The EYCN: Steering the Boat through a Global Pandemic
From March 2019 to March 2021, I was Chair of EYCN, the European Young Chemists’ Network (EYCN), the youth division of the European Chemical Society (EuChemS). The EYCN is a dedicated group of young scientists from 27 European nations and 29 European Societies, with approximately 40 official delegates representing and supporting over 45.000 early-career chemists across Europe. EYCN’s mission is to provide early-career chemists in Europe with growth and networking opportunities through various programs and events. The EYCN also intends to raise chemistry’s visibility and bring it closer to a broader audience, including schools, industrial partners, business, and science policymakers. Our activities and actions are based on the voluntary work of many young chemists, and it might be challenging to balance these responsibilities with everyday scientific work or private hobbies.
Looking back on my time as the EYCN’s Chair, I can clearly distinguish two distinct “eras”. In 2020, EuChemS was celebrating its 50th anniversary and later the European Chemistry Congress, with lots of festivities planned across that year. During 2019, the EYCN was involved in more than 30 activities in Europe and beyond, either coordinating or supporting them. More than 20 symposia were supported, and roughly 30 young chemists were recognized for their excellent contributions to science. Moreover, the EYCN was widely advertised and received positive feedback from a large community of chemists for its photography contest ‘Photochimica’ and the video contest ‘Chemistry Rediscovered – In your element’, both closing during the IUPAC conference in Paris. Later, in early January 2020, the EYCN met in their 15th Delegate Assembly (DA) meeting in Sitges, Spain, hosted by the Catalan Chemical Society (SCQ) and welcomed delegates and guests from over 20 countries. We were lucky to have the EuChemS President, Pilar Goya, and the President-Elect, Floris Rutjes, participate in the DA and share their views on the EuChemS future.
Shortly after our annual DA, the global COVID-19 pandemic landed, altering any plans for the EYCN during 2020. I guess you can call it “the second era”. It changed how we work, adapted to interacting with friends, family, and colleagues, and communicated and disseminated information. Even though the nature of our networks relied on a widely distributed network of young professionals across Europe, I felt as if we were constantly losing something on these electronic interactions. The lack of in-person interactions on ongoing business meetings could never be replaced.
Nonetheless, the EYCN quickly recovered, and we embarked on a series of webinars (www.chemistryviews.org/details/ezine/11284546/A_Virtual_Journey_in_Empowering_Early-Career_Chemists.html), together with our partner organization International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN). These webinars started as a campaign to fight fake news about the COVID-19 outbreak. They spread information on relevant initiatives, but we quickly adapted the content to topics more attractive to young chemists.
Also, due to the postponement of the 8th EuChemS Chemistry Congress (ECC8) until 2022, the EYCN hosted the e-YCN@ECC event, which was both an “electronic” and a “European” Young Chemists’ Meeting. The online event included multiple sessions about the future in chemistry, different career opportunities, and professional development for young scientists in academia and industry. In the words of Alice Soldà, Advisor to the EYCN Board and project leader, “COVID-19 should not interfere with our curiosity and knowledge outside the classic scientific field”.
Moreover, the EYCN continued all of our contests, starting and concluding the photography contest ‘Photochimica’, centred on the 50th year celebration of Earth Day and sustainable development (www.rsc.org/news-events/articles/2020/05-may/photochimica2020-winners-announced/) together with our colleagues in the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). Finally, in early 2021, we also prepared the next set of the contest ‘Chemistry Rediscovered’ (still opened at the moment of writing this article), focused on safety in Chemistry (www.euchems.eu/divisions/European-young-chemists-network/contests/).
Any leadership position is tricky; you must experience it to understand it. During my time at the EYCN, we faced numerous challenges that we had not anticipated nor foreseen at the outset. However, none of this would have been possible without the efforts and collaboration of many people across the EYCN, EuChemS, and many of our European friends. I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude to each and every one of you for this. I attempted to set a positive example, and I tried to recognize the efforts of each member of my team, supporting their ideas and projects and assisting them in their completion. However, when I stop to think about it, the thing that has stuck with me all these years is that I always attempted to form a group of friends, a “European family,” which provides far more satisfaction than any working group. That is the EYCN for me.
