As members of the American Chemical Society, we inherited from our predecessors a professional society that is the envy of many other professional societies. We have a solemn responsibility to ensure that we provide our successors with a society as impactful and vibrant as the one we received.
But what drives us to do what we do? We need only to look to the ACS National Charter, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, for direction. The explanation is contained in the ACS Purposes, which begin with the statement, “To encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner the advancement of chemistry in all its branches.” That phrase has been part of our ACS’s Governing Documents since its founding in 1876. It is why ACS exists.
In 2022, efforts toward this purpose include enhancing member programs, supporting excellence in education, disseminating information (at meetings and through the CAS Registry and ACS Publications), and communicating chemistry’s value. All this is done to improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry. The success of CAS and ACS Publications provides the resources for ACS to have an impact in these and other areas.
How does ACS accomplish all that it does? Looking from the outside, at one level, we see an association of chemical scientists who have joined together for the same reason people have joined together for millennia—to be part of something bigger than them and to achieve some things they can’t alone. If we look closer, we see stakeholders with key roles in the operation of our society: members, governance, and staff. Their efficient and effective operation ensures the impact of ACS.
You don’t read far into the ACS Constitution before you see: “The society shall be composed of members.” In other words, the society is made up and consists of its members. ACS offers value to its members in myriad ways. These include providing opportunities for presenting at scientific conferences, publishing research findings in some of the most respected journals in the world, offering leadership opportunities, helping navigate midcareer transitions, providing prestigious national awards, and many more ways. We also support many of our members (and prospective members) who want to serve the profession—to which they have dedicated their careers and lives—by becoming more engaged in ACS as member volunteers. In short, we prepare our members (and others) so that, together, we can achieve our purpose of advancing chemistry.
Governance leaders are a subset of members. They are volunteers who have chosen (and in the case of elected leaders, been chosen) to serve their profession by deeply engaging in their association—ACS. This includes local, regional, and national service. Service at the national level can occur through service on the ACS Council, the Board of Directors, or one of their committees. I am amazed at the commitment my fellow members have made in these capacities. We have 16 board members, nearly 500 councilors, and more than 700 committee members. Together, we provide the policy and strategic direction for ACS. Governance is a cornerstone of our society and is based on a belief that members can and should help us achieve our purpose.
Despite the large numbers of volunteers governing the society, we cannot (and should not) implement our own policies, programs, and services. That is the province of ACS staff, led by our CEO, Thomas Connelly. ACS has nearly 2,000 professional and dedicated staff members. By definition, employees are paid for their service, but in some ways it is an even more special commitment, as they have literally dedicated their professional lives and careers to ACS and its purpose. They are the people who work on a daily basis to drive ACS forward.
While each person in the membership, governance, and staff triad has their own role, I have observed that the magic of ACS occurs when they all work together. It is here that the perspectives of members, governance, and staff combine to identify and develop new programs, products, and services—or improve upon existing ones—to advance chemistry in all its branches. Each group has a vital role in ensuring the current and future impact of ACS. Members should support governance and staff for the hard work of running ACS. Governance needs to represent members and work collegially with staff to ensure members are well served. And staff need to ensure that governance can implement its plans while contributing their own ideas and plans for the improvement of ACS.
Going back to our purpose, the chemistry tree has many branches, and advancing the profession in the broadest and most general sense is beyond the scope and reach of any individual and any one of the triad of membership, governance, and staff. We’re all in this together for the good of ACS.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.