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Chemical Sciences in Development

About: IOCD's Achievements

IOCD began by recognising why it has been so difficult to pursue chemistry and related sciences in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the past. By the 1980s, many chemists from LMICs had been, or were being, trained in research in universities in high-income countries, but found it difficult to engage in productive and rewarding careers in research in the growing number of university chemistry departments in their home countries. Common problems included lack of access to funds, laboratory supplies and equipment and difficulty in staying abreast of the latest advances in their fields. IOCD's initial response was a twin track approach of active research support and capacity building, achieved through the operation of its scientific working groups (WGs) and analytical service centres.
Over time, IOCD's strategic approach evolved in tune with the changing landscape, concentrated increasingly on capacity building at institutional and national levels. Since the advent of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, IOCD's orientation now focuses strongly on how the chemical sciences can contribute more effectively to sustainability and equity in global development.
Impact Of IOCD
Overall, the impact of IOCD has been to help highlight the importance of the chemical sciences as contributors to development; to raise the profile of the field and its practitioners; to initiate, promote or sustain a number of technical, managerial, policy and collaborative networks and projects advancing chemical sciences in LMICs; and to contribute to vital resources for teaching, learning and research.
IOCD has a strong record of achievement since its foundation in 1981:
  • As the first international NGO specifically devoted to enhancing the role of the chemical sciences in development, IOCD helped raise awareness of the importance of the field at national and international levels and the profile of chemists and their contributions to development in LMICs. This was aided by success in attracting prominent chemists to IOCD's cause, including the Presidents (two Nobel laureates), Council (included four additional Nobel laureates) and WG leaders and members.
  • The early work by the Male Fertility Regulation and Tropical Diseases WGs was valued by international partners (including the two World Health Organization Special Programmes for research in fertility regulation and tropical diseases; UN Population Fund, Walter Reed Army Institute; and USA CONRAD programme) and helped raise awareness of these neglected areas while providing LMIC synthesis groups opportunities to undertake medicinal chemistry.
  • The later WGs in the areas of medicinal chemistry, natural products, the environment and bioprospecting made important contributions to training, capacity building and networking, attracting support and collaboration from international agencies such as the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and from the private sector. The work to enhance LMIC capacities and develop national frameworks for sustainable, ethical bioprospecting has impacted on policy making.
  • IOCD's analytical services gave essential support to many chemists striving to conduct isolation, structure elucidation and synthesis work in resource-poor settings. Successful localization as NABSA (Network for Analytical and Bioassay Services in Africa) has ensured that national and regional work is being sustained in service provision and in capacity building at individual, institutional and system levels.
  • Contributions have been made to strengthening teaching capacities through the creation and dissemination of web-based open and distance learning materials in organic and medicinal chemistry, donations of books and computers and support for micro-scale laboratory kits which enable science to be taught where resources and chemical supplies are very limited.
  • IOCD's new action group on Chemists for Sustainability has generated more than twenty articles that have been well received, focusing on the future role of the chemical sciences and stimulating debate on how the chemical sciences need to be re-shaped to make their optimal contribution.
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