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ACS Comment: Maximizing the volunteer experience on society committees

by Diane Krone, chair ACS Committee on Committees
August 28, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 30


Diane Krone
Credit: Tom Krone
Diane Krone

The mission of the American Chemical Society Committee on Committees (ConC) is to ensure that all council-related committees are inclusive, optimally organized, resourced, and engaged. At its June 2021 strategic planning retreat, ConC discussed changes needed to address its approved “Petition to Harmonize Committee Structures, Processes, and Terms,” as well as the need to incorporate strategies around ACS Strategic Goal 5: Embrace and advance inclusion in chemistry. Three strategic goals were decided upon:

Increase the number of volunteers from diverse race, cultures, ethnicity, age groups, employment sectors, etc, who ConC recommends to the ACS president-elect and/or board chair for appointment to council​-related, or Society, committees.

Enhance matching the needs and demands of society committees with member expertise and perspectives.

Identify, assess, and recommend enhancements to the effectiveness of the society committee system.

In March, ConC conducted its third committee census and collected valuable information about the composition of society committees. Censuses also aid evaluation of ACS’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect initiatives. Understanding the current diversity among committee members helps guide recruitment and retention efforts. Demographic information is collected for data purposes only and is not linked to the individuals who provided the information.

The aim is to benefit ACS and to enhance the contributions of volunteers.

The first two society committee censuses demonstrated gaps in representation on ACS committees, especially related to race, geographic location, workplace, and age. As a result, ACS was missing important voices from the community of chemistry professionals. In order to reach out to those underrepresented groups, ConC decided to upgrade the form used by ACS members to volunteer to sit on society committees.

The new online committee preference form launched on April 15. Better information is now provided about what volunteers would be expected to contribute to each committee. New features such as filtering and search make it easier to review committees that are looking for volunteers and to select committees based on personal interests and skills. The new form also allows users to update their contact and biographical information throughout the year. ConC believes this improved committee preference form will help attract some of the important voices that had been missing in the past so that ConC can recommend them to serve on committees.

We organized a campaign to spread the word about the new committee preference form via local sections, sister societies, divisions, international chapters, early-career chemists, and the American Association of Chemistry Teachers, and by posting about the new form on the ACS website and social media. We also hosted a webinar in collaboration with the Committee on Nominations and Elections and ACS president-elect Judy Giordan on May 25 entitled “Grow-Give-Gain: The Power of ACS Volunteers” to explain how to become more involved in ACS governance and the benefits of volunteering to serve on a society committee.

Another of ConC’s roles is to ensure that ACS committees are optimally organized. Recent reviews have identified significant overlaps between some committees. ConC is seeking an outside consultant to assess our current committee structures, roles, policies, and procedures and recommend a more efficient way to organize council committees. The aim is to benefit ACS and to enhance the contributions of volunteers. The consultant will be asked to base any recommendations on three general governance best practices: inclusiveness, efficiency in decision-​making (including avoiding overlapping committee jurisdictions), and maximizing the volunteer experience. A ConC steering committee will help guide this project.

ConC has several other initiatives in the pipeline. These include a working group that is exploring ways to improve the current 5-year review process for committees. The plan is to change to a streamlined annual review process that uses a ranking system to propose a set of action items for committees to work on.

Another ConC working group is focused on improving the committee onboarding process. The group has already reached out to all ACS committee chairs and staff liaisons to identify which committees have new-member handbooks that include an overview of the committee’s activities and duties. Best practices will be identified and shared with each committee’s leaders.

ConC recommends liaisons between committees to eliminate duplication of efforts and to support more productive outcomes when committees are working on projects of mutual interest. During the past year, several committees have reported that liaisons are missing significant portions of their own meetings in order to attend the other committee’s meetings. ConC is currently working to identify which committees have liaisons and whether these liaisons are really needed. Committees that effectively use liaisons are also being identified with the intention of sharing best practices.

Please consider volunteering to serve on a society committee. Well-run committees contribute to the effective operation of ACS and provide members with an active way to be a part of the society and have a say in its direction. Learn the benefits of committee service and find the new online committee preference form at

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



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