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Nuno Bacharel
Nuno Bacharel

Hi YourFormula fans,

As I promised on my last blog post, I came to the World Leadership Meeting (#WCLM13) organized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) in Istanbul.

Yesterday, 40 so-called Young Observers from the four corners of the world came together to discuss the future of chemistry and how chemistry can better address society´s needs!

In the morning, they were divided into groups and in the afternoon they presented their conclusions, together with a panel of senior experts: Professor Barry Haliwell, Professor Sariciftci and Mark Cesa, IUPAC vice President.

In the following lines, I will share with you the key points of this insightful discussion.

 

Please do not hesitate to add your views, or to let us know if there were other contributions you would like to mention.

 

The experts panel: from the left Professor Barry Haliwell,  Mark Cesa, IUPAC vice President, and Professor Sariciftci.

 

Education

The topic of education was central in the whole discussion. The Young Observers regretted the fact that during their studies they didn´t have a broader approach to other scientific areas (e.g. Engineering, Physics or Mathematics) as this could help in their job and strengthen chemistry itself- in order to execute their daily tasks, chemists need to apply different branches of science.

Prof. Halliwell stated that marketing should be a discipline of scientific studies, because it´s a way to explain “the value of chemistry to society”. In addition to this, a participant reinforced the fact that “entrepreneurship” should be part of the curricula, as many scientists, despite having good products and innovations in their hands, don´t know how to invest on these.

One group concluded that “we need to train teachers to inspire next-generation chemists”

 

Communication

The Young Observers agreed that chemists need to improve the way they communicate. Social Media was pointed out as the way to bring chemistry close to citizens.

On the one hand, chemists are aware that chemistry plays a key role in solving major problems of the world and helps to achieve the Millennium goals. On the other hand, they all agree that this has not been communicated in the way it should.

Extra efforts should be made in this area to improve the way non-scientific people understand Chemistry.

 

Image

Nicole Moreau, IUPAC past president, opened the session saying that “we need to improve public awareness, and we need young people to give a positive side to chemistry”.

The “image of Chemistry” was a recurrent issue during the discussion.

Why do citizens tend to feel more secure when they see a “chemistry-free product”, when in fact chemistry is helping to feed the 7 billion people in the world?

Professor Sariciftci mentioned that chemistry has such a negative image that he is not presenting himself as a chemist anymore: “when I introduce myself, I say that I´m a materials scientist and the reaction of people is completely different”.

This is one of the major problems of chemistry that needs to be addressed, especially by the younger generations. It’s urgent to change the reputation of Chemistry, to attract students, and to ensure the respect and the support of society.

 

Academia vs. Industry

The Young Observers pointed out the fact that research is mainly sponsored by Industry, and this can be a long term obstacle for the evolution of chemistry.

The participants highlighted the fact that academia and industry should join forces, and they should work together to define the areas that need more development and, consequently, investment.

Industry should pay more attention to the opinion of young chemists, their views about the future and their knowledge in terms of techniques and materials. Usually that happens the other way round. Together, academia and industry can produce innovative solutions.

 

Gender

The panel of the Young Observers was mixed, there was a good percentage of female chemists, but in the labs that isn’t the case.

Gender balance was mentioned as one of the major priorities in chemistry. This is may be associated to the image of Chemistry; a positive image would bring more people to study chemistry, particularly women.

Women are still underrepresented in science, and the passion for Chemistry needs to be raised.

 

Mark Cesa, IUPAC vice President, finished the session, saying that all the Young Observers’ contributions will be taken into account, and IUPAC will put their ideas in the front line…

to help chemistry reach a better place in society.