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The Historyof the Pulp and Paper Fundamental Research Society (1954-1997)

History of the FRC - A committee of the Pulp and Paper Fundamental Research Society
by H.F. (Toby) Rance
This article first appeared in the UK Paper Industry Journal, Paper Technology and is reproduced here by the kind permission of PITA.

The Fundamental Research Committee (FRC) was initiated toward the end of 1954 as a sub-committee of the Executive Committee of the Technical Section of the British Paper and Board Makers' Association. It was formed with the explicit aim of mounting a Fundamental Research Symposium, in the hope of emulating the achievements of a meeting sponsored jointly by the Fundamental Research Committees of TAPPI and CPPA on the Fundamentals of the Paper Machine, organised by the late Harry F. Lewis, and held at the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA, in September 1954.

The members of the first committee, as appointed by that Executive Committee, were H.F. Rance (Chairman), Hector Emerton (Programme Secretary), P.H. Dixon, J. Grant, H. Ainsworth Harrison, N.R. Hood, D. McNeill, P.H. Prior, and G.F. Underhay. Subsequently the membership and officers were appointed by the FRC itself.

The first FRC Symposium was held at Cambridge in September 1957, with the immediate aim of assembling the world experts on the chosen theme for a critical review and discussion on The Fundamental Aspects of Fibres and their Treatment for Papermaking. It was opened by Sir Geoffrey Taylor F.R.S. One half of the registrants were from overseas, and the speakers were drawn from ten countries: a testimony to its truly international character. The four session Chairmen were W. Holzer, J. Grant, H.F. Rance and B. Steenberg. The proceeding lasted for one week, with one half day for relaxation. Those who participated in the symposium agreed with Dr. Otto Maass. F.R.S., who said that it was a landmark in the science of papermaking and that it had set new standards for conferences in this field. Both during and after that first FRC Symposium there were many requests that this should be the first in a series of conferences of similar pattern and standards.

The proceedings of the first Symposium were subsequently published in a hardback volume which included a verbatim record of all the conference discussions, and at the time of this publication it was formally announced that a second symposium would be held on the subject of formation and structure of paper.

This second symposium was held in Oxford in September 1961, thus establishing the pattern of week-long meetings at four-yearly intervals, held in September alternately at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The location of the symposia at these great seats of learning and excellence has provided both a physical and a psychological ambience of unique character. The four-year interval between symposia was judged to be necessary for the substantial task of developing the framework for an appropriate theme, stimulating and collating relevant contributions, submitting them to meticulous and thorough screening to ensure the maintenance of scientific standards, assembling them in a structured programme for presentation, and ensuring that the Proceedings, including verbatim records of conference discussions, were made available to registrants in printed hardback form.

The production of such printed hardback volumes containing the full proceedings of the symposia, including discussion contributions, was from the outset seen as an objective as important as the mounting of the symposia themselves, because it initiated the build-up of a library source of paper science which in time could become an invaluable source for reference for future generations of papermakers. At the same time it was also considered essential that registrants should be able to read the text of papers due for presentation, in advance of the actual meeting, and this necessitated the production of pre-printed galley proofs which were circulated to registrants in advance.

This meant that two printings were necessary: a first one for these advance proofs, and a second for the final text which included the full text of conference discussions, plus the text of any prepared contributions which had been judged to be worthy of acceptance. This procedure, which was used for the first eight symposia, was not only costly; it also often led to substantial delays in preparation of the Proceedings, sometimes a delay of more than one year.

Starting with the ninth symposium, a new system was introduced, in which the text of papers approved for presentation was prepared in hardback printed form in advance of the meeting, and was normally handed to registrants on arrival at the conference venue. The record of the conference discussions, together with any accepted prepared contributions, was then printed in a third hardback volume for subsequent distribution to registrants by post. This third volume also contained the text of unscripted contributions such as the Chairman's opening remarks, biographical details of speakers and session chairmen, and a composite index for the three volumes. This system will again be used for the 11th Symposium due in 1997.

The Fundamental Research Committee has now been in existence for 43 years, during which it has organised and mounted 10 symposia at Oxford and Cambridge. The full list of these symposia to date is available on the FRC website.

