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Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
John E. Adams

Safety is a core value of the American Chemical Society, and with the global pandemic of COVID-19 on the rise, the ACS Board of Directors came to the decision to terminate the Philadelphia national meeting. In our more than 100 years of organizing national meetings, this decision was unprecedented. We knew this would disrupt more than 15,000 registrants, 11,000 scientific presentations, thousands of friendly social interactions that occur spontaneously at all our national meetings, and dozens of poster sessions and celebratory events. However, the health and safety of our meeting attendees and exhibitors and the community of Philadelphia were paramount, and the spreading contagion made it impossible to move forward with this meeting.

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Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Thomas Connelly

The spread of COVID-19 not only disrupted our plans but also shut down entire countries, industries, and institutions. Many of us are still learning how to navigate work-from-home schedules. Social distancing is now part of our lexicon.

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Credit: Daniel Stanley Photography
Luis Echegoyen

With every crisis, though, come opportunities. SciMeetings, a virtual platform for sharing research, developed by ACS Publications in collaboration with our Membership and Scientific Advancement Divisions, recently launched to accept abstracts from the Philadelphia national meeting. This virtual science-sharing platform provides greater exposure for the research that was to be presented. Although designed primarily to assist those who were not able to present in Philadelphia, the functionality of SciMeetings will remain not as a substitute but as a major enhancement for future meeting content.

To facilitate research into the COVID-19 virus, ACS uploaded all related ACS journal papers to the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed database, making these resources open and freely available. ACS also created a robust suite of COVID-19 resources for its members, as well as for broad public use; these resources include additional scientific research, resources for remote teaching and learning, access to scientists through the ACS Experts program, and C&EN’s continuing coverage of the pandemic.

Precluded from meeting in person, the governance units of ACS migrated to webinars and videoconferencing. Our committees have seamlessly transitioned to virtual meetings to conduct their business and serve their constituencies. In addition, ACS is making its educational content more accessible to assist educators as they transition to remote instruction. Updates are being shared throughout the ACS website and via the ACS Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter feeds.

C&EN has made this story and all of its coverage of the coronavirus epidemic freely available during the outbreak to keep the public informed. To support our journalism, become a member of ACS or sign up for C&EN's weekly newsletter.

Our Committee on Professional Training released a statement indicating that the use of virtual labs will be allowed for institutions that have chosen to move all instruction online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and that virtual instruction will not affect the approval status of a program.

In these volatile times, we understand that our members’ employment may be affected. We encourage members to reach out to service@acs.org to inquire about a waiver for their membership dues. The ACS Network is a resource where members can share ideas, seek information, and connect with other chemists online.

The impact of a pandemic did not just make us terminate a meeting; it is forcing us to change, adapt, and move forward in new and creative ways.

As a scientific community, we are positioned to make the most of these times, experimenting with new approaches to working and learning. ACS can be a resource in many ways, beyond the tangible videos, simulations, and lesson plans. Please tap into your networks, whether it’s the American Association of Chemistry Teachers, student chapters, local sections, or divisions, to give and receive support. Together we can connect people to the appropriate resources and communities that can provide the assistance that is needed.

The impact of a pandemic did not just make us terminate a meeting; it is forcing us to change, adapt, and move forward in new and creative ways.

In closing, our Fall 2020 National Meeting and Exposition in San Francisco in August is still moving forward as planned, and the abstract deadline has been extended to April 20. We very much value your patience and understanding as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. We are committed to facilitating the exchange of the excellent science conducted by our global community.

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