IUCr 1999 Triennial Report - Commission on High Pressure

The triennium now ending has been the first for the Commission on High Pressure. The Commission was created at the Seattle Congress without prior preparation, and started out as the previously existing High Pressure Group of the Commission on Crystallographic Apparatus under a new guise, but with the same membership and no specific new remit. A substantial task of the triennium has thus been to metamorphose the Group into a Commission — with Terms of Reference, a broader remit, officers, and a clear role and identity in the IUCr — as well as continuing the regular programme of meetings established by the Group, starting in 1989.

To secure expertise over the wider range of science that it was felt appropriate for the Commission to cover, consultants were appointed in the areas of stress effects (A.K. Singh), and biological and other soft matter (S.M. Gruner). It was also decided that the Commission should have both a Secretary (J.B. Parise) and a Treasurer (W.F. Kuhs). It became clear in the first year that the Commission would benefit from taking time to frame its Terms of Reference. The change from the Group, with its focus on single-crystal and powder diffraction, to the wider role and responsibilities of a Commission led to considerable debate as to just how wide its scope should be. The matter was discussed at a meeting of the Commission held at Grenoble, France, in November 1997; the experience of mounting a Workshop, at Argonne, USA, in November 1998, covering the proposed full range of the Commission's activities, was used to test and finalise ideas; and the Terms as now approved by the Executive Committee were agreed at a meeting of the Commission held during that Workshop. The Commission has undertaken to work to strengthen the links between high-pressure crystallography and the wider field of high-pressure science, to make the scope of high-pressure crystallography as inclusive as possible without compromising its crystallographic identity, to make information about high-pressure methods and facilities widely available, and where possible to assist young scientists and others new to the field. In pursuit of these and other aims, the Commission now also has an active web page under continuing development.

Symposia and workshops

The Commission's principal activity has been the organisation of symposia and workshops. High-pressure crystallography is going through a period of rapid change and major development that seems set to continue for many years yet. Regular meetings are essential to keep the community in touch with the latest science and techniques, and also to keep the Commission abreast of growth in the community and to draw in new people. One sign of the level of innovation has been the difference in topics and speakers from one year's meeting to the next throughout this triennium. The Commission has been particularly concerned to encourage participation in its symposia and workshops by young scientists, and has been greatly assisted in this by funding from the IUCr.

The inaugural activity of the Commission was a one-day Symposium on 'Structural Study under High Pressure using X-rays and Neutrons' at the International Conference on High Pressure Science and Technology (AIRAPT-16) held in Kyoto, Japan, 25—29 August 1997. The organiser was Commission member O. Shimomura. The programme focused principally on synchrotron and neutron facilities around the world, and the latest high-pressure results obtained using them. There was an excellent attendance of some 50 participants throughout despite the competition from eight other symposia.

The Commission's first independent meeting was a three-day Workshop on 'Crystallography at High Pressure using Synchrotron Radiation; the Next Steps', held at ESRF, Grenoble, France, 21—23 November 1997. The organiser was Commission member D. Häusermann. The focus on synchrotron science was selected to celebrate the first few years of successful operation of ESRF, which had made a major impact on high-pressure techniques and research. Nearly 30 scientists selected from the main groups active in synchrotron techniques and associated fields from around the world gave invited talks. Over 80 participants from 18 countries included 11 young scientists who benefited from support for the workshop from the IUCr. The Workshop also received generous financial support from ESRF, in addition to access to its meetings' facilities.

A four-day Workshop held at Argonne National Laboratory, USA, 14—17 November 1998, on 'Synchrotron, Neutron and Laboratory Source Crystallography at High Pressure' was the first attempt to hold a meeting encompassing the full range of the Commission's activities. The organiser was Commission member and Secretary J.B. Parise. The programme ranged over soft and biological matter, Earth and planetary science, new materials, physical and chemical properties including magnetism and superconductivity, structures and transitions in fundamental ionic, metallic and H-bonded systems, the latest in facility and technique developments around the world including work at extremes of pressure and temperature, with experimental methods ranging from diffraction — including from liquid and amorphous samples — through inelastic neutron and X-ray scattering to optical, Mössbauer and X-ray spectroscopy, and a substantial component of the latest computational work. Nearly 120 participants from 14 countries included 23 young scientists, 17 of whom benefited from support for the workshop from the IUCr. The workshop also received financial support from the Center for High Pressure Research at Stony Brook and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the GeoSoilEnviro-Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources (GSECARS) at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), and the APS itself, as well as very considerable assistance with local arrangements from N. Lazarz and other GSECARS staff.

All members of the Commission put a large amount of effort into planning and running these meetings. Over the past year, they have also been actively engaged in shaping the Commission's sessions for the Glasgow Congress, particularly A. Katrusiak who is a member of the Programme Committee. All other members and consultants are acting as Chairs or Co-chairs for the Commission's microsymposia. There are to be six of these, two keynote lectures, and an Open Commission Meeting over four days of the Congress. The number of abstracts submitted shows a 40% increase over the Seattle Congress.

Meetings of the Commission

All members of the Commission have met together on two occasions during this triennium, first at the 1997 Workshop in Grenoble and then at the 1998 Workshop in Argonne. The main items of business at the first meeting were the Terms of Reference, membership and the appointment of consultants, and future meetings. In addition to all the members, both consultants would also have been present at the second meeting but for A.K. Singh's absence due to a bar by the US Government on Indian scientists entering the Argonne site. The main items of business at this second meeting were the final Terms of Reference, future membership of the Commission, plans for sessions at the Glasgow Congress, and other future plans and activities.

Other events

The Chair represented the Commission at a workshop in honour of C.T. Prewitt and L.W. Finger, held at the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC, USA, 11—13 April 1999, to mark the retirements of these two out-standing high-pressure crystallographers. C.T. Prewitt was a former member of the pre-existing Commission on Crystallographic Studies at Controlled Pressures and Temperatures, and L.W. Finger was a member of that Commission and of the subsequent High Pressure Group of the Commission on Crystallographic Apparatus.

Future plans and activities

The Commission intends to organise workshops in 2000 and 2001, at venues yet to be finally agreed. Plans are also underway to organise a School on High Pressure Crystallography at Erice, Italy, in 2003. Commission member A. Katrusiak is acting as the Commission's contact with the organisers of the Erice programme. Work is currently in progress to compile a directory of high-pressure crystallographers and their research. The Commission also plans to collect and disseminate information on central facilities for high-pressure crystallography, and on how to access them.

The Commission thus reaches its first Congress fully fledged, but still developing. Just one of the significant developments of this triennium has been the successful introduction of the field of biology and soft matter into the Commission's activities. Further enlargements seem certain to follow. The interfacing of the core of high-pressure crystallography to the wider field of high-pressure science has been a key task and priority, and will remain so; there is good evidence that the Commission is being successful in attracting a growing number of that wider community to its fold. Much is owed to the hard and creative effort put in by Commission members and consultants, who have all been exceptionally active and reliable throughout this triennium in response to many requests for involvement in shaping workshop and Congress programmes, Terms of Reference and other Commission business, and in attending meetings of the Commission. The Commission looks forward to its second triennium aware of much yet to be done, but also confident that the effort will prove as rewarding as hitherto.

R.J. Nelmes, Chair

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Updated 6th June 1999