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One-World Chemistry : A vision for the future of the chemical sciences
‘One-World Chemistry' embodies the concept that:
  • Chemistry must go beyond ‘being a science’ and embrace ‘being a science for the benefit of society’
  • Chemistry must play a leading role in developing responses to the challenge of sustainable development
  • Systems thinking is essential in the teaching, learning and practice of chemistry. This must recognize that human and animal health and the biological and physical environments of the planet are all intimately connected systems and that the solutions that chemistry develops to contemporary challenges must be informed by an awareness of the interactions between these systems.
  • Cross-disciplinary approaches are vital, both to the evolution of chemistry as a science and to developing practical and sustainable solutions to 21st century challenges.
In the last two centuries, chemistry and related molecular sciences have made immense contributions to human health and wellbeing and economic development. But the world faces new challenges, including emerging and re-emerging diseases in people and animals; depletion of natural resources; and pollution causing harm to both the biological and physical environments of the planet.
What would the chemical sciences look like if they gave priority to the fact that human and animal health and the biological and physical environments of the planet are all intimately connected?
How will the chemical sciences realise their potential of playing a key role in achieving sustainable development?
You can read the article by IOCD scientists Stephen Matlin, Goverdhan Mehta, Henning Hopf and Alain Krief, ‘One-world’ chemistry and systems-thinking , published by Nature Chemistry in May 2016, here.
The figure below summarises the One-World Chemistry view that the chemical sciences are centrally positioned to take an integrated view of the relationships between human and animal health and the biological and physical environments – and that the chemical sciences must now act differently to realise the potential created by this central positioning

Sustainability:

Meeting these challenges is especially relevant to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which 194 countries agreed at the United Nations High Level Summit in New York in September 2015.

What would the chemical sciences look like if they gave priority to the fact that human and animal health and the biological and physical environments of the planet are all intimately connected?

How will the chemical sciences realise their potential of playing a key role in achieving sustainable development?

Meeting these challenges is especially relevant to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which 194 countries agreed at the United Nations High Level Summit in New York in September 2015.

One-World Chemistry embodies the view that chemistry must go beyond ‘being a science’ and embrace ‘being a science for the benefit of society’.

This implies that chemistry must pursue a triple role, involving

  • Creating new scientific knowledge;
  • Translating knowledge into useful applications; and
  • Helping to meet the emergent global challenges of multiple unfolding world crises.

Chemists have traditionally given more attention to the first two of these roles, but in the perspective of One-World Chemistry it is now an imperative to add a strong emphasis on the third role. Close

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About this website:

This website explores the concept of One-World Chemistry and its implications for how the chemical sciences need to be re-imagined, taught and practiced.

Among other things, it explains:

  • The origins and meaning of the concept of One-World Chemistry
  • The essential need to adopt and apply systems thinking
  • The importance of developing cross-disciplinary approaches

The website also highlights:

  • Some of the many achievements of the chemical sciences over the last two centuries
  • New challenges in the 21st century – especially including those related to sustainable development – where a One-World Chemistry approach can make a vital contribution to finding solutions and to avoiding creating new problems

What we do NOT do is to offer prescriptive solutions or a ‘one size fits all’ approach. One-World Chemistry is a new way of thinking about global problems and how to work towards solutions. It is up to everyone learning, teaching and practicing the chemical sciences to adopt its principles and adapt its methods creatively in diverse contexts. Close

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Systems thinking:

Taking account of the inter-relationships between human and animal health and the biological and physical environments of the planet requires thinking beyond solving immediate, separate problems. It necessitates being aware of whole systems (e.g. chemical, biological, environmental systems) and appreciating both how the internal dynamics of each system work and how the systems interact with and affect one another. In other words, One-World Chemistry requires us to engage in Systems thinking.

Cross-disciplinarity:

A key requirement of the necessary redesign in chemistry – including the nature of the connections and engagements that chemistry makes to a host of other disciplines – is that both the teaching and practice of chemistry are informed by systems thinking and consequently embrace approaches that cut across disciplines. These cross-disciplinary approaches may be, as appropriate, multi-, inter- or transdisciplinary.

Chemistry’s evolution as a well-defined and separate academic discipline has served the field well in the past. This has provided a secure base for research that has added to fundamental knowledge and contributed to technological applications in chemical and materials industries. From this base, chemistry has interfaced with a host of other scientific disciplines, contributing to theoretical and practical advances in diverse biological and physical fields.

But the nature of science – where, how and by whom it is performed and funded; how disciplines interact and how complex problems are tackled; how knowledge is created, stored, shared and valued – is changing fundamentally in the globalized world of the 21st century. The traditional separateness of the chemistry discipline does not appear to be aligned with these changes and fundamental revision is now required in how chemistry is situated and how it engages beyond its own boundaries.

One example is the way that chemistry has been moving beyond the traditional territory of focusing on the properties and behaviour of atoms and molecules, towards increasing interest in non-bonded interactions. ‘Supramolecular chemistry’ explores a range of intermolecular relationships between chemical species created through synthesis; and the parallel field of ‘systems chemistry’ explores intermolecular relationships in natural systems and their role in the evolution and functioning of biological systems.

A common feature in both these strands of chemistry applied to non-bonded interactions is an effort to understand and utilize the phenomenon of self-assembly. The new chemistry perspectives have been reflected in the US National Academies report1 entitled ‘Beyond the molecular frontier’ and the essay2 by Whitesides on ‘Reinventing chemistry’ in which he spoke of the need for chemistry to expand its mission from "molecules", to "everything that involves molecules".

References:

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Ethical science:

One-World Chemistry is concerned with benefitting all people and avoiding harp to people, animals and the environment. It must therefore be practiced as an ethical science.