Minutes of the 2006 CNCC Committee Meeting

(June 2, 2006, Hampton Inn, Ottawa)

The meeting came to order at 9:00. In attendance were Louis Delbaere, Stan Cameron, Marie Fraser, Lachlan Cranswick, Jim Britten, Joe Schrag, and Lee Groat.

The first order of business was to name a replacement for Dr. André Beauchamps, who resigned from the committee because both professional and personal responsibilities prevented him from actively participating in the business of the committee. Lachlan Cranswick nominated Dr. Pam Whitfield as a potential replacement. The nomination was approved unanimously. Dr. Whitfield was contacted by telephone later in the day and agreed to accept the responsibility.

Stan Cameron presented the report that he submitted to NRC on the proceedings of the 20th General Assembly of the IUCr held in August 2005 in Florence, Italy. The meeting was an excellent scientific conference and the General Assembly sessions were unusually animated. Significant dissatisfaction among some delegations, including the Canadian delegation, with the actions of the Executive Council of the IUCr with respect to nominations for IUCr officers and for positions on the Executive Council led to an emotionally charged election process. The report highlights the positions and actions of the Canadian delegation and highlights the participation of Canadian researchers on the various IUCr commissions. The report will be posted on the CNCC website if permission from NRC can be obtained. (follow-up: I have asked for permission to post the report, but have received no response as yet.)

Lee Groat reported on the ACA Council meeting held April 12, 2006 in Buffalo, NY. The Orlando ACA meeting in 2005 made a small profit. A large turnout is expected for the 2006 meeting in Honolulu. Future meetings sites are

2007 Salt Lake City, Utah
2008 Knoxville, Tennessee
2009 Ottawa, Ontario?

The name of the ACA Newsletter has been changed to ‘Reflections’. Lee reminded us of the importance of including news from Canada in each issue and before each issue he will send an e-mail reminder to the Canadian community to send in any items of interest.

Louis Delbaere presented the CLS status report of May 17, 2006. As stated in the report, the CLS accelerator system has met or exceeded all of the originally specified performance goals for 2004/2005. The number of operating hours is steadily increasing and 1500 beamline user hours were provided in the first three months of 2006. All 7 Phase I beamlines have seen monochromatic light at their endstations and 5 are scheduling general users. Commissioning of insertion devices is underway on the other two beamlines (CMCF and SM). The first diffraction image has been obtained at the CMCF beamline. Diffraction data will be collected and structures determined from test protein crystals in the course of beamline commissioning over the summer months. General user access at CMCF is anticipated in January 2007. For more details see the report posted here or consult the CLS website http://www.lightsource.ca for the latest information. Marie Fraser asked about the plans for high speed, broad bandwidth connection to allow “remote control” of the CMCF beamline. Joe Schrag responded that to his knowledge the plan was to proceed in stages. The first stage is to get the beamline up and running to allow on-site general user access (anticipated as stated above for January 2007). The second stage would be installation of an automounter to allow automated screening of crystals FedExed to the CLS. The user would then view the images, select the crystal(s) from which data would be collected, and would input the desired data collection parameters. The final stage would then be to develop the capability to truly remotely control of the beamline. This stage would require significant developments in beamline security and hardware control issues.

Marie Fraser reported on the status of the Larry Calvert fund. Signing authority for the account has been transferred from Jean-Pierre Charland, the past treasurer, to Marie and the remaining steps in the transfer of the account and treasurer responsibilities would be completed soon. Last year the CNC discussed the possibility of funding an annual student travel award to the ACA meeting in addition to the triennial travel awards to the IUCr General Assembly. One possibility was to fund the ACA travel award by increasing the Calvert fund principal through donations. To generate sufficient interest to support an annual award of $1000 at current interest rates, the principal would have to be increased by ~$40,000. This sum of money is far beyond what is attainable at the current level of contribution to the fund. Another possibility discussed is to solicit contributions to such a fund from commercial sources. Stan Cameron noted that some companies already sponsor workshops and meetings in Canada and that soliciting donations for a travel fund might interfere with existing sponsorship activities.

Follow-up: Following the meeting, Joe Schrag suggested asking the companies to directly fund a travel award, which would require a much smaller commitment of funds and might not interfere with existing sponsorships. Stan Cameron pointed out that we would have to carefully think through how the program would be administered, e.g. do we choose winners or would the companies choose the winners and what restrictions might be placed on eligibility and selection, before approaching the companies. Pam Whitfield reported her experience that companies are becoming more judicious with their sponsorship dollars and expressed concerns similar to those that Stan raised on possible restrictions imposed by contributing companies and possible conflicts with existing sponsorships. More thought and planning is clearly needed before proceeding along these lines.

The committee briefly discussed ways to increase the level of contribution to the Larry Calvert fund and decided that letters of appreciation from past winners and their supervisors about the benefits of the program would better publicize both the existence and importance of the program, perhaps spurring contribution. Lachlan will try to get the letters of appreciation and post them on the website. The fact that contributions to the fund are tax deductible should also be reiterated.

