The Chemical Sciences and Development
IOCD was founded at UNESCO in 1981 and promotes the pursuit and application of the chemical sciences
for sustainable development and economic growth.
IOCD's current priority focus is on promoting the chemical sciences for development and
especially for global sustainability.
Current highlights of IOCD work include:
News and Views
IOCD supports ‘Manifesto to Secure a Healthy Planet for All — A Call for Emergency
Action’: In advance of the UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019, the
InterAction Council (a group of former Heads of State and Government, co-chaired by the former Prime
Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern and former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo) launched a
Manifesto to Secure a Healthy Planet for All — A Call for Emergency Action at a
high-level event in London on 31 July 2019. IOCD's Secretary, Stephen Matlin, attended the event and
IOCD has endorsed the Manifesto.
Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education (STICE): The STICE project of the International Union
of Pure and Applied Chemistry is also supported by IOCD. Members of the STICE project group, Peter
Mahaffy, Stephen Matlin, Thomas Holme and Jennifer MacKellar, published a paper in Nature
Sustainability in May 2019, entitled Systems thinking for education about the molecular basis
of sustainability. This discusses the potential roles and approaches that chemistry education
can follow and introduces a new visualization tool, the systems-oriented concept map extension
(SOCME) to illustrate systems thinking in chemistry.
Fake Science: IOCD's group Chemists for Sustainability published an article in
Royal Society Open Science in May 2019, on Fake science and the knowledge crisis:
ignorance can be fatal.
The Crisis of Waste and the Need for a Post-Trash Age: Waste is one of the major challenges
of the 21st century, causing pollution of the environment on land and in the air and
oceans, as well as depleting our useable stocks of planetary resources. IOCD's group Chemists
for Sustainability published an article in April 2019 which they called for the concept of
waste to be replaced by one in which all material is regarded as ‘post-trash’ –
i.e. matter that is managed to be available for potential further use.
IOCD Scientist Wins 2019 John Wheatley Award:
Federico Rosei has won the
2019 John Wheatley Award
of the American Physical Society, “for sustained leadership
and service to the international physics community, in particular for developing global
collaborations through projects and networks in China, Mexico and several African countries, and for
exceptional mentoring efforts
”. Professor Rosei is head of the centre on Materials for
Energy Conversion, Saving and Storage (MATECSS) and holds a UNESCO Chair at the Centre
Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications in the Institut National de la
Recherche Scientifique of the Université du Québec, Montreal.
Gold Medal for Gerhard Bringmann: IOCD congratulates Professor Gerhard Bringmann, who has
been awarded the Medal Bene Merenti in Gold, in recognition of his extraordinary humanitarian
commitment, his outstanding scientific achievements, and his particular merits to the University of
Würzburg. Professor Bringmann founded and leads the BEBUC initiative with which IOCD is
affiliated and which operates an Excellence Scholarship Programme that has been supporting
outstanding students around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
IOCD commemorates Thomas Eisner on the 90th anniversary of his birth, 25 June
Eisner is remembered as the ‘father of chemical ecology’ and was an ardent
promoter of biodiversity conservation, the value of which could be demonstrated through ‘chemical
prospecting’. For a Perspective on Eisner's legacy and it's linkages to IOCD's work to promote
sustainable development, see here
Working for Sustainable Development
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: At a high-level meeting of governments at the UN in
New York on 25 September 2015, the Millennium Development Goals which have guided international
efforts to address the problems of poorer countries since 2000 were succeeded by new Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. The SDGs embrace a global vision of development for
all and with responsibility shared by all countries.
In December 2018, IOCD's General Assembly approved the organizational strategy for 2019-2021,
with a focus on promoting the chemical sciences for development and especially for global
. For details, click here
Chemistry and the SDGs: Chemistry's contribution is essential to meeting most, if not all, of
the SDGs. Importantly, many of these contributions require that chemistry works in close concert
with other disciplines to identify solutions that are practical, affordable and sustainable. IOCD
is committed to working in partnership with others to ensure that chemistry fulfils its potential of
contributing to sustainable development.
