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Comment: ACS commits to transforming the world through strategic initiatives

by Natalie A. LaFranzo, director-at-large and chair, ACS Committee on Budget and Finance
April 1, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 11


Natalie A. LaFranzo.
Credit: D. Robertson Fay Photography
Natalie A. LaFranzo.

Since its founding 100 years ago, C&EN has highlighted how chemists have been innovators, change agents, and leaders in the world. Our impact as chemists reaches far beyond the laboratory into facets of science and life that many may not even recognize as directly related to chemistry. For decades longer, the American Chemical Society has provided not only a professional home but a community and infrastructure to support chemists in this bold pursuit of improving all people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.

Each generation of chemists has had different needs, and ACS has grown and evolved in concert with our community of chemists. In late 2021, volunteer and staff leaders looked back on what ACS has done well, evaluated what areas need more support, and identified forward-looking opportunities for ACS to make an even bigger impact. By focusing on a defined window of time (2022–26), our leaders aligned on four key opportunities, which have been coined the ACS Strategic Initiatives. After 1 year of progress, I am pleased to share some key focus areas of each initiative.

Foster a skilled workforce. ACS Education is leading the charge on the Strategic Initiative on Fostering a Skilled Technical Workforce. This effort promotes the awareness of and recruitment for chemical enterprise careers that require science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills but do not require a 4-year degree. This initiative is grounded in a two-pronged strategy—increasing awareness of skilled technical workforce (STW) careers and building partnerships among a diverse network of stakeholders. Key audiences include high school and community college educators and students and industry professionals. The initiative provides a web-based suite of resources for educators to use in communicating the opportunities available within STW careers and the pathways to them. The initiative also provides support for partnerships between community colleges and companies to enable the preparation and recruitment of future members of the STW. The initiative is designed to be flexible and responsive to the varied landscape of careers, stakeholders, and pathways within the chemistry enterprise.

Meet emerging information needs in life sciences research. To support the growing interdisciplinary nature of scientific innovation, CAS (a division of ACS) is championing the CAS Accelerating Life Sciences Growth Initiative. Through this initiative, CAS is expanding the CAS Content Collection by integrating biology- focused data from disparate, disconnected sources and adding new solution capabilities that specifically address unique molecular biology and medicinal chemistry workflows. This initiative accelerates content aggregation, curation efforts, and solution development to better serve life sciences researchers’ need for high-quality connected data and specialized solutions to advance impactful work in areas such as antibodies, proteomics, metabolomics, and agriculture.

Provide trusted tools for sorting and refining information. As research data have grown exponentially, ACS recognized the need for investment in tools to sort and refine information and established the third initiative, known as Accelerating Digital Research Data Products Strategic Initiative. ACS Publications is leading the way, with initial releases of an artificial intelligence–enhanced text- and data-mining service, along with other infrastructure and tools to enable data discovery, accessibility, and reproducibility. The newest versions of these tools are currently undergoing thorough user testing to ensure the products fully meet our partners’ needs and to steer further product developments plans. After this initial discovery period, broad community-facing releases are anticipated during the year ahead.

Advance chemistry innovations for sustainability challenges. The ACS Campaign for a Sustainable Future Strategic Initiative, championed by the ACS Scientific Advancement Division, aims to advance chemistry innovations that address the challenges articulated in the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs). The initiative is engaging the chemistry community to design sustainability solutions, encouraging a sustainability focus in the teaching and practicing of chemistry, and raising public awareness about chemistry’s role in a sustainable future. A key focus area in 2023 is the establishment of a new grant program to provide catalytic funding for early- and midcareer faculty interested in developing a research and teaching portfolio aimed at transformative chemistries that address the SDGs. A second focus area is known as Reimagine Chemistry Education—an effort to provide opportunities for chemists at every level to be trained in applying concepts and principles inherent to sustainable development, such as circularity, green chemistry, and life-cycle thinking, in the design of safer chemicals.

These are not modest initiatives; these efforts have the opportunity to make a significant impact on chemists, the scientific community, and the world at large. While they may seem disparate, each is tied together by the mission of ACS and the multidisciplinary community that we support. By providing hyperfocused funding and resources, we are excited to see how we can accelerate progress in these areas. Do you have an idea for the next area that ACS should champion? We’d love to hear your feedback, either by email ( or through the Innovative Development and Expansion to Advance ACS submission process:

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



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