A Brief History of ICNIRS

Tony Davies
Norwich Near Infrared Consultancy
75 Intwood Road,
Cringleford, Norwich NR4 6AA

Peter Flinn
Kelspec Services Pty Ltd
PO Box 31
Dunkeld, Victoria 3294

The birth

The International Committee for Near Infrared Spectroscopy (ICNIRS) was formed during the International NIR Meeting organised by Karoly Kaffka in Budapest in June 1986. The suggestion to form an international body for NIR spectroscopy came from Professor Vadim Krischenko of the Central Institute of Agrochemical Service, Moscow, USSR. This was quite a surprise because very few people knew Vadim or his work. The American delegation at the conference knew that this would happen so when the proposal was made at the commencement of the conference it was rapidly agreed that a working party should be formed to report back at the end of the conference. Karl Norris encouraged Tony Davies to nominate as the UK delegate. The working party met several times and it was soon agreed that the idea was good but the detail was difficult. The proposal was for a body which would be recognised at government level and be affiliated to the major international agencies. The difficulties with this idea were that it would take years to set up and most working members were not sufficiently eminent in the eyes of their national governments. In the end it was agreed that an ad hoc committee be formed that hopefully would be recognised by the near infrared community.

The question of who should be the chairman of the committee could have caused diplomatic difficulties (this was only days after the Chernobyl disaster and the Cold War was still running). This potential problem was solved by electing co-chairmen, Vadim Krischenko and Ed Stark of KES Analysis, New York, USA although as it turned out Ed did almost all of the work!

It was suggested that the new body should be responsible for organising International NIR Conferences but at first no one was willing to be the first organiser. However, as Tony Davies was already organising a spectroscopic conference to take place in Norwich, UK in July 1987 (Spectroscopy Across the Spectrum), he suggested that it might be possible to run an NIR conference in parallel. This idea was speedily adopted, and ensured Tony’s close involvement with ICNIRS for many years to come. So at the end of the very successful Budapest meeting it was agreed that the body should be named the International Committee for Near Infrared Spectroscopy, that it should have co-chairmen and its first conference would be in Norwich in 1987. It was agreed that any other rules, which might be needed, would be formulated as the need arose.


Tony soon discovered that when running ICNIRS-1 (as the 1987 conference was named), a bank account needed to be opened. The bank required the names of the Secretary and Treasurer as well as the Chairmen. After consultation with Ed, Tony elected himself Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer! (This was ratified at the committee meeting during the conference). At the second conference in Japan it was agreed that these functions should be split, with Professor Heinz Siesler being elected Honorary Secretary and Tony remaining Honorary Treasurer. By 1991 it was clear that it was time for a change, but there was no mechanism for change! With the ending of the Cold War the diplomatic solution of having co-chairmen seemed no longer necessary. It was therefore agreed that a new Chairman should be elected, together with a Chair-Elect who would become Chairman in three years (this was later changed to four years to match the conference schedule). The complete list of officers from 1986 to 2019 is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. ICNIRS Officers 1986-2019. * The title Chairman was changed to President at the 2017 conference in Copenhagen. Thus Ana Garrido Varo began her term as Chairman and ended it as President.

YearChairman/President*Honorary SecretaryHonorary TreasurerChair/President* ElectPast Chair/President*
1986Ed Stark and Vadim Krischenko    
1987Tony DaviesTony Davies  
1989Heinz Siesler  
1991Ian MurrayPeter FlinnWoody Barton 
1994Woody BartonTony Davies 
1997Tony DaviesGerard Downey 
1998Yuki Ozaki (acting) 
1999Yuki Ozaki 
2001Gerry DowneySandra KaysPeter FlinnTony Davies
2005Peter FlinnMarena ManleyPierre DardenneGerry Downey
2008Miryeong Sohn (acting)
2009Pierre DardenneMarena ManleySteve HolroydAna Garrido-VaroPeter Flinn
2013 Ana Garrido-VaroSirinnapa Saranwong  Steve HolroydMarena Manley Pierre Dardenne
2015 “ Tom Fearn
2017Tom FearnPeter TillmannSoren Balling EngelsenAna Garrido

The President’s Advisory Committee

At the 1991 meeting in Aberdeen it was agreed to form a new body to be called “The Chairman’s Advisory Committee” (CAC). This was to be chaired by the Immediate Past Chairman and consist of three elected “elder statesmen” and the convenors of past conferences. The three elected members were Karl Norris, Karoly Kaffka and Fred McClure. The structure of the CAC was reformed in 1999 to include the ICNIRS Executive, and an additional eight elected members to each serve four-year terms. Conference convenors would retire four years after their conference. With the change of nomenclature from Chairman to President in 2017 the CAC became the PAC. The PAC is responsible for determining the winner of the Tomas Hirschfeld Award from nominations received, and also for administering the conferring of ICNIRS Fellowships.