IOCD has formed an action group — ‘Chemists for Sustainability’ —
focusing on the roles of chemistry in sustainable development. The group has published over a dozen
articles on aspects of the role and future of the chemical sciences.
World Environment Day, 5 June 2019:
For a Perspective from 'Chemists for Sustainability' see
Earth Day, 22 April
is an annual event that began in the USA in 1970 and is now celebrated
worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day
now includes events in more than 193 countries, coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. IOCD
marks the 2019 Earth Day with a Perspective, which can be accessed here
; and with a web article on the challenge of waste and
the need to redefine it as 'post-trash', which can be accessed here
Systems thinking is an invaluable tool that can help chemists to better understand the
discipline and to apply it to the challenges of sustainable development.
2019 – MILESTONES IN CHEMISTRY
2019 UN International Year of the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements (IYPTCE)
The UN designation of this International Year recognises chemistry's success in identifying and
learning to manipulate the fundamental atomic and molecular entities of which all matter is
composed. IYPTC celebrates 150 years since the publication of the landmark Periodic Table by Russian
chemist Dmitry Mendeleev, which organized the known elements according to their properties,
predicted the existence of as yet undiscovered ones and provided the stimulus for theoretical
advances and a better understanding of atomic structure and properties.
One of the ways that the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) will be marking
the IYPTCE is through the 'Periodic Table of Younger Chemists'
. In collaboration with the
International Younger Chemists Network, IUPAC is running a project from July 2018 to July 2019 to
honour a diverse group of 118 outstanding younger chemists from around the world who in embody
the mission and core values of IUPAC. Approximately eight are being revealed each month beginning in
July 2018. Nominations are invited for each month. For more information, click
IOCD is marking the 2019 IYPTC with a number of activities:
- IOCD's action group, C4S, has written two articles on the Periodic Table and its
significance for sustainable development: an editorial in Current
Science and an article in the
European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry.
- The role of Glen Seaborg, IOCD's Founding President and a central figure in the extension of
the Period Table in the 20th Century, is celebrated (see below).
- C4S members Peter Mahaffy and Stephen Matlin are participating in the meetings of
IUPAC in Paris in July 2019, during which the IYPTC will be a central feature, alongside
celebrations of IUPAC's own centenary (see below).
For more information on the IYPTC, click
100th Anniversary of IUPAC
In 2019, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) celebrates the
100th anniversary of its founding in Paris. A high point will be the holding of the World
Chemistry Conference and IUPAC General Assembly in Paris in July 2019.
IOCD will be participating in the Paris events.
For more information on the IUPAC 100th
Celebrating the contributions of Glen Seaborg (1912-1999)
The American chemist Glenn Seaborg won a share of the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. His work
on the synthesis, discovery and investigation of ten trans-uranium elements led to his development
of the actinide concept and the arrangement of the actinide series in the Periodic Table.
20 years after Seaborg's death, IOCD celebrates not only his scientific contributions to chemistry,
but also his role in the use of the chemical sciences for development. Seaborg was IOCD's first
President, holding this office for more than a decade (1981-1992) and helping to steer and promote
For an appreciation of Glen Seaborg, click
2018 Nobel Prizes and Gender
Two of the six Nobel Laureates in the physical sciences announced in October 2018 were women.
Unfortunately, this is a very unusual occurrence. Frances Arnold shared the chemistry prize with
George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter, for the directed evolution of enzymes, being only
the fifth woman to do so. Donna Strickland won the physics prize, along with Arthur
Ashkin and Gérard Mourou, for optical tweezers and their application to biological
systems – only the third woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in physics and the first for 55
years. A great deal of media attention is now being given to the paucity of women among Nobel
Laureates and other high-level science prizes and to the many systemic factors that cause this
IOCD strongly supports equality, diversity and inclusion in science. See the panel below for
details. Recent activities include:
- The C4S group has published two articles highlighting the challenges of improving
equality, diversity and inclusion in science – see here and panel below for details.
