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Comment: Coming together to serve industrial members

by Wayne E. Jones Jr., director-at-large, and chair, ACS Committee on Professional and Member Relations
February 10, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 6


Wayne E. Jones Jr.
Credit: Portrait Simple Studio
Wayne E. Jones Jr.

The American Chemical Society’s vision is to improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry. To fulfill this vision, the society must bring together members from a variety of backgrounds—connecting the talents of academia, industry, and government—to gain a holistic understanding of the role chemistry plays in our lives and what it may be capable of in the future.

In addition, part of the society’s purpose as outlined in the ACS charter is to promote chemical science research and encourage advancement in all branches of chemistry. ACS is able to do this only because of members who are active in local sections, divisions, and international chapters. For ACS to have maximum impact, it needs chemists from all backgrounds.

ACS member representation from industry, but more broadly, all aspects of the commercial sector has declined steadily over the past decade. Feedback includes that organizations no longer fund ACS membership for employees and that there is increased competition from other associations that offer chemists professional development opportunities.

Your observations and opinions will help ACS stay relevant and useful to all chemists.

Over the years, multiple initiatives have been introduced to address this trend. These efforts have been led by ACS staff, technical divisions, local sections, committees, CAS, and Publications. None have significantly reversed the membership decline of chemists in the commercial sector.

ACS board involvement

ACS membership is a key focus area for the Committee on Professional and Member Relations (P&MR), a standing committee of the ACS Board of Directors.

When the committee looked into the issue of decline in industrial chemist membership, it concluded that there is a lack of an overarching strategy to integrate and connect various ACS engagement initiatives and that their impact was diminishing. P&MR now leads a concerted effort to examine industry member–​related activities across ACS and encourages collaboration between groups working on this issue. This is happening in two steps:

Step 1: Industry Member Task Force

P&MR sponsored an Industry Member Task Force chaired by Christina Bodurow, a former member of the board of directors. Composed of former and current board members, the task force spent about 3 months carrying out a comprehensive review of ACS’s offerings for industry members. It also collected information on ACS subunits that interact with such members and analyzed their feedback. The task force then developed a charter for the next phase of this initiative, including strategies for transforming the industry member experience.

Step 2: Industry Member Advisory Board

To build on its work, the task force recommended the formation of an Industry Member Advisory Board. This board has now been formed and works in partnership with ACS president Judy Giordan, who herself is an industrial chemist.

The advisory board cochairs are Bonnie Charpentier and Michelle Rogers. Both have extensive experience in pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and have held numerous volunteer positions with ACS. A strategic selection of commercially aligned members, representing various areas of chemistry, career stages, and ACS involvement completes the advisory board.

The goal of this group is to provide a strategic road map for enhancing the engagement of and overall value for industrial chemists so that they can be a more integral and active part of the ACS member community. P&MR will also leverage the recommendations of this advisory board to consider additional programs, products, and services to help chemical scientists who work in all aspects of the commercial chemistry enterprise to move forward professionally.

Over the course of this year, P&MR has asked the advisory board to

formulate a statement that addresses the need for members aligned with commercial chemistry within ACS;

examine and expand ACS definitions of industry members to be inclusive of all areas of commercial chemistry enterprise—from start-ups to the Fortune 100;

determine and recommend specific goals for broadening and increasing the number and involvement of members from commercial chemistry; and

develop and recommend mechanisms to ensure retention and engagement of members from commercial chemistry.

How the ACS community can help

For its efforts to have the biggest impact, the Industry Member Advisory Board needs the support of ACS members, who are encouraged to send their insights on all matters related to industrial chemists to Your observations and opinions will help ACS stay relevant and useful to all chemists across the myriad career trajectories they take, furthering the society’s purpose to promote research and encourage advancement in all branches of chemistry.

As the world of chemistry professionals evolves and changes, it is essential for ACS to stay in tune with the needs of all of its members. P&MR is proud to sponsor the Industry Member Advisory Board to develop strategies to recruit and retain industry members. Together we can continue to improve all people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.

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



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