History Structural Biology files Interaction with the International Union of Crystallography

Serving the wider synchrotron community


My first interactions with the IUCr occurred in 1986-87 and would prove to be highly influential. In 1986-87 I went to two protein crystallographic laboratories in the USA: Birmingham, Alabama (Professor Charlie Bugg) and Seattle, Washington (Professor Lyle Jenson & Dr. Ellie Adman) on sabbatical leave during the installation/commissioning of the high brightness lattice on the SRS. Charlie became the Editor-in-Chief of the IUCr Journals (1987-96), an honour that has been bestowed upon me since autumn 2012. In Seattle, Lyle and Ellie had another visitor for a few months, Professor Asbjørn Hordvik; I learnt later on he had taken a sabbatical in 1984. Asbjørn became the Secretary-Treasurer of the IUCr in late 1986. Charlie and Asbjørn shared enthusiasm and a positive attitude, characteristics that resonated with me. In 1987, spurred on by Asbjørn, I approached the late Dr Jim King, who was the Executive Secretary of the IUCr at the time, about the possibility of sponsorship for the 2nd BSR international conference that I was organizing in the UK in 1988. With Jim’s guidance and a strong support letter from Prof Michael Woolfson, FRS (who was Chairman of the British National Committee for Crystallography at the time) I submitted an application to Ted Maslen at the University of Western Australia on 16th December 1987. Four months later I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from Dr King saying that the Union had agreed to provide US $5000 (15% of our conference budget – a major contribution). He also encouraged me to visit him and discuss the idea of the possible formation of a council/union for EXAFS. This was a wise encouragement as it eventually sowed an idea in my mind that the IUCr was the right place for a Commission on EXAFS and also it would be the natural custodian for a dedicated journal for the synchrotron radiation community.

During the next two years, guided by Jim, Asbjørn and others at the IUCr and many colleagues around the synchrotron world I developed the idea of the Journal of Synchrotron Radiation. I put together a provisional editorial board in the summer of 1991 with Professor Michael Hart, FRS as the joint main editor. Mike was at that time the Director of the Brookhaven Light Source (NSLS). I was invited by Dr Jim King to talk to the Finance Committee on 20th August 1991 about the summary, shown below, which I had sent.

During the meeting it was clear that the IUCr Finance and Executive committees were persuaded by the need but there were significant hurdles to be overcome. We agreed to replace Mike Hart by John Helliwell as the joint main editor.  On 23rd August 1991, John agreed to be the joint editor and we set about contacting the synchrotron world and the crystallographic communities. My next grilling took place at the full Executive Committee meeting that met at the American Crystallographic Society Annual meeting (Pittsburgh, 11-15 August, 1992). Professor Andre Authier and Professor Alajos Kálmán were the President and Vice President at the time while Asbjørn was still the secretary/treasurer of the Union. After my encounter, Alajos decided to tell my wife Yasmeen that she should know that the Union was persuaded to go ahead. Final approval came through at the 16th IUCr Congress and the General Assembly in Beijing in China in August 1993 when Hiromichi Kamitsubo, the Founding Director of SPring-8, joined us as the third founding main editor. A quarter of a century later, the need for  JSR, and for the IUCr to be the publisher, seemed obvious but we had a ‘fun journey’ getting there. During this time, support from the SRS and Ian Munro was highly crucial. Ian was of course one of the founding co-editors of the Journal, which published its first issue on 1 October 1994. The editorial still makes interesting reading (J. Synchrotron Rad. 1, 1-4, (1994)). For a detailed account from Andre Authier see below (Acta Cryst. A65, 167–182 (2009). I remained an editor, then a co-editor of JSR (1993-2012 i.e. 19 years of constant service) until I took over as Editor-in-Chief of all of the IUCr Journals in autumn 2012.