Good Morning! I’m truly humbled – and honored – to be one of the four nominees here before you.
35 chemists gathered in New York City in early April of 1876, and from there the ACS was born. From this modest beginning, we have grown into an international presence with about 160,000 members – many outside the US – a recognized powerhouse for chemical information and chemistry journals, and with an enviable network of local sections, international chapters, technical divisions, and volunteer committees.
But here is what concerns me:
Although the unemployment rate overall for chemists is dropping, the percentage of newly-minted B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. graduates seeking jobs – sometimes for months or even years after graduation – is well into double digits. The benefits that science can offer humanity and our world are greater than ever before, but the environment that science faces is one of the most challenging in recent memory. Federal R&D spending has dropped 16% in inflation-adjusted dollars in the past 5 years. Spending on science and technology, at 0.78% of the economy, is at its lowest point in 50 years. The success rate for grant applications for those scientists under age 36 is 3%, compared to almost 20% in the early 1980s. The public, and Congress, values the benefits of science, but the question of what it takes to sustain that capability, against a competitive global research environment, isn’t always clear to them. To add to this, we have entered an era where many messages of science are under continual challenge. We cannot change public viewpoints by dismissing their opinions, but we must continue to demonstrate how chemistry has benefited – and will continue to benefit – aspects of their lives that matter to them.
One of our core values is “Focus on members” and it has two components, “Service to Members” and “Volunteer Contributions.” I think we can agree on the strength of our volunteers’ contributions, but are we doing enough to focus on our 160,000 members? The challenge is to retain these members by continuing to demonstrate that membership has value for their scientific and professional careers, and to give them the tools to demonstrate their strengths. Quite simply, do our members feel that the ACS cares about them and has the means to help them? If all the ACS means to some members is a dues bill that shows up in the mail, we have lost those members.
I am proud that we have responded to changing needs in our membership in an area that I hold dear – Education. Undergraduate attendance at recent Spring meetings is over 2500 – ten times what it was 20 years ago – and almost 1500 undergrad posters were presented here in Denver last Sunday. Almost half of all U.S. undergraduates attend a two-year institution, so a new ACS staff structure was implemented last Fall that will strengthen our support of two-year college students and faculty. We have expanded into resources for K-12 teachers through the American Association of Chemistry Teachers, with Dow Chemical’s pledge to be the sole founding partner.
Our professional society has a unique combination of assets exhibited by no other scientific society of this magnitude – the vitality of our local sections, the prestige of our technical divisions and publications, and the effect we have on an international scale. If elected, I will approach all issues with an open mind, a willingness to listen and learn, and above all a strong belief in the transforming power of chemistry, and of our members, to change the world for the better. My vision is that the ACS is part of the professional lives of practicing chemists around the world, whether through publications, conferences, collaborations, networking, or local volunteer activities. Better yet, all of the above!