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Enhancing member opportunities on ACS committees

by Diane Krone, chair, ACS Committee on Committees
July 30, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 28


This is a photo of Diane Krone.
Credit: Tom Krone
Diane Krone

“You don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note.” I recently came across this maxim from speaker and author Doug Floyd while searching for motivational quotes for my high school students. But this quote also captures the philosophy of the American Chemical Society and, more particularly, the Committee on Committees (ConC). This quote highlights the value of diversity for future members of the society and also reflects ConC’s goal to increase the number of ACS committee volunteers from diverse communities. Social and professional diversity bring a wide range of perspectives and contribute to effective governance.

ConC’s mission is to ensure that committees are inclusive and optimally organized, resourced, and engaged. Based on feedback from ACS members, ConC examined the committee structure and appointment process. This examination revealed that some requirements resulted in systematic barriers that limited engagement opportunities and unintentionally excluded some demographic groups, especially those underrepresented in the ACS Council. To address this, ConC proposed the Petition to Harmonize Committee Structure, Processes, and Terms. The petition, which would amend the society’s standing rules, was approved by the council and the Board of Directors at the ACS Spring 2021 meeting.

The ACS rule that governs committee appointments was changed to improve the committee system and provide ACS members with more opportunities to volunteer on society committees. The maximum number of committee members and years of service are now consistent across ACS, and 3-year terms, with a two-term maximum, now match those for elected committees. Limiting the total years of service on one committee as a full member to 6 years will encourage members to serve on different committees. This limit also helps to increase the diversity of committees by allowing more opportunities to serve, especially for members who have not yet served on a national committee. Certain society committees will no longer have the “councilor only” designation. Removing the councilor requirement allows those committees to draw upon broader expertise among members.

ConC’s mission is to ensure that committees are inclusive and optimally organized, resourced, and engaged.

While there are increased opportunities to serve on committees, volunteers don’t often understand the differences between committees. And the current online committee-preference form doesn’t provide the chance to enter detailed information about a volunteer’s skills or why they should be assigned to any given committee. ConC has determined that the form needs to be more user friendly, provide better information to volunteers about committee assignments, and collect information from the users about their skills and interest for serving on their selected committees. The following enhancements will improve the decision-making process for connecting volunteers to committees and will be available with the 2023 online preference form:

A redesigned Yellowbook homepage will provide information about the committee preference form, the process for committee assignments, and the committee appointment timeline. A privacy statement will describe the type of personal data that will be collected and how that data will be used.

The committee-preference selection process will be more informative and user friendly. Users will be able to filter committees by main topic and focus or filter for particular skills and expertise that members of a committee need to have.

Data such as user skills, employment sector, and primary and secondary fields of focus in chemistry will be collected.

For each selected committee, users will submit a paragraph describing their primary interest in the committee and motivation for joining.

After users submit the preference form, they will receive a confirmation email with a copy of their entries, the timeline for the committee appointment process, and a reminder that submissions can be edited up to the deadline.

The enhancements will assure that everyone receives thorough consideration for an appointment. Unfortunately, not everyone can be appointed to a committee. After the appointment process is complete, those members not receiving an assignment will be notified by email with suggestions for alternate ways to engage with ACS.

In June, members from ConC worked with representatives from ACS IT; the Council Policy Committee; the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect Advisory Board; the Committee on Nominations and Elections; and the Younger Chemists Committee to update ConC’s strategic plan. This collaborative work resulted in a new focus on creating an inclusive committee culture. To do this ConC will develop recruitment and communication plans for outreach to organizations that serve underrepresented groups, with the aim of promoting ACS committee service and the use of the preference form.

In 2022, ConC will conduct a census of ACS committee chairs, members, associates, and consultants. The data collected will be used to guide our future diversity efforts. We look forward to sharing this information with you.

ConC is committed to building an inclusive committee system that fosters respect, creativity, and innovation among members. Please email me at with any feedback you may have.

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


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