At the Committee meeting during ICNIRS-1 it was agreed that conferences should be held every two years, alternating with the International Diffuse Reflection (Chambersburg) Conference. Mutsuo Iwamoto agreed to organise the second conference in Japan in 1989. However the officers and some senior figures had held an unofficial meeting during an NIR meeting in Moscow, USSR where they surrendered to the pressure for annual NIR conferences and it was provisionally agreed that these should be Brussels, 1990; Moscow, 1991 and Norway, 1992. These were ratified at the Committee meeting at ICNIRS-2. At the Brussels meeting the Russians reported that they would not be able to host a meeting in 1991. The officers (who by this time were regretting agreeing to the extra conferences) suggested that it should not be replaced but the Committee as a whole thought otherwise and decided that there should be a conference in 1991. Aberdeen, Scotland was elected as the venue, followed by Norway in 1992, Australia in 1993 and Germany in 1994. At the Aberdeen conference the Committee agreed to ratify a decision taken at an unofficial meeting at the 1990 Chambersburg Conference to allow the Australians to move their conference to 1994. At the suggestion of Heinz Siesler, the German conference was postponed until 1997 to allow for a Canadian conference in 1995. It was further agreed that future conferences should be in odd numbered years, as had been originally agreed in 1987! Italy made an unopposed bid to host the final conference of the 20th century. At the 1995 meeting in Montreal the Committee agreed to a rule that venues for future conferences were to be decided four years in advance. Countries wanting to host the conference would publish a proposal in NIR News and make a short presentation at the relevant Committee meeting. This rule came into effect in 1997 and Korea was selected to host the 10th ICNIRS Conference in 2001. A complete list of Conferences to date is given in Table 2. Note that the table begins with the Budapest conference, which was not really an ICNIRS conference, but to honour the birth of ICNIRS on that occasion the tradition has grown of referring to it as the “Zeroth” ICNIRS Conference!

01986JuneHungaryKaroly Kaffka
11987JulyEnglandTony Davies
21989May-JuneJapanMutsuo Iwamoto and Sumio Kawano
31990JuneBelgiumRobert Biston
41991AugustScotlandIan Murray and Ian Cowe
51992JuneNorwayKjell Ivar Hildrum
61994AprilAustraliaPeter Flinn and Di Miskelly
71995AugustCanadaPhil Williams
81997SeptemberGermanyHeinz Siesler
91999JuneItalyRoberto Giangiacomo
102001JuneKoreaRae-Kwang Cho
112003AprilSpainAna Garrido-Varo
122005AprilNew ZealandRoss Clarke
132007JuneSwedenLars Österlund
142009NovemberThailandVichai Haruthaithanasan
152011MaySouth AfricaMarena Manley
162013JuneMontpellier, FranceVéronique Bellon-Maurel
172015October Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil Celio Pasquini
182017 JuneCopenhagen, Denmark Soren Engelsen
192019 SeptemberGold Coast, Australia Roger Meder

Name Change

At the 2003 conference in Spain, it was decided to change the “C” word in ICNIRS from “Committee” to “Council”. This change reflected the conviction that “Committee” implied something temporary and no longer appropriate for a mature international organisation. ICNIRS is now the International Council for Near Infrared Spectroscopy.

New Regulations

At the Council’s General Meeting during NIR-2007 in Sweden, there was clear majority support for the introduction of a comprehensive set of Regulations governing the activities of ICNIRS, following extensive discussions among the Executive and the PAC. The most important changes proposed in the Regulations were a new Management Committee structure and a list of basic requirements for countries hosting future ICNIRS Conferences. Under the new Regulations, the Council Management Committee consists of the Executive, plus three elected members as well as the Conveners of the current and next conferences.

Further amendments to the Regulations were put to the Council General Meeting at NIR-2009 in Thailand, the most important ones covering Council membership and voting rights. The proposals included changing the voting system from one vote per country represented at the General Meeting to one vote per financial member of ICNIRS. The amendments were approved by a large majority of countries represented.

NIRS Educational Project: IVPTL-NIRS

During the ICNIRS General Meeting held in Cape Town in 2011 the first draft of a cooperative agreement for educational activities was presented. It aimed the creation of an on-line education project conducted by the International Council of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (ICNIRS) and the University of Córdoba, entitled International Virtual Platform for Teaching and Learning of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (IVPTL-NIRS).The main goal was to create a platform on which researchers, professionals and students from a wide range of fields may find courses to learn about NIR technology and other non-destructive spectral sensors.

IVPTL-NIRS is now a reality. The first course offered by the platform is entitled “Fundamentals and Applications of Near InfraredSpectroscopy”. This was launched in 2017 and is currently enrolling its third cohort of international students. It makes available via video lectures the knowledge of leading NIRS experts from all over the world, and supports learning with quizzes, exercises, discussion forums and other e-learning tools. Other courses are planned for the future as resources permit.

The Future

After more than twenty years of operating with relatively informal guidelines, ICNIRS has now developed into a mature international learned society recognised as the peak body for the NIR community. The demands of the modern world have led ICNIRS to adopt a more official management structure with a set of Regulations governing its activities. These Regulations can of course be amended at any Council General Meeting following formal notice of motion, and there is no desire to become over-bureaucratic. It is essential that we strike the right balance between due process and adequate flexibility. Much remains to be done, particularly in the area of education, awards and conference guidelines. Hopefully ICNIRS can continue to function well into the future as a genuine “international NIR family”.

Updated : 21 October 2019