Antonio M. Rodriguez Garcia
Past-Chair of the EYCN
EuChemS Working Party on Ethics in Chemistry: “Join our activities!”
The roots of the EuChemS working party Ethics in Chemistry date back to the early 2000s when Hartmut Frank, environmental chemist at the University of Bayreuth, reached out to Nobel laureates Richard Ernst and Roald Hoffmann, and other like-minded chemists like Carl Djerassi and Francesco Dondi, to discuss the professional responsibility of chemists as actors with great impact on society and the environment. The group expanded and constituted itself as a EuChemS working party with official delegates from many national member societies. Among its joint efforts are position papers on topics at the intersection of chemistry and applied ethics in Angewandte Chemie and Chemistry – A European Journal, symposia at the biannual EuChemS conferences, and the conceptualisation and realisation of an online course Good Chemistry: Methodological, Ethical, and Social Dimensions offered on the e-learning platform of EuChemS to chemistry students in the EU.
A key theme that structures the work and the discussions of the working party is the insight that chemists have both internal and external responsibilities for their decisions and actions. The internal domain concerns good scientific practice, research integrity, and the compliance with professional guidelines of how to do science right. The external dimension includes topics such as the dual use character of chemical innovations, sustainability, risk, and the role of chemical expertise in science policy and innovation governance. With this pragmatic-practical approach, the working party aims to represent the chemical community in those science and innovation discourses that have an applied-ethical dimension that is relevant for the daily professional conduct of chemists.
After a pandemic-induced period of reduced activity, the working party is back on track and ready to manifest its energy in new projects. Currently, not all the national member societies of EuChemS are represented in the working party. Moreover, diverse and fresh approaches to ethical discourses in chemistry are always welcome. EuChemS members with a personal or professional interest in aspects of responsible conduct in chemical science, innovation, education, communication, or regulation are invited to join the WP! Please contact the Steering Committee of the working party (see the WP website). A fruitful collaboration creating synergies for meaningful contributions to the interdisciplinary discourse on good chemistry lies ahead!
Hartmut Frank, Hans W. Steisslinger, Jan Mehlich,
The EuChemS Working Party on Ethics in Chemistry
- Angewandte Chemie paper: https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.201007599
- CEJ paper: doi.org/10.1002/chem.201605259
- WP website: https://www.euchems.eu/divisions/ethics-in-chemistry/
The EYCN: Returning to the New Normal
2021 was a special year for the European Young Chemists’ Network (EYCN) and its Delegate Assembly (DA). For the first time ever, the DA had to be held entirely online and came with a new set of challenges after we luckily held our 2020 DA shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic spread to Europe.
For me, this year has also been a very special one: The delegates honoured me by electing me as the new Chair of the EYCN, and I am thrilled to continue in this role after my two years as Secretary of the network from 2019 to 2021. The last two years have been a great effort of a fantastic team to adapt to the challenging times, and I am very grateful for everyone that has supported us in this time. I am equally thankful to the new members of the EYCN Board and our current delegates that are sacrificing their free time to offer interesting information and opportunities to early-career researchers across Europe! Moreover, I need to thank our previous chair and current advisor, Antonio M. Rodriguez Garcia, who has been a great role model in the last two years and helped me start in this new position.
The following two years will be heavily influenced by finding the best way to return to in-person events while simultaneously providing digital solutions for a broad audience. We have learned a lot in the past 18 months and established multiple series with our partners, such as CatalysisTalks, which is hosted with the Young European Catalysis Network (YEuCat). Furthermore, we have been and are continuing to expand our support programs to help everyone from Europe and interested in Europe find the best options for their career.
However, one thing remains more important than all these things: You! Without our members joining our events, using our web pages, and keeping us informed about the many developments around the world, we would not be the same. We are always happy to hear your opinions and suggestions and work with you to make them happen, so please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
Chair of the EYCN