Formal representation of the Consortium
September 1, 1999
It is now about a year since, during the ECM-18 in Prague, we formed a loose association, named Consortium, of protein crystallography groups in Central and Eastern Europe. In addition to providing a forum for communication and cooperation between the biocrystallography labs sprouting in Central and Eastern Europe, the Consortium's main goal has been to consolidate and represent those groups in contacts with the Royal Society. This was initiated and fostered by Guy Dodson. On Guy's initiative, and with the acceptance of those who were present in Prague, I volunteered to coordinate this informal association.
During this past year, the Consortium's activities have been rather limited (a web page and a mailing list were created, information about funding and experimental opportunities has been circulated) mainly because it took relatively long to receive a formal response from the Royal Society. The response, received shortly before the IUCr Congress in Glasgow, seems to indicate that the Society is prepared to discuss ways to sponsor exchange visits between the UK and the Consortium labs. Such a support should be of extra benefit to the Consortium members and would in no way interfere with any bilateral arrangements that the member labs may already have.
In Glasgow, together with Guy Dodson, we have prepared a letter which, hopefully, will soon lead to a positive conclusion of our talks with the Royal Society. In addition, those of us who were present at the Glasgow Congress met at an ad hoc meeting to discuss our current and future activities. One of our conclusions was that the Consortium, while remaining an informal (i.e. not complicated by legal arrangements) association, should try to define its status and representation. This minimal "formalization" seems desirable for the purpose of negotiations with the Royal Society and, hopefully in the near future, with the Institutions of the European Union. I therefore put forward the following for your consideration and acceptance:
1. The Consortium defines its objectives as: (i) the consolidation of structural biology laboratories in Central and Eastern Europe, (ii) establishing a platform for exchange of ideas and experiences, particularly regarding science policy issues in the respective countries, (iii) establishing a platform for communication and for promotion of scientific collaboration among the member laboratories, (iv) providing coordinated representation of its members where coordinated actions are of benefit to the participating groups.
2. Membership is established simply by a declaration made by a group leader of the group's intention to join the Consortium.
3. The Consortium establishes a minimum representation, in the persons of a coordinator and vice-coordinator. These posts are filled by volunteers or persons nominated by colleagues, after acceptance by other members in an open (electronic) discussion. The offices are for two years, the two posts changing in alternative years.
With respect to (3), I could volunteer to continue as a coordinator for another year, until the ECM-19 in Nancy as long as such a solution meets with your approval. At the same time, I propose Imro Barak (Institute of Molecular Biology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava) to be accepted as vice-coordinator. This nomination reflects the fact that Slovak groups are the most numerous in our Consortium and that Imro was the first to respond to my email call for letters of interest regarding the Royal Society initiative.
I think we should limit unnecessary bureaucracy to the absolute minimum and that this lengthy letter is already too much. Therefore, to formalize the arrangements, I'd like to request those of you who agree with the above to send me a letter of consent (by email) with the following statement:
"I express my interest in participating in the Consortium of Central and Eastern European Structural Biology Groups and agree that the Consortium be represented by Mariusz Jaskolski (coordinator) and Imrich Barak (vice-coordinator).
I hope that with your consent, the Royal Society proposal will be formulated soon. I will keep you informed on all developments.
With best wishes,