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ACS Comment: Transforming industrial chemists’ experience in ACS

by Christina Bodurow, director, District II
July 14, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 25


Christina Bodurow.
Credit: Courtesy of Eli Lilly and Company
Christina Bodurow

The American Chemical Society has an ambition to transform the membership experience for industrial chemists. Multiple efforts are underway to effect this change, and we are interested in additional perspectives in order to accomplish this critical objective. Recently, the ACS Board of Directors signaled a desire to increase the membership focus across ACS and will be launching an Industry Member Advisory Board in the second half of 2022 to help facilitate this.

Over the past 18 months, ACS has received feedback from ACS industrial chemists about what is important to them, now and in the future, relative to their membership in our society. For a decade or more, local sections, divisions, and governance organizations also have investigated this challenge through multiple efforts.

ACS staff who oversee industry member programs have performed surveys, provided networking opportunities at national meetings, and distributed the weekly newsletter Industry Matters that includes content relevant to industrial members.

At the ACS Fall 2021 meeting, the ACS Council provided feedback relative to creating industrial member value. Leveraging that input, ACS immediate past president, H.N. Cheng, convened a Presidential Industry Value Working Group, which further investigated industrial member needs. Its recommendations will be incorporated into actions, such as encouraging more industry-related symposia at ACS meetings, communicating the availability of industry-related topics at meetings to divisions and industry-heavy local sections, and increasing industry representation on ACS National Award canvassing committees.

Multiple ACS divisions have been serving industrial members for decades. Several divisions are organized around specific technical industry sectors, such as polymer chemistry, polymer materials, and engineering. Others address industry concentrations, such as the Divisions of Business Development and Management (BMGT), Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (I&EC), and Small Chemical Businesses (SCHB). These divisions are continually polling their members and then responding with the appropriate services and professional activities.

Finally, ACS CEO Tom Connelly annually convenes the ACS Chief Technology Officer Summit. At these meetings he learns from the executives of the world’s largest companies about what the external issues and challenges are to the companies’ operational success and what more can be done to serve their employees as ACS members.

Why all these efforts? Two reasons. First, ACS recognizes the critical role that industrial members play in the overall success of the chemistry profession as well as ACS. They are a critical part of how basic and applied research is performed and discoveries are commercialized for the benefit of humankind. The ACS community benefits from all industrial members, regardless of the size of the company or type of scien ce or engineering performed.

Second, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 1.5–2 million people work in the US chemical and allied industries, which could potentially benefit from, and contribute to, ACS. In contrast, currently only about 28,000 of our 150,000 ACS members identify as industrial members. In our mission to “advance the broader chemical enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people,” ACS has a significant opportunity to expand its base with the expertise, experience, and passion of this sector of the chemical community.

This leads to the purpose of this comment in C&EN—we need your help in transforming industrial chemists’ experience as ACS members. What can we all do to bring ACS services and benefits to this important group?

Make connections and build community within and across ACS. Include industrial chemists in divisions, local sections, committees, or ACS special events (such as international conferences and the annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference). For example, at the ACS Spring 2022 meeting, I&EC, BMGT, SCHB, and the Divisions of Professional Relations and Polymer Chemistry held events. There were also the Industry Networking Reception and ACS In-Person Connect. Let us continue to expand options in which to network and connect.

Engage young chemists early. This can increase their awareness of the benefit of industry experiences, such as an industry internship, co-op, work study, or even first job. On the “Careers and the Chemical Sciences” web page of the ACS website, over 40 industry-related fields are advertised.

Encourage industrial chemists to take advantage of ACS training and development. The recently launched ACS Institute is an extensive educational platform, offering a robust collection of learning and training resources to advance many of the skills required for industrial chemists’ success at all stages of one’s career.

Basic and applied research and commercial innovation has had a significant positive impact on the world. The translation from basic research to useful commercial products is at the heart of what many industrial chemists do. What comes after that? More capital to reinvest in new research and generate new discoveries for the advancement of humankind. ACS has a pivotal role to play in providing a sustainable professional home for industrial chemists. Let us join together to support the recruitment, retention, recognition, and sustainment of this important sector of our ACS community.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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