Promoting Chemistry for the Good of Humankind: A Q&A with Professor Wolfram Koch of the GDCh

August 9, 2017 Tom Griffin

I recently sat down with Professor Wolfram Koch, Executive Director of the German Chemical Society (GDCh), which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year− to discuss its long and proud history and the importance of intellectual property rights in the digital age.

Q. Could you tell us a little about GDCh?

  1. DSC_5074.jpgThe Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker, with around 31,000 members, is by far the largest chemical society in continental Europe. The GDCh covers all areas of chemistry (with the exception of Physical Chemistry which is represented by our partner organization, the Deutsche Bunsen-Gesellschaft) with members from academia and industry alike. We are organized in almost 30 technical divisions ranging from food chemistry to chemical education to chemistry and law and even self-employed chemists. In addition, the GDCh's 60 local sections ensure that we are present everywhere in Germany where chemistry is of importance, be it a university, a chemical industry site or a public institution. In order to fulfill our statutory aim of advancing the chemical sciences, we organize conferences and symposia, publish internationally renowned scholarly journals, offer career services and professional education programs and we’re engaged in chemistry teacher training.

Q. GDCh celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, a significant achievement. What are you most proud of as an organization?

  1. In the 150 years of our (and our predecessor organizations') existence the GDCh played a decisive role as the most important network of chemists in our country. Our scientific events, our highly successful scholarly journals, foremost Angewandte Chemie, the work and exchange within our divisions and the many contacts across borders of companies and universities are crucial catalysts for the success of the chemical enterprise in Germany and beyond. We’re also proud of our continuous outreach initiatives to the general public in order to increase public awareness of the important role of chemistry to everyday quality of life. In addition to the 150th anniversary, we are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the JungChemikerForum, a highly successful network of younger chemists.

Q. The GDCh mission states: "If chemistry is to receive due recognition, it needs to be promoted." How can authors better promote the research that they publish?

  1. On the one hand, a close interaction between the authors and the editorial teams of our journals helps to increase the visibility within the community. In addition, our scientific events offer authors a great opportunity to present their research. Together with our publishing partner Wiley-VCH, we are constantly developing and testing new ways of promotion, such as newsletters, social media, apps and so on.

Q. Copyright and, in particular, the online sharing of research articles has been a topic of conversation in the research community recently. Why is copyright important to GDCh?

  1. As Marcelin Berthelot once said: "La chimie creé son objet", i.e. chemists are creators and inventors. This intellectual property needs protection and a crucial part of this protection is the copyright. At the same time, it’s important to strike the right balance between preserving copyright, which is usually transferred to the publisher, and allowing for sharing. For the publisher, copyright is of great importance in order to fight piracy and to secure the financial basis needed for sustaining the high level services being offered. At the end of the day, we need to find solutions which protect the copyright but do not hinder the progress and the teaching of science. The STM Article Sharing Policy is an important step in this direction.

Q. In 2013, the GDCh published a position paper on the future of scientific publishing. In particular the statement mentioned that the GDCh "openly welcomes new approaches in publishing as long as these approaches are for the benefit of science and are based on a solid and resilient business model." Why is it important that access to research is supported by a resilient business model?

  1. We need to make sure that scientists do what they do best, and that is conduct research. When it comes to driving visibility and disseminating the results of research the experts are not the scientists, but publishers. Hence, to safeguard their publishing services - which are an integral and highly relevant part of the scientific enterprise - we need business models which remain attractive enough to keep publishers in business.

Q. What best practice information do you provide to your members regarding the sharing of research to ensure maximum impact while upholding the principles of copyright?

  1. In its 2013 position paper, the GDCh explicitly answers this question: The recommended and completely legal way of sharing research results is described in section 38 paragraph 4 of the German copyright law. It stipulates that publications from publicly funded research can be deposited in repositories after a 12 months embargo period.

To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh, German Chemical Society) ANGEWANDTE FESTSYMPOSIUM will be held on September 11th, 2017. Visit the website to learn more and to register for the free virtual online event.

And to learn more about the impressive history of the GDCh, explore the GDCh facts of the month from ChemistryViews.

Image Credit: GDCh


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