An insight into the world of crystallographers

03-04-2007

The president of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), Professor Yuji Ohashi, visited the ESRF last March, in the framework of the IUCr financial committee meeting. The ESRF is an active partner of the IUCr.

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“The development of crystallography means the development of synchrotron light sources”. With this statement, Professor Yuji Ohashi, current president of the International Union of Crystallography, expresses the strong bonds between the two disciplines. Himself being a crystallographer in the Japanese synchrotron SPring-8, Prof. Ohashi acknowledges the role of the light sources as a tool for crystallographers and the benefits that both communities can perceive from each other.

 

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 Professor Malcom Cooper and Professor Yuji Ohashi in front of the ESRF model.

 

 

With the aim of gathering the crystallographers worldwide in a single association, the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) publishes journals, organizes conferences and works towards the standardization of methods, symbols or techniques. Many of the ESRF scientists attend to IUCr meetings and participate in them actively. Today, the IUCr unites 30,000 crystallographers from 40 national associations. Prof. Ohashi says this is not enough.

Very few developing countries belong to the Union, but Prof. Ohashi and the management of the IUCr have implemented new means to welcome crystallographers from those nations. An assured training and a reduced membership fee (countries can get together and present themselves as one single nation) are already attracting new members. The community is also growing thanks to the close contact with the synchrotron sources.

Towards open access publishing?

The main funding of the IUCr comes from the eight journals published by the union, and only one third comes from subscription fees. This scheme has worked throughout many years, but times are changing. The number of subscribers has been decreasing throughout the years, mainly because the number of journals has increased and the libraries cannot cope with so many publications, in Ohashi’s view. Therefore, he acknowledges that the system is not sustainable as it is.

“We either shift the journals to big publishers or we move towards open access systems”, explains Ohashi. He supports the second option as the most adequate. Whatever the final decision of the IUCr management, it is clear that the role of IUCr goes beyond being a publisher and that there is still a lot to do to bring the crystallography community together.