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Comment: Divisional collaborations: The key to the future of ACS

by Sheila Murphy, chair, Committee on Divisional Activities
May 7, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 15


Sheila Murphy.
Credit: Courtesy of Sheila Murphy
Sheila Murphy

It was wonderful to connect with friends and colleagues at the ACS Spring 2023 meeting. Nothing can match the excitement of seeing thousands of scientists gathered in one place, while also being able to enjoy the serendipitous conversations that can create lasting ties. Both attendance numbers and attendee comments suggest that, when possible, we prefer to meet, participate, and network in person.

It also feels good that ACS now offers hybrid sessions, providing access to the meetings for those unable to travel. Enthusiasm for hybrid capability is mixed, however. Some love it for member inclusivity and flexibility; some aren’t fans and claim that it detracts from in-person networking and mentoring experiences. If we are to run successful meetings, we must strike an appropriate balance between in-person and virtual offerings to ensure that we provide all members access to an optimal experience. ACS divisions, with their crucial role in programming at the meetings, are key stakeholders. The Committee on Divisional Activities (DAC) is keenly interested in hearing from members of the community as ACS evolves the format of the spring and fall meetings.

Success in the interdisciplinary world of science is best achieved when we network and collaborate with colleagues across a range of specialties.

One of DAC’s ongoing missions is to support and encourage cooperation across divisions. This promotes interdisciplinary programs that benefit all ACS units and members. Success in the interdisciplinary world of science is best achieved when we network and collaborate with colleagues across a range of specialties. World-famous scientists, students, business leaders, chemical technicians—we can all learn from one another and benefit from networking. Whether local, regional, national, or international, ACS meetings and events provide such opportunities.

DAC is working to develop initiatives, including grant programs, that provide additional opportunities for members to network. The Innovative Project Grant (IPG) program provides up to $16,500 a year to support collaboration, and the newly piloted Convergent Chemistry Community (CCC) grant extends up to $30,000. Division members are likely familiar with IPGs, but keep an eye on the IPG webpage for details on the forthcoming expansion of grant options, award limits, and a simplification of the grant proposal process for collaborative project submissions.

IPG and CCC grants differ in several ways, and understanding these differences will help applicants accurately prepare submissions. IPG submissions are designed for one to three divisions that seek to explore an innovative project. The CCC grant requires participation by at least two divisions; it provides support for the development of a chemical enterprise community involved in emerging topics of interest not currently covered by ACS units. Applicants must have plans to sustain the community beyond the 2-year grant period.

Grant funds are typically used to support division programming. We are asking our divisions to be imaginative in their applications for IPG and CCC grants.

Beyond programming, what would benefit an emerging area of science? Perhaps a new web tool for collecting and sharing data, or special publications on the topic. ACS has a fantastic publications division—why not discuss opportunities with journal editors? The CCC grant review panel is looking for evidence that the community of scientists formed will transcend divisional boundaries, so make sure to detail in applications the management, leadership, and communication plans between all collaborating partners.

Members who want to build their interdisciplinary network should consider expanding their membership to include related ACS divisions. You can learn more about ACS divisions by visiting or joining events at the ACS spring and fall meetings. At ACS Fall 2023, in-person attendees will have an opportunity to meet division leaders at Division Row, during Sci-Mix. They can also attend the Presidential Symposium, “The Power of Chemistry: Opportunities and Challenges,” where leaders will outline important components of their division’s focus and opportunities.

I welcome your input on any of the items discussed in this article. You may send your comments to

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


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