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Be a voice for science

by Bonnie Charpentier, ACS President
July 19, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 29


Photo of Bonnie Charpentier.
Credit: Courtesy of Bonnie Charpentier

When I was a candidate for American Chemical Society president, I highlighted the need for scientists to connect with policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels to emphasize the key role that science plays in society and to advocate for science and science education. This becomes even more important as policy issues grow increasingly politicized; the need for decisions based on data and analytical thought becomes ever greater.

It is important for us to raise our voices and demonstrate the countless ways our research has changed society for the better. As I approach the halfway point of my presidency, I continue to seek opportunities for ACS members to raise the chemistry flag with policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels and to advocate for adoption of public policies important to ACS members.

Participation of ACS members is critical in helping lawmakers shape successful science-related public policies. We are not only constituents represented by policy makers but also technical experts with specific information to share. It’s in this latter role that we can ensure more effective policies and legislation related to the scientific enterprise.

At the national level, I, along with many ACS members, am advocating for four pieces of US federal legislation that would contribute to ACS’s core values of professionalism, diversity and inclusion, and passion for chemistry. These pieces of legislation are the following:

H.R. 36/S. 1067—Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019

H.R. 2051/S. 999—Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019

H.R. 1396/S. 590—Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act

Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

Thanks in part to our collective efforts, H.R. 36 has been reported out of committee, H.R. 2051 has close to 10 cosponsors, and H.R. 1396 has almost 250 cosponsors. If you would like to contact your federal representatives and express support for the measures above, simply visit the ACS Act4Chemistrywebsite at . The website also has an advocacy tool kit that guides you through other forms of advocacy.

Through our collective efforts, we emphasize the importance of inspiring future scientists, developing a diverse workforce, and encouraging sustainable practices in our field. However, advocacy is also needed beyond the federal level, at the state and local level.

Last November, I shared with local section leaders a fun and easy opportunity to request a proclamation from state officials celebrating the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT). Several members answered this call and successfully inspired resolutions in Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and South Carolina. As this Comment is published, ACS members have requests for state recognitions in Maryland, New Hampshire, Georgia, and Texas.

If you’d like to add your state to the list honoring IYPT, please send an email to ACS staff stand ready to walk anyone through this easy process. I hope that through this celebratory request, our members become comfortable engaging their policy makers and ultimately discuss other policy issues important to our community.

I continue to promote workshops to train ACS members on how to be effective advocates, building on the successful program started in 2017 by then-president Allison Campbell. In collaboration with ACS staff and local volunteers, we offered the latest workshop recently at the Northwest Regional Meeting in Portland, Oregon.

I am working with ACS staff to package this program—similar to the ACS Program-in-a-Box—so local section members can easily and successfully lead and execute the program, strengthening their advocacy efforts at the local and state levels. We are piloting this program in a few local sections. If you or your local section would be interested, please email

In a C&EN Comment in 2010, I encouraged members to consider running for elected public office. I renew that call here for members who have both the interest and time to make such a commitment. A September 2018 article in C&EN highlighted stories of scientists who took this step toward elected office, and I would recommend you read those stories.

To further assist anyone who might consider running for office, I am working with ACS staff to include a new module on the Act4Chemistry site to provide information, support, and resources that will debut shortly.

To be clear, ACS is not, and cannot, be involved with partisan matters. We recognize that ACS members have a diverse set of public policy views. Therefore, the resources that will be on this new section of Act4Chemistry, as well as those found throughout ACS, follow a neutral, nonpartisan path. A goal of the new module is to help guide members as they answer questions such as, “What is involved with running for public office?” and “What do you hope to accomplish by running for a specific office?” If you have run for political office in the past and would be willing to serve as a resource for other ACS members interested in advocacy, please send me an email at

The need for scientists to engage at every level of our government has never been stronger, and I highly encourage you to take advantage of the training, information, and support that ACS provides as a member benefit. It is my hope that at the end of 2019, we will have significantly increased the number of ACS members leading and contributing to policy discussions across the US at the federal, state, and local levels. Please step up and join me and others in a strong commitment to elevate the voice of chemistry!

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



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