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Bigger and better divisions

by James M. Takacs, Chair, Committee on Divisional Activities
February 10, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 6


Photo of James Takacs.
Credit: University of Nebraska–Lincoln

As the 2019 chair of the Committee on Divisional Activities (DAC), I have been reflecting on why I, as a third-year chemistry major, joined the American Chemical Society. As many will appreciate, carrying out undergraduate research with a fabulous faculty mentor played a major role in seeing myself as a chemistry professional. Joining one of the world’s largest professional societies was a natural next step into that world. Joining a technical division was just as natural. I was becoming part of a community of scholars with whom I shared some specific chemistry interests, a community of scholars whose names I recognized from the literature I was just beginning to follow.

It is impossible to imagine an ACS without the outstanding technical programming provided by the divisions. Divisions offer cutting-edge oral and poster presentations not only at the national meetings but also at regional, international, and other scientific meetings and through web-based presentations.

We want to update you on the new and continuing efforts for and from the ACS technical divisions. The goals for DAC are listed in our committee strategic plan. They can be summed up by saying that DAC will advocate policies and practices that increase division membership and that DAC will enhance collaboration, communication, and networking among divisions. Even more simply put: we want bigger and better divisions.

Bigger divisions

You might be aware that recent numbers show the ACS has reversed the downward trend in overall membership. Technical division membership had also experienced declines in recent years. Last year, new members were offered the opportunity to join three technical divisions for free as part of a strategy by DAC and staff to allow new members to explore what several divisions have to offer as they decide which communities are right for them. A marketing campaign was developed and videos highlighting the benefits of each division were featured on the ACS homepage.

These efforts are paying off. Preliminary data indicate that many are taking advantage of this offer. There were 13,331 free divisional memberships activated in 2018, compared with 6,787 in 2017. And overall, division membership is up to 91,141 in 2018 from 90,469 in 2017.

Division membership is everyone’s responsibility.

If you are not a member of at least one ACS division, please consider getting involved today. With our 32 divisions, many with focused specialty subdivisions, ACS has a place for everyone. Divisions are ready to help you find the best fit for your interests. Please check out the division web pages at

Better divisions

We are getting new members, but to keep those members we will need to be better. Better at engagement. Better at collaboration. DAC and ACS staff are working together on new and existing initiatives that encourage engagement and collaboration.


At the 2018 fall ACS national meeting in Boston, then-president-elect Bonnie Charpentier hosted a breakfast meeting for program chairs to discuss programming needs and aspirations and to discuss programming and collaboration. The event was well received by the 42 participants from over 20 technical divisions. ACS established a technical programming forum on the ACS Network last year. The forum helps division programming chairs establish contacts for meetings, share ideas about programming, develop shared programming, and avoid duplicate symposia at ACS national meetings.

The Innovative Project Grants (IPGs) continue to be a major focus for DAC. IPGs support innovative projects that benefit division members. IPGs can enable ACS divisions to work together or with ACS committees and local sections to provide joint opportunities, including international activities, for their current and potential members. If your division has not submitted proposals for IPGs in the past, please consider doing so this year.

DAC continues to encourage all ACS divisions to participate in the ACS-sponsored strategic planning program to help divisions identify or refine their missions, visions, and goals. Many divisions have already participated. If your division has not, please consider it. Partial financial support can be obtained through the IPG program.

DAC is continuing “Division Row,” a poster session held during Sci-Mix at national meetings that highlights the technical divisions. This pilot program provides divisions with an opportunity to meet large numbers of young, prospective members who represent the future of their divisions. The response has been excellent, and we encourage all divisions to participate in this event.

One final thought

Division membership is everyone’s responsibility. If you are attending the national meeting in Orlando, please visit the undergraduate poster session in the convention center, West Hall C (Monday, noon–2 p.m.). Visit posters in the divisions to which you belong. Talk to the students and ask them if they belong to the division. If they don’t, tell them about the three free divisions offer for new ACS members. If they already belong, welcome them! Congratulate them on presenting at a national meeting. A quick interaction like this can make a big difference. Sometimes the greatest value a division can provide is showing members that they are valued.

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


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