My written statement in the March 2015 Council Agenda

Now is the time for chemistry!

It is truly a great honor to be one of the nominees for President-Elect. Throughout its illustrious history, the ACS has been a leading provider of scientific information, a strong advocate for education and public outreach, and a nexus for our members to engage in their passions through the ACS’ exemplary network of technical divisions, local sections, and member services. Part of our success has been grounded in achieving the right balance between the value that we provide in contributing outward to a chemical enterprise that is international in scope, and the inward-focused benefits and services that we provide to our members. If elected, my emphasis will be on optimizing our delivery in both of these areas, and determining the steps we need to take to do that. I am asking for your vote to allow me to lead this effort.

Our members are the essence of our Society. Our membership numbers are part of our strength, and we need to ensure that we are serving all of our members. I’m concerned by the recent downward trend in the number of full-dues-paying members, and we know that each year as many chemists leave the ACS as join the ACS. We should certainly celebrate those that join our mission, but the obvious question is, “Why do some members, especially newer ones, not see a continuing path for engagement?” What can we do to correct this? My goal is to identify areas where we can do more to meet our members’ needs, and to pursue these. For example, we know that new members become more engaged once they become active with a division or a local section, and we must do more to help newer members see the benefits of such associations.

Employment matters. Employment statistics mean little to an individual whose passion is chemistry but yet is unemployed or underemployed. While there are some hopeful signs in certain sectors, we all know colleagues or students who can’t find jobs or can’t find a job that is commensurate with their passions and skills. To compound the problem, an alarmingly high percentage of recent B.A. and B.S. chemists are struggling to find work. We have heard from members that this is a real issue for them, and we must do more to identify the root causes and to develop strategies to address these. We cannot tolerate an outcome where an expensive education and the lack of a job threaten to undo the economic potential of many graduating chemists.

Education. Like me, I suspect that all of you studied chemistry because you were passionate about the subject, and I firmly believe that education is fundamental to everything we strive to achieve through the ACS. While the U.S. higher education system remains second to none, we also have to consider the fact that many students enter a field of study for the job prospects upon graduation and how much debt they might accumulate to get to that point. How will this affect the students who might want to study chemistry, and what are the implications for the future labor market for chemists? We must be cognizant of such trends and carefully consider the implications for the future of our profession.

Chemistry is fundamental. The pace of scientific discovery is astounding, and its potential for addressing global challenges is clear. However, these critical attributes come at a time of declining federal investment in R&D, a public that is often appreciative of chemists but not always of the future value of investments in chemistry, and challenges for early career researchers such as current grant success rates below 20%. Along with an accelerated pace and pressure for publications, and the new world of open access, it is clear that the ACS must lead in these areas by identifying what the implications of these are and how they must be addressed.

As ACS members, we are well poised to address these challenges through our Society’s journals, information resources, scientific meetings, divisions, local sections and committees. The office of President-Elect comes with responsibilities to serve the broader chemical enterprise as well as to seek to a better situation for all members. I respectfully ask for your vote to be your advocate to engage these issues.