Vibrant scientific and community life returns in 2022

After the long-term restrictions due to the pandemic, scientific life has been revived this year. With the support of the Hungarian Chemical Society (HCS), several national and international conferences and events were held across Hungary.

The traditional National Chemistry Conference was organized by the Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry Division of the HCS between 15-17 June at the Eszterházy Károly Catholic University of Eger. The event was dedicated to the memory of three recently deceased prominent scientists, Ferenc Fülöp and Sándor Antus (full members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), and Professor Gyula Schneider. The topics covered a wide range from synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry, through catalytic and flow chemistry, to theoretical chemistry and spectroscopic methods. The forum was attended by nearly 160 participants from Hungarian universities, academic research centres and industrial companies, as well as a number of invited speakers from abroad.

The 18th European Student Colloid Conference was held between 26-30, June at the University of Szeged. The aim of the biannual meeting, always organized at a different location, is for PhD and MSc students working in the field of colloid chemistry and related disciplines to present their results to their peers in the form of oral or poster presentations and to learn from a highly skilled senior teacher team. The conference attracted around 60 students from more than a dozen countries of Europe and 7 plenary lectures were delivered by reputable experts. For more than 40 years, the annual Chemistry Lecture Days have been held in Szeged, this year between 25-27, October. Every year, the best diploma theses are awarded with a prize, which was presented on the first day by Tamás Kiss, Professor Emeritus and Vice President of the HCS. The event, which covers various areas of experimental and applied chemistry and usually includes an English-language section for foreign students pursuing PhD studies in Hungary to present their work, featured around 50 short talks.

In addition to the conferences, the Magical Chemistry Summer Camp for secondary school students interested in chemistry was also held between 1-5 August 2022 in Pécs, this year for the 14th time. During the camp, participants had the opportunity to gain insight into the wonderful world of chemistry through laboratory exercises, quizzes and other exciting tasks.

All programmes promoted scientific and social interactions.

Éva Frank
Correspondent of the Hungarian Chemical Society

Diversity and Inclusion in chemical contexts

How diverse are the joint workgroups and research teams in academic chemistry and in corporate R&D? How inclusive is chemistry as a scientific endeavour? Why would that even be important, and how do diversity and inclusion (or the lack thereof) influence professional life?

What can individuals do to support diversity, and what would institutions or society require? How much are we (un-)consciously biased against diversity? Is it worth fighting for?

These and other related questions have been discussed during a panel session at the 8th European Chemical Congress in Lisbon on August 30th 2022, organised and moderated by Claudia Bonfio and Antonio Rodríguez García of the EYCN. Panellists were Ale Palermo (Head of Global Inclusion at The Royal Society of Chemistry), Pilar Goya (EuChemS Vice President), Marie Perrin (President of the Young Swiss Chemical Society), Marta Da Pian (Customer Consultant at Elsevier), and Jan Mehlich (Science Ethicist at Bonn University). In close communicative interaction with a large audience of interested chemists, the five perspectives triggered a lively conversation with many critical questions, supportive comments, and shared experiences.

Diversity and inclusion concern every chemist at every workplace in one form or the other. The inequalities rising from (un-)conscious biases pose all kind of harm to one’s life, from emotional stress to lack of self-confidence and even physical harm; tackling inequalities in the workplace should therefore be seen as dealing with any other safety hazard, because it creates an environment where people are not safe to be themselves. While gender issues seem to be at the heart of the debate, there are cultural, ethnic, and sociographic dimensions that also need to be addressed. In the face of a wide range of viewpoints, arguments, and opinions, a clear definition of diversity and inclusion along the lines of ethical principles such as freedom, justice, and equity, is crucial for the debate and its conclusions to be fruitful and effective. Political and institutional measures such as codified targets rules for hiring, for example, understand diversity as a matter of equity. Critiques claim that these regulations may actually cause injustice when employers are forced to hire inadequate candidates. What is needed is not forced equality but accurate equity through free choices. Thus, campaigns that aim at changing the mindset of people, for example women choosing STEM majors, or HR managers getting aware of their biases, take diversity as an issue of freedom (to choose, or to realise one’s potential).  In order to achieve a more diverse and inclusive chemistry community, we must start now to reflect on our own biases, to become aware of the existing inequalities, understand how this creates challenges and act accordingly. The panel discussion at the ECC8 may be a starting point for further clarifications and practically relevant insights that are particularly useful for the chemical community.

Jan Mehlich
Center for Life Ethics, University of Bonn, Germany