If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Strengthening the ACS experience for our international members

by Jens Breffke, Chair, ACS Committee on International Activities
October 31, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 42


Photo of Jens Breffke.
Credit: Chapman Studios
Jens Breffke

When this year began, I was looking forward to many aspects and activities of my final year as chair of the Committee on International Activities (IAC): going to committee meetings at American Chemical Society national meetings, interacting with sister society leadership, and working with my stellar fellow IAC members to enact activities around a new strategic plan. However, as with many people’s plans for 2020, my initial vision for my last year as chair has turned out differently than I had anticipated.

While there have been some growing pains with the shift to conducting ACS business primarily online, there have also been positive outcomes. We are using videoconference applications more often than phone calls, adding a personal touch to our communications. Our efforts to coordinate schedules for virtual meetings have made us more aware of time-zone differences with our colleagues around the world. All this helps make our international collaborations more successful.

From IAC’s perspective, this move to online has created a new model for working together as a committee. This couldn’t come at a better time: before the ACS national meeting in San Diego in fall 2019, IAC leaders organized a retreat to develop a new strategic plan to reenergize the committee with a renewed focus on advocating for international chapters and members.

I hope that this new normal will enhance ACS’s ability to reach new international members and provide them with a superior experience.

The vision of the new IAC strategic plan is “Better chemistry through global communities,” and the mission is “Enabling diverse communities of chemical practitioners worldwide to achieve their goals.” To reinforce these principles, we have a variety of goals and strategies focused on creating a sustainable support system for ACS international chemical sciences chapters, also known as international chapters, collaborating with chemical communities worldwide on the implementation of the United Nations sustainable development goals, and advocating for and championing international members.

While IAC members have a lot of enthusiasm, we cannot achieve these objectives alone. In the coming months and years, IAC members will conduct outreach to other ACS groups, both membership and staff, to collaborate on new activities and offerings to strengthen the ACS experience for international members. These efforts will include better integrating international members into ACS governance and committees, developing new activities to assist international chapters, and exploring ways to work with international partners on cooperative efforts. All this is meant to help ACS cultivate and strengthen the offerings for our growing international membership.

ACS has long outgrown its position as a scientific society focused solely on the US. In recent years it has truly become an internationally engaged society working toward its mission to “advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.” We can accomplish this mission only by working together with people around the globe regardless of whether they are ACS members, members of other societies, or the general public. ACS is one of the largest scientific societies in the world. That status is attracting more members residing outside the US, further strengthening the international relevance of ACS.

To date, more than 20% of ACS members live outside the US. That number has more than doubled since 2012, and there are no signs of its abating. Members outside the US have a high demand for ACS resources, yet there is a gap in their member experience because they lack access to the in-person programming and networking that US-based members highly value. Moving to a virtual platform has helped increase inclusion of our international members.

It is imperative that we make every effort to ensure that this growing member constituency is treated the same as US members, with equal access to ACS resources and a voice in deciding ACS policies. International members need representation in the ACS Council, and international chapters need the same support given to US local sections, including reliable funding for programming and leadership training. While an increasing amount of programming, such as the ACS Chemistry Festival and the Younger Chemists Committee’s newly approved Global Career Accelerator Program, focuses on global audiences, there is still a long way to go.

Like no other year, 2020 has shown the importance of scientific dialogue. Denying scientific advice and isolating ourselves from different viewpoints will lead to failure. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world unprecedented challenges, requiring a coordinated global effort to prevent, contain, and hopefully cure this disease. Our daily life was disrupted earlier this year but is gradually acclimating to a new normal. I hope that this new normal will enhance ACS’s ability to reach new international members and provide them with a superior experience. The year 2020 has shown how important our personal connections are, and I hope that ACS can continue to provide an enriching experience for all members regardless of where they live. I welcome your ideas and suggestions at

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


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.