The EC-funded thematic network 'Speciation 21' links scientists in analytical chemistry working in method development for the chemical speciation of trace elements, and potential users from industry and representatives of legislative agencies, in the field of environment, food and occupational health and hygiene. The network covers a number of important issues including organotin compounds, chromium and nickel species, chemical characterisation of environmental and industrial particulate samples, risk assessment, selenium and a series of other essential and toxic elements in food, as well as the influence of packing materials. Once the analytical methodology for the measurement of the trace element species has been optimised, the importance of trace element speciation will grow enormously. Food sciences, material sciences, medicine and occupational health, environmental sciences and related fields will all profit. The network will also substantially promote the dissemination of knowledge through the member states.