Joe Schrag reported the progress of the proposal committee on preparations for submitting a bid to host the 2014 IUCr General Assembly somewhere in Canada. Preliminary proposals were solicited and received from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The proposals ranged widely in terms of detail and total costs, but were not easily comparable since different parameters were used by each site. A quick calculation by David Brown had indicated a roughly equivalent cost (~$30) per square meter. Joe’s calculation were similar with Vancouver and Montreal slightly less expensive per square meter than Toronto. A more detailed set of specifications is needed in order to obtain more comparable proposals. A document presenting a mock GA was prepared and is now being modified according to input received from the proposal committee and the CNC and will be submitted to the three sites by mid June. Modified proposals will be due September 1 and a decision will be made by the proposal committee and CNC by teleconference planned for October 2. One important point is to identify a local organizing chair for the 2014 GA. Mirek Cygler has agreed to serve that role if Montreal is the site and Lee Groat has agreed to consider that role for Vancouver. No candidates have been identified for Toronto. Other potential candidates named by the CNC are Dominic Ryan (Montreal), Suzanne Fortier (probably Montreal, but perhaps for any of the three sites), David Rose (Toronto). Follow-up: After the meeting Joe Schrag thought of Penny Codding (Vancouver, or perhaps any site). Lee Groat, David Rose and David Brown all subsequently expressed positive views of approaching Penny to serve as the local organizing chair.

A discussion of the state of funding in Canada for crystallography, diffraction and related research brought to light that recent funding policies have provided much needed equipment to individual researchers, to university departments, and in the form of large national facilities such as the CLS. Along with this investment in equipment, the committee expressed the need for funding to hire and maintain the technical epertise necessary to operate the equipment and funds required to train the next generation of experts to develop both new techniques and the next generation of high tech equipment. Jim Britten made the point, for example, that small molecule crystallography is viewed as a business operation rather than as research. As a result, fund generating activities are the priority in these facilities and the time available to train the next generation is limited. Maintaining technical expertise is increasingly difficult when most positions are soft money positions. The committee decided, therefore, to draft an open letter to the prime minister to express both gratitude for past funding of major equipment and infrastructure and our opinion that, although we should not become complacent about investment in state-of-the art equipment, science policy should also include a mechanism to support and develop the human resources necessary to maintain and develop Canadian expertise. Lee Groat agreed to draft the letter.

Stan Cameron’s report on the General Assembly in Florence highlighted the current participation of Canadians on IUCr commissions. Current commission members are:

  • Hanna. Dabkowska (Chair), Commission on Crystal Growth and Characterisation of Materials, IUCr representative to the International Organisation of Crystal Growth (IOCG) and IUCr representative to the International Council for Science Committee on Space Research (COSPAR)
  • Lachlan M.D. Cranswick, Commission on Crystallographic Computing (1999), Commission on Crystallographic Teaching (2002)
  • George Ferguson, Commission on Journals and the Commission on Crystallographic Nomenclature, consultant to Commission on Inorganic and Mineral Structures
  • I. David Brown, Commission on Journals, Commission on Crystallographic Nomenclature, consultant to Commission on Crystallographic Computing, Chair for the IUCr Committee for the Maintenance of the CIF standard
  • John Tse, Commission on High Pressure,
  • Pam Whitfield, Commission on Powder Diffraction,
  • Louis.T.J. Delbaere, Commission on Synchrotron Radiation,
  • Frank C. Hawthorne, Commission on Inorganic and Mineral Structures, consultant

In addition, George Ferguson re-appointed as Editor of Section C of Acta Crystallographic and Co-Editors: J. Barbier (Acta C), I.D. Brown (Acta E), A.J. Lough (Acta E) and A. Mar(Acta E).

Stan noted in his report: There were 62 delegates present from 39 countries, the number of delegates for each country depended on the category that the country chose to fund. Canada as a category III delegation had three delegates. This is 4.8% of the total number. There were 9 Canadians appointed to the 18 commissions and 3 major committees. There are 129 commission members so that in this instance the Canadians are represented above their expected proportion.

Despite the good Canadian representation on the various commissions, the time required to nominate new candidates and have them elected to the commissions to maintain this representation makes it necessary to begin nominations now.

The CNC named the following people to be approached as to their interest and willingness to be nominated for positions on the commissions:

  • Commission on Neutron Scattering — Mario Beringer, U. Manitoba (Lachlan contact)
  • Commission on Crystallographic Computing — Bart Hazes, U. Alberta (Louis contact)
  • Commssion on Synchrotron Radiation — Pawel Grochulski, CLS/U. Saskatchewan (Louis contact)
  • Commission on Mathematical and Theoretical Crystallography — Yvon LePage, NRC (Joe contact)
  • Commission on Biological Macromolecules — Lynne Howell, Sick Children’s Hospital, Toronto, — Lynne Howell (Louis contact), or Albert Berghuis, McGill U.
  • Commission on Aperiodic Crystals — Ian Swainson
  • Commission on Charge, Spin and Momentum Densities- Stan Cameron, Dalhousie U.
  • Commission on Electron Diffraction — J. Britten, McMaster U.
  • Commission on Small-Angle Scattering — Marcia Singh, McMaster U. (J. Britten contact). Brian Shilton, Western Ontario U. and Bhushan Nagar, McGill University were also mentioned as potential candidates.
  • Commission on Structural Chemistry — J. Britten, McMaster U. agreed to be nominated
  • Commission on Inorganic and Mineral -Lee Groat, U. British Columbia agreed to be nominated
  • Commission on XAFS – Farideh Jalilehvand, U. Calgary (Marie contact)

The CNC decided to nominate Louis Delbaere for the Executive Council, but must check with Bill Duax on the proper protocol for nominations to the council. Joe Schrag agreed to contact Bill Duax about the process for nomination.

The meeting was adjourned at 14:05.