Meetings, Conferences and Special Events
Equality, diversity and inclusion
group held a workshop in Hyderabad, India in 2018 on the theme of equality,
diversity and inclusion (EDI) in science, hosted at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology. The
writing team included Professor Vivian Yam linking from the University of Hong Kong. Professor Yam,
a member of IOCD's General Assembly, was the youngest member to be elected to the Chinese Academy of
Sciences and was a laureate of the 2011 L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science for her
work on light-emitting materials and innovative ways of capturing solar energy. You can read about
her work here
Articles resulting from the C4S workshop highlight the need to develop cultural competence to
achieve deep-seated and sustainable change in the effort to improve EDI. They have been published by
the global news syndicate Project Syndicate and in Angewandte Chemie International
Professor Yam has also written a Perspective for IOCD on gender equality and hosted an event on 12
February 2019 in Hong Kong as part of the IUPAC Global Women's Breakfast initiative.
See below under PERSPECTIVES for further details.
IOCD Working Groups and Projects
Chemists for Sustainability (C4S)
IOCD action group C4S was formed in 2014 by an international group of chemists who believe that
chemistry and related sciences have indispensable roles to play in helping the world to achieve
sustainable development. The core group, which includes Alain Krief, Henning Hopf,
Stephen Matlin and Goverdhan Mehta as core members, has served advocacy and think-tank
roles through written articles, lectures at various fora and web materials.
Among its contributions, the C4S group has developed the concept of ‘one-world’
chemistry as a new orientation for the discipline.
Systems Thinking in Chemistry
The C4S group has emphasised the importance of incorporation of systems thinking into chemistry.
IOCD is currently collaborating with IUPAC in a global project to infuse systems thinking in
chemistry education (STICE).
Peter Mahaffy and Stephen Matlin are co-leaders of the systems thinking
in chemistry education IUPAC STICE project, supported by IOCD.
Journal of Chemical Education Themed Issue
The Journal is planning a themed issue on the topic of systems thinking and green and sustainable
IOCD and Partners
IOCD engages in strategic collaborations with a range of other organizations that share similar
goals in furthering the role of the chemical sciences. Current examples include:
- African Academy of Sciences — AAS
- International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry — IUPAC
IOCD presents perspective/comment/opinion articles on topics of current interest related to the
chemical sciences, sustainable development and the broader connections between science and society.
- The 31 July 2019 launch of the Manifesto to Secure a Healthy Planet for All — A Call
for Emergency Action by the InterAction Council is another important signal of the
climate and environmental crisis that the planet Earth is facing. IOCD supports the call for
emergency action. For a Perspective article on the Manifesto and its significance, see
- The 90th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Eisner, ‘father of chemical
ecology’ is the occasion for a reflection on the growing threat of biodiversity loss
and IOCD's work to promote the role of the chemical sciences in sustainable development. See
- IOCD's action group 'Chemists for Sustainability' provides a reflection on the significance
of World Environment Day, 5 June 2019 and the role that chemistry must play in achieving
sustainable development. See here.
- A new publication in Nature Sustainability from a project of IUPAC supported by IOCD
is highlighted in an IOCD Perspective by one of its co-authors, Stephen Matlin (UK). The
project aims to promote and facilitate the introduction of systems thinking into mainstream
general chemistry education, to enhance the capacities of chemists to use systems thinking
and to contribute to sustainable development. To read the perspective, click
- Stephen Matlin (UK) marks Earth Day, 22 April 2019, with a reflection on “Earth Day
and the role of chemistry in sustainable development”. To read the perspective,
- Vivian Yam (Hong Kong) writes about “Encouraging women and girls in
science” in connection with the International Day of Women and Girls in
Science (February 11), IUPAC's Global Women's Breakfast (February 12)
and International Women's Day (March 8). To read the perspective, click here.
- Stephen Matlin (UK) writes on “It's time to fix the inequality problem in
science”, highlighting the barriers and discrimination that women continue to meet
at all levels of science, the need to address the challenges in equity, diversity and
inclusion in science and the valuable role that can be played by training in cultural
read the perspective, click here.