As had been hoped in 1957, the bound hardback volumes of the Proceedings of these symposia to date provide a most valuable library source for contemporary papermaking science, and are recognised as such throughout the papermaking world.

In 1984 The Technical section separated from the British Paper and Board Makers' Association and under its new name of PITA it operated for several years within Pira, the Printing, Paper and Allied Trades Research Association. The cash reserve accumulated by the FRC to finance future symposia remained with the British Paper and Board Maker's Association. This somewhat anomalous situation was resolved by the creation of an independent body termed the Pulp & Paper Fundamental Research Society, which was granted charitable status in 1985. The accumulated reserve of FRC funds was transferred by the British Paper and Board Makers' Association to the Pulp and Paper Fundamental Research Society, which in turn re-appointed the members of the old Fundamental Research Committee to form a new sub-committee carrying the same name, but now a sub-committee of the new Society. It was decided that the FRC logo should be retained on the letterheading of the Society, thus maintaining continuity with the practice of the previous 30 years.

The transfer of the old Technical Section (renamed PITA) to Pira left the FRC without an active secretariat. For a time its secretarial affairs were run from Butlers Court, thanks to the generosity of The Wiggins Teape Group, but in due course the FRC negotiated a service contract with Pira for the provision of secretarial services within Pira premises at Leatherhead. At the same time, the Registered Office of the parent Society, the Pulp and Paper Fundamental Research Society, was for convenience located at Pira House. For some years past the FRC has also contractually employed Pira's Conference Services to organise and run most of the logistics of the Symposia at Oxford and Cambridge, and Pira also acted on a contract basis as publisher of the Proceedings of the 10th Symposium held at Oxford. Similar contractual arrangements will continue through the pending 11th Symposium. Pira however remains essentially a provider of contractual services, and has at no time been formally affiliated in any way either to the FRC or to its parent, the Pulp and Paper Fundamental Research Society.

In the years between the fourth and fifth Fundamental Research Symposia, informal negotiations with the Paper Physics Committee of TAPPI and the Research Committee of the Technical Section of CPPA led to an arrangement whereby these two bodies became co-sponsors of the FRC Symposia, along with the old Technical Section of the British Paper and Board Makers' Association, now well known as PITA (Paper Industry Technical Association) and operating since 1994 from a new location in Bury. From that time on each of the North American co-sponsors has been represented by a co-opted member on the Fundamental Research Committee. This arrangement has been valuable in ensuring avoidance of clashes of dates and themes between the meetings of the respective bodies, as well as providing valuable input to the committee from its North American members. In addition, several other overseas members have from time to time been co-opted from other papermaking areas, in order to enhance the system of communication links throughout the papermaking world.

While the organisation of the Oxford and Cambridge Symposia and the production of hardback bound volumes of their Proceedings remain the main missions of the FRC, it has undertaken several additional activities in keeping with its charitable status. In 1991 a reprinting of the classic lectures given by W.W. Barkas on The Swelling of Wood under Stress, first published in 1949, was arranged by the FRC. Also in 1991, the Review papers from the Proceedings of the 9th Symposium were assembled, reprinted and re-issued in a single hardback volume, as a special contribution to the literature of papermaking. Both of these reprints have been made generally available at cost, and free copies have also been donated to appropriate bodies.

Also in keeping with the charitable status of the Society, arrangements have been made whereby an agreed number of students at papermaking institutions are able to attend the Fundamental Research Symposia at greatly reduced registration fees.

The next FRC symposium will be held in Cambridge during September 1997. It will be entitled The Fundamentals of Papermaking Materials, and will include seven sessions covering the interactions and impacts on papermaking of fillers, sizing agents, binders, process chemicals, optical additives and, of course, fibres, which will be considered from physical, chemical and morphological points of view. As in the more recent symposia, comprehensive Review Papers will be presented by acknowledged leaders of their respective fields. Such Review papers are now firmly established as a major component of the conference programmes for the Symposia.

The proceedings of all previous FRC Symposia are on fully searchable CDs. Ordering information is available on the FRC homepage:
Delegates to the forthcoming 16th Symposium in Oxford in September 2017 will receive a fully searchable copy of ALL those past proceedings on a Flash Drive which will also be available for purchase after the event.