The ACS Committee on Nominations & Elections (N&E) formally introduced a slate of candidates for society offices for 2019 at the recent council meeting in Boston. On Sept. 10, C&EN published statements and biographical information for candidates for president-elect, directors-at-large, and directors for Districts I and V. Starting one week from now, email notices for internet balloting will go out to the nearly 150,000 ACS members eligible to vote. Yet if historical trends prevail, less than 12% of those eligible to participate in society elections will actually cast ballots. Sadly, the failure to vote is not unique to ACS; almost all scientific and other organizations experience a similar challenge.
A quick review of ACS voting policies and procedures reveals painstaking efforts over time by N&E and the ACS Council to ensure a fair, equitable, and democratic process to provide the society with quality leadership from among the broad diversity of ACS membership. Most of these improvements and key changes were in direct response to members’ concerns or feedback from the candidates themselves. On that score, ACS is doing pretty well.
However, democracy involves far more than observing form or holding an election; it is an attitude of mind and a willingness to discharge the responsibilities that make a democracy. Despite improvements, more needs to be done, especially soliciting nominations, identifying qualified candidates, and ensuring a sustainable leadership pipeline. ACS needs the best leadership possible to meet the challenges of the 21st century. ACS is a large and complex organization, and we need diverse individuals who can effectively lead and develop our society and members. Ultimately, our success in identifying and developing such leaders will determine the success of our society. Clearly, one challenge now is to have each member accept the responsibility to be fully engaged in the entire process of identifying, vetting, nominating, and ultimately selecting qualified leadership for the society.
The members of N&E are elected by fellow councilors to recommend individuals for the elected committees of the council, the board of directors, and president-elect. They are typically individuals with extensive experience and are expected to have a broad understanding of the needs of the society and the leadership skills needed to serve in ACS national offices. The committee is entrusted to identify individuals with the talent and experience to best represent and govern ACS at the highest level, permitting the electorate to choose leaders from a wide pool of talented individuals with diverse experiences. But N&E does not serve in isolation.
Fortunately, we can draw on more than 150,000 members for assistance and guidance. Other than a requirement that candidates for the board and president-elect must be members and willing to serve if elected, the governing documents are largely silent on the subject of a candidate’s background, experiences, or achievements. Members are not so silent. Ballots of 142 years have yielded clear and distinct preferences and expectations from members when considering candidates for society national offices. These include demonstrated leadership and governance experience; commitment to the society’s core values, goals, and strategic plan; integrity and strong ethical character; strong communication skills; business and budget acumen; broad vision and strategic thinking; and enthusiasm for meeting and working with members.
I ask you to do two important but easy things. First, vote in the ACS election when you receive your balloting information. When you vote, you send a message. It’s not whether you support the winner that is so important but rather what your vote has to say. I cannot accept that almost 90% of members have nothing to say about the leadership of their professional society. Also, one of the rights of being a member of any association is that it almost always confers voting rights. Please don’t take that for granted.
Second, give some thought to future leaders whom you’d like to see guiding ACS. Developing and sustaining a leadership pipeline is vital for the long-term health of ACS. Identify members from your local section, division, work environment, or educational setting who demonstrate the appropriate knowledge and expertise to serve as its leaders at the highest levels. Strong nominees make strong leaders. Please send their names and a brief statement for the basis of your decision to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t think any candidate represents you, let N&E know of your willingness to serve.
The committee also holds an open session at each national meeting where members and councilors are welcome to attend and provide feedback. You can be sure that we are listening.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.