding a common language to communicate ideas, trusting research you haven’t the skills to assess yourself, and finding somewhere to publish are only a few of them” (Pain E 2003). This has been further elaborated by Whitesides and Deutsch (2011) during the international year of chemistry who advocated more forcefully “do[ing] away with the old disciplinary structures. Disciplines mature, and must be subsumed into others. Chemistry should cluster its teaching and research around the exciting and uncertain future rather than the ossified historical past.” It has been universally recognized that Chemistry is an essential discipline and as a pre-eminent science it plays a vital role in many rapidly developing technical areas with vital societal impact. These interdisciplinary areas in chemistry are forefront research topics and often the career focus of the younger scientist community. Likewise, in chemistry education, one of the focal points in the past years has been context oriented chemistry education, in which explaining the role chemistry plays in society is a prime learning goal. More recently, Matlin et al. (2016) argued that the practice and overarching mission of chemistry need a major overhaul in order to be fit for purpose in the twenty-first century and beyond, and in that context, challenges associated with multi/inter-disciplinarity in chemistry is to be addressed.

At IUPAC, these emerging and interdisciplinary areas combine interests of a number of divisions leading to cross-divisional and cross committee collaborations on projects and future developments. These efforts have led to the establishment of the  Interdivisional Sub-committees on Materials Chemistry (ISMC) and more recently, to the proposed Interdivisional Sub-committee on Green Chemistry for Sustainable Development.

Recognizing this, a WCLM technical program is being planned, targeting furthering interdisciplinary topics and cross divisional/committee collaboration using the two inter-divisional sub-committees as a launch pad for developing shared languages and activities of i) nanomaterials in health and ii) sustainable chemistry, with a common consideration of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), focusing on an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problems related to water pollution and purification. (

The goal is to invite distinguished, visionary speakers who can deliver a talk ranging from technical challenges to the role of chemistry in society and can inspire younger scientists while highlighting the importance of such interdisciplinary topics.

The new International Young Chemists Network (IYCN) will be introduced with a presentation highlighting the creation of a worldwide young chemists network under the mentorship of IUPAC. This network will connect many existing young chemist committees that already exist among the different national chemical societies. In addition a panel discussion will be held with opportunities of experienced chemists and young observers to respond to the vision and understand the view of the different founders of this new group. We are inviting returning Young Observers (RYOs) as part of this project and they will take part in planning the WLCM program as well as leading the YO portion (including the interdisciplinary workshop) of this meeting.

Two days before the start of a half-day symposium, a 2-hour Introduction will be organized, as well as a ½ day workshop for the Young Observers. During the Introduction, the different division representatives will describe to the YOs each division’s activities. This session may be used as an educational and informational event not only for the YOs but also for the divisions themselves as this would be a way to explain the major goals and focus of each division.
During the workshop that will follow, the YOs will be divided into teams to develop IUPAC proposals focused on these interdisciplinary topics.

Ultimately the ½ day symposium will close with the presentation by the proposal teams of interdisciplinary project ideas that might be suitable for the interdivisional sub-committees or for the divisions to explore as interdivisional projects. These proposal teams will be mentored by experienced members of IUPAC and eventually be put forward for divisional support, sponsorship by the interdivisional sub-committees or forwarded to the project committee.

– Pain E (2003) Multidisciplinary Research: Today’s Hottest Buzzword? Science Jan. 3, 2003

– Whitesides G M, Deutch J (2011) Let’s get practical. Chemistry needs an overhaul if it is to solve big global problems and advance fundamental understanding. Nature 6 January 2011|469:21-22;

– Matlin S A, Mehta G, Hopf H, Krief A Nature Chemistry 8, 393–398 (2016);


Specific Tasks:
1. Organize an Introduction session and reception prior to the WCLM symposium for YOs where interested divisions describe interdisciplinary activities and interests to IUPAC members and YOs. Divisions will respond to specific questions prepared by WCLM organizers.

2. Engage Young Observers in activities related to the WCLM theme of Interdisciplinary Science and Its Impact on Society both in advance and during the General Assembly.

3. Hold half day interdisciplinary workshop on the themes of green and sustainable chemistry; materials chemistry in medicine  engaging relevant divisions

4. Organize work session where YOs work with RYOs and IUPAC volunteers to develop project ideas to carry forward as working projects. At least three high-profile projects will be developed prior to the next WCLM.

5. Develop a half-day WCLM public program at the 49th General Assembly in Sao Paulo, Brazil including presentations and panel discussion focused on a theme of Interdisciplinary Science and Its Impact on Society.

May 2017 – Announcement published in Chem Int Apr 2017, pp. 43-44;

> DOWNLOAD updated flyer including suggested reading in preparation for the workshops and detailed schedule for plenary session [WCLM_2017_flyer_20170629]


Sep 2017 Follow-up

The following presentations from the plenary session are being shared; abstracts are available in the flyer above.

• Dr Alejandra Palermo, Manager, Open Innovation, Royal Society of Chemistry, UK [slides PDF 1.7 MB]

Future of the Chemical Sciences—preparing for an uncertain future, Alejandra Palermo

• Mr. Marcos De Marchi, Abiquim’s President of the Board and CEO of Elekeiroz, Brazil [slides PDF 3 MB]

Innovation – a key to essential development, Marcos De Marchi

• Dr Natalie LaFranzo, Chair, American Chemical Society National Younger Chemists Committee, Director of Scientific Projects and
Market Development, Cofactor Genomics, Inc. US [slides PDF 10 MB]

Science through a molecular lens – navigating an interdisciplinary career path, Natalie LaFranzo


During the session, the YOs presented their proposals and feedback was provided [YOs_slides PDF 2.3 MB]

Team 1
a. Periodic Table of Chemists Around the World
b. A World Without Chemistry is a World Without…
YO contact: Christine Dunne,

Team 2
Maximizing and Modernizing IUPAC Outreach
YO contact: Marc Reid,

Team 3
Symposium: Introduction to Intellectual Property for Younger Chemists
YO contact: Jens Breffke,

Team 4
Glossary of Terms for Phototherapy
YO contact: Francesca Giunni,

Team 5
Current and Emerging Sensing Tools for the Detection of Illicit Drugs at Crime Scenes
YO contact: Raychelle Burks,

One last specific task is to ensure that project proposals are submitted and reviewed promptly to the IUPAC project system.


Aug 2018 update: See CI July 2018 for a collection of article pertinent to the WCLM2017:
The Future of the Chemical Sciences, Palermo, Alejandra (Page 4)
Chemistry in a Multidisciplinary, Interdisciplinary World, Ober, Christopher / Garelick, Hemda (Page 7)
IUPAC and IYCN: Forging New Connections to Support Younger Chemists Worldwide, Ferrins, Lori / Llabani, Evijola / Dunne, Christine (Page 11)

Project completed

Page last updated 6 Aug 2018