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Comment: A new US Congress brings new challenges

by Lee H. Latimer, director-at-large and chair, ACS Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations
February 24, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 7


This is a photo of Lee Latimer
Credit: Dynan Studios
Lee H. Latimer

A new year is a time of new beginnings in our lives. At the American Chemical Society, it is a time to refresh goals and welcome changes in our governance committees, local sections, and technical divisions, as well as in many of the organizations ACS works with for the common good.

For the ACS Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations (PA&PR), odd-numbered years bring a large flurry of changes as a result of a new Congress in Washington, DC, particularly related to the contacts used by ACS government affairs staff. This is especially true when the balance of power in Congress changes.

As a very complex organization, ACS serves its members and chemistry in many ways. Our strategic goals keep us focused. Strategic goal 4, for example, states that ACS will communicate to the public and to policy makers the importance of chemical professionals and chemistry in addressing global challenges. ACS is a leading voice for science because of its size, history, and professional reputation.

The ACS Board of Directors and the board’s committees are responsible for the governance of ACS. The purpose of PA&PR is to oversee public policies and public relations programs that benefit members and to enhance government and public appreciation for chemistry-related science.

Acting on delegated authority from the board, PA&PR oversees the annual review of ACS public policy statements. These documents guide our engagement with congressional committees and government agencies. As part of the ACS National Charter signed into law in 1938, the society is charged with being a nonpartisan resource of information and advice to the federal government in support of science. This work is primarily carried out by ACS government affairs staff in meetings and communications with legislators, as guided by our public policies and strategic goals.

ACS serves its members and chemistry in many ways. Our strategic goals keep us focused.

In general, ACS public policy statements are written by council committees​—especially the Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs—or groups of committees. Writing teams work to evolve the text on the basis of background materials, and they have extensive support from ACS government affairs staff and PA&PR when necessary. When these materials are ready, PA&PR members serve as final reviewers and approvers. Each public policy statement is reviewed every 3 years to determine if it should be continued, updated, rewritten, or retired. Reviews are done on a staggered basis—about one-third of the statements are reviewed per year.

PA&PR and ACS government affairs staff set the 2023 ACS public policy priorities at PA&PR’s December 2022 meeting. The priorities are intended to guide the new Congress, which began Jan. 3. As you would expect, a change of leadership in many congressional committees can lead to changes in emphasis or direction. All our public policy statements (available at support one or more of these four focus areas:

Foster innovation through research and technology.

Strengthen science education and the scientific workforce.

Advance science through openness.

Promote science and sustainability in public policy.

ACS government affairs staff have a history of excellent bipartisan engagement over many years on issues that advance ACS’s nonpartisan positions. Together with PA&PR, ACS government affairs staff meet with congressional legislators or staff to present ACS goals and policy positions. While Congress may commit to programs such as the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act of 2022, funding acts are a distinct second step and often a very difficult one. These meetings are valuable supplements to written communications in presenting ACS positions on such funding as well as in initial legislation development. Ensuring the funding of the CHIPS and Science Act is a top priority this year for advancing science in the US.

Another important effort of PA&PR is done by its National Historic Chemical Landmarks subcommittee. This highly popular program, launched in 1992, recognizes and documents significant chemical events and achievements as proposed by local sections or technical divisions. To read about existing landmarks, visit We encourage local sections and technical divisions to submit nominations and to develop their own programs of recognition.

PA&PR is always keen to hear ACS members’ thoughts on legislation, and we encourage you to engage with legislative leaders at all levels of government. If you are new to advocacy, the online ACS Advocacy Workshop (​workshops) will help you get started. The Act4Chemistry action network ( offers further support and guidance, and ACS government affairs staff are always a good resource.

Please send us your thoughts on PA&PR’s current policies and advocacy efforts, including any results you’re seeing from our work and areas for improvement. We look forward to hearing from you at

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



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