The mission of the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Professional and Member Relations (P&MR) is to understand and advance, through board-level policy recommendations, the professional and economic interests of ACS members worldwide. We have several key focus areas, including membership, awards.
Over the past few years, we have been dedicating extra focus toward engaging industry members more successfully and diversifying the nominations, screening committees, and recipients for ACS National Awards. These focus areas are directly relevant to ACS strategic goals 2 and 5. While we have made progress with respect to industry and awards, there is more work to be done.
Engaging industry membership
ACS industry membership has been in continuous decline for the past 10–15 years. While there have been many contributing factors, most are rooted in the evolving definition of “industrial chemist” and the continuously shifting economic landscape of the chemistry enterprise. Ultimately, many industry members have not been able to sufficiently justify the return on their investment in ACS, particularly when their employers decline to cover the cost of membership. Over the past few years, the society created, piloted, and delivered new products and services in response to this evolving employment environment. We also introduced new membership packages with varying benefits and costs to better suit individual needs.
Recently, the P&MR Industry Member Task Force, chaired by Christina C. Bodurow, was charged with two primary goals: to produce an inventory of all industry member programs across ACS and to write a charter for a new group called the Industry Member Advisory Board, which is expected to begin its work this summer.
One early and very important finding of this task force is that while multiple ACS subunits and staff groups have some type of industry focus, there are no overarching strategies that sufficiently connect and integrate these efforts across the organization. The Industry Member Advisory Board will be asked to formulate an enterprise approach to serving industry, among other things. We believe this will lead to improved industry member value and greater recruitment, participation, and retention of industry members.
Industry members are encouraged to provide input by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. We will keep you posted on the progress of the Industry Member Advisory Board as it begins its work in the next few months.
Diversifying national awards
ACS values all members and strives to recognize their many contributions across the chemistry enterprise. We believe in the strength of diversity in all its forms, because, as it states in the ACS core values, “inclusion of and respect for diverse people, experiences, and ideas lead to superior solutions to world challenges and advances chemistry as a global, multidisciplinary science.”
The National Awards Advisory Board, chaired by former president Allison Campbell, in collaboration with the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect and the ongoing efforts of ACS national committees, has been striving to diversify award recipients. We have made significant strides in increasing gender diversity in award winners over the past 5 years. For example, 35% of 2022 ACS National Award recipients were women, while women made up approximately 28% of ACS members in 2021.
For our awards to be truly diverse, we need to become even more inclusive of marginalized and underrepresented people. Our success in increasing gender diversity has taught us we need to intentionally incorporate inclusivity throughout the process. This starts with securing a diverse set of nominators and nominees for our many awards. We have also found that inclusive teams check for implicit biases and bring in a variety of perspectives and ideas. Therefore, we need to establish greater diversity among the members of our selection and canvassing committees if we are to be successful in increasing the diversity of our recipients.
While we have made some progress, we are a long way from sufficiently diversifying our award recipients. You can help at the critical front end by nominating worthy scientists for a national award. To learn more about the nomination process and to nominate a colleague, visit cenm.ag/national-awards. The call for nominations opens July 1. You can also self-nominate to serve on one of our canvassing and selection committees on the same web page.
P&MR remains focused on the professional and economic interests of ACS members worldwide. If we shore up our industry membership and diversity our national award recipients, we can help create a bigger, better, and more diverse society.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.