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Reflections, thanks, and an exhortation

by Bonnie Charpentier, ACS Immediate Past President
December 17, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 48


Photo of Bonnie Charpentier.
Credit: Courtesy of Bonnie Charpentier
Bonnie Charpentier

As I write my last C&EN Comment as a member of the American Chemical Society presidential succession, I am reflecting on the past 3 years. They went by very quickly and encompassed dramatic differences. In 2019, the chemistry community engaged in splendid celebratory events around the world to honor the International Year of the Periodic Table and support the United Nations sustainable development goals. By contrast, 2020 has been filled with dark days of being unable to convene in person for meetings and outreach programs. In 2020, we honored our members’ exciting research and discoveries, and we lost cherished colleagues and friends to the ongoing pandemic. We witnessed horrifying racial injustice, and in response, we renewed and strengthened our focus on diversity, inclusion, and respect. There is still so much we must do.

Throughout the highs and lows of the past 3 years, ACS has been a strong foundation for us professionally and socially. Our members have shown resilience, creativity, and caring for one another, our programs, and our communities. The year 2020 has taken our problem-solving skills to a whole new level.

During my tenure in the presidential succession, it was rewarding to work with ACS’s divisions to encourage collaboration in programming at our semiannual meetings, whether they were held in person or virtually. Some examples of the collaborative efforts include programming on safety and the environment and successful strategies for industry-academia collaborations. Collaboration and joint programming are especially important for adapting sessions to the limitations and advantages of virtual venues.

Our members have shown resilience, creativity, and caring for one another, our programs, and our communities.

We also need to adapt how we develop and foster our relationships with other organizations in the US and internationally and how we support our collaborative programs. For example, in 2019 I was honored to participate in a program on women in chemistry arranged by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, the Netherlands. The program brought together young women from all over the world for presentations, discussions, and workshops with established chemistry professionals. It was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, and it is unclear how it will proceed in the future.

In 2019 I was delighted to meet with ACS local sections and international chapters in person. I look forward to working with and celebrating the successes of these vital groups in the future, either virtually or in person, through programs such as the ChemLuminary Awards. Other areas that I was delighted to support during my presidential succession term have been safety training—including funding for safety programming at regional meetings—and advocacy for chemistry at the national, state, and local levels.

This brings me to the exhortation part of this column. During the past several years we have seen an ever-increasing dismissal and disdain for science and for facts, to the detriment of our civilization. It is incumbent upon us to step up our advocacy efforts, even as we are limited in face-to-face interactions. As we pivot from meeting in person to meeting virtually, we must likewise pivot for advocacy. It is not currently possible to visit legislators in person, but you can prepare for when it becomes possible again, and you can make use of email and virtual tools to stand up for science.

Please become familiar with ACS’s policy statements, and use the tools we have online, including Act4Chemistry, the Advocacy Toolkit, the ACS Chemistry Advocacy Workshop, and the Action Center. There has never been a more important time to reinforce to our legislators and the public the importance of science.

I extend my personal gratitude to the members in divisions who collaborated to provide important scientific programming in good times and in challenging times, to members in local sections who found creative ways to hold meetings and organize outreach programs virtually this year, and to those who continued to push forward with advocacy for chemistry and for science. Sincere thanks also to ACS staff who helped me with communications, travel (when it was possible), and keeping our initiatives on track.

The collaborations of staff and our members who organize programming were particularly impressive this year in pivoting to virtual meetings while almost everyone was working from home. The ACS fall meeting, Rocky Mountain Regional Meeting, Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference, and an amazing virtual summer program for Project SEED are memorable 2020 examples of the indomitable and resourceful spirit and dedication of our professional community.

Finally, thank you to my ACS Board colleagues for your support, thoughtfulness, and often lively deliberations. It has been an honor to serve with you. I look forward to a time when we can convene in person, and I thank all of you for your resilience, patience, and engagement, which I believe will help us have brighter days in 2021. Please feel free to reach out to me at

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



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