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ACS international membership experience and the evolving IAC

by Sergio Nanita, Chair, ACS Committee on International Activities
September 18, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 34


A photo of Sergio Nanita.
Credit: Christine Schmidt/ACS
Sergio Nanita

Today, chemistry is global. International collaborations are an integral part of the chemistry enterprise and major scientific breakthroughs. Throughout my career, I have experienced firsthand how global cooperation and diverse backgrounds, cultures, and viewpoints can enrich the practice of the chemical sciences. As chair of the American Chemical Society Committee on International Activities (IAC), I am pleased to see that IAC is evolving to meet the needs of our ACS global chemistry community. And given the enthusiasm across ACS for actively pursuing our core values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect (DEIR), I believe the time is right to increase our efforts to make ACS a more inclusive and welcoming organization with a harmonized membership experience for all.

Unfortunately, a persistent equity gap exists between the experiences of domestic and international ACS members. Unlike ACS Local Sections, the society’s 25 International Chemical Sciences Chapters (commonly known as international chapters) do not receive annual funding allotments, making it difficult for them to organize activities and meetings or to cultivate the community experience that benefits their US-based counterparts.

International members also have severely limited representation on the ACS Council. While some can elect councilors through ACS technical divisions, international members do not have the ability to elect councilors to represent their own regions like local sections do. This prevents members living outside the US from having their input reflected in ACS policies, effectively creating a scenario in which approximately 30,000 members have very limited voices. Additionally, international members are unable to apply for many ACS programs and awards, further limiting their visibility and participation in the broader society.

When all its members and organizations thrive, ACS will flourish to its full potential.

The potential of ACS is diminished when a significant portion of its members and organizations is held back in this manner. These disparities aren’t insurmountable; they merely require a concerted effort to update ACS programs and policies to better serve everyone.

The first directive in the ACS Constitution related to the IAC stipulates that “the Committee on International Activities shall be responsible for the International Chapters Function.” While IAC has always been supportive of ACS international chapters, we are now considering how we can enhance our support in 2021 and beyond. IAC is committed to bringing change to ensure that these members have an ACS experience comparable to US-based members. Over the last few months, IAC began restructuring the committee with input from all its associates, members, and consultants. We replaced subcommittees based on geographic regions with the following flexible working groups organized around committee projects and activities:

International Chapter Liaisons, Partnerships, and Collaborations (Chair: Jorge Colón)

Communications and Outreach (Chair: Resa Kelly)

Grants and Recognition (Chair: Jody Kocsis)

Programming and International Chapter Development (Chair: Timothy Hanks)

International Chapter Support (Chair: Kabrena Rodda)

It is no accident that three of these working groups have “International Chapter” in their titles. A primary focus of the committee over the coming year will be to bring international chapter leaders closer to the rest of ACS governance and ultimately help their chapters function as local sections outside of the US. Through these working groups, we hope to provide better support for international chapters and ACS as a whole.

IAC is also increasing collaboration with other ACS governance groups. In addition to providing liaisons to the Committees on Local Section Activities, Membership Affairs, and Community Activities, IAC will be conducting outreach to various member groups regarding international member needs and opportunities to collaborate. We are also testing a pilot program to connect international chapters and local sections in “sibling sections” partnerships. Please email us at if you are a leader of a local section or international chapter and want to participate in this program. If you are a local section, division, or committee leader and your ACS group would like to discuss with IAC the other topics covered here, please reach out to us.

I am pleased that ACS is making a concerted effort to enact its DEIR core value. Making the society a more equitable organization that reflects the myriad backgrounds and identities of the global chemistry enterprise will help us continue to provide humanity with scientific solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. IAC is ready and willing to realize this value on a global scale and to work with colleagues across ACS to achieve our organization’s ambitious goals. It is up to all units of the society (the council, board, local sections, divisions, international chapters, and individual members) to collaborate at this pivotal time and create a more equitable ACS for the benefit of everyone. When all its members and organizations thrive, ACS will flourish to its full potential.

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


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