The Chemical Society of Japan (CSJ) last month hosted the fourth Major Chemical Societies Meeting in Tokyo. Also called C6, the meeting was attended by presidents and officers of six major chemical societies: those of France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S. Participants met to discuss important issues affecting chemistry, chemical technology, and the chemical community.
American Chemical Society participants were Charles P. Casey, president; James D. Burke, board chair; Madeleine Jacobs, executive director and chief executive officer; and David L. Schutt, chief strategy officer and director of external affairs.
"All societies are experiencing similar challenges," says Jacobs, who supplied notes and background information to C&EN for this article. "Across cultures, across the globe," Jacobs says, "there are great opportunities to address our common concerns."
The idea of having these conferences was first proposed in 1998 by Mary L. Good, who was then chair of the ACS Committee on International Activities. This year's meeting started with a keynote lecture delivered by CSJ President Makoto Misono. He noted that chemistry and chemical technology have contributed to the welfare of humanity by changing and evolving over the years. He pointed out that chemical societies will continue to be attractive by being ahead of these changes.
After the keynote, participants started to tackle five broad topics that had been preselected for discussion. Each topic was chaired by a different chemical society.
Casey launched a discussion on "Breadth of Chemistry" by noting the challenge of finding ways to incorporate people working at the interfaces of chemistry and other sciences. Participants agreed that chemistry as a discipline has grown to cover a wide range of research areas and incorporates interfaces with other areas of science such as biology and nanotechnology. There was agreement that it is incumbent upon the chemical societies in the C6 countries to respond to changes in chemistry and to attempt to redefine the field in terms of interdisciplinary sciences.
In this discussion, it became apparent that each C6 society is having difficulty attracting members. This difficulty is, in part, attributed to the proliferation of niche societies. Attendees agreed that smaller societies could be provided with autonomy within the larger societies. Casey believes that ACS has not been as fast to incorporate new areas as it needs to be.
A session on "Career Development & Accreditation of Chemists" was chaired by David Giachardi, CEO of the U.K.'s Royal Society of Chemistry. In this session, the roles of chemical societies were discussed as they relate to three life stages of chemists: university education, early career, and mid- to-late career. The societies differed in their opinions on the necessity of professional certification of chemists and on accreditation of chemistry departments.
There are systems in some of the C6 countries to accredit individual chemists. All of the societies, however, have programs in place to help their members grow professionally, including short courses, employment services, and mentoring. They differ in their accreditation practices.
A session on "Primary & Secondary Education" was chaired by Rietje van Dam-Mieras, president of the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society. In the session, all participants affirmed the importance of primary and secondary education, but they noted that scientific societies are limited in what they can achieve in influencing national education systems. But they believe that use of electronic media is particularly important and that chemical societies can serve as clearinghouses for effective curriculum material.
"International Relations" was the topic chaired by Henning Hopf, president of the German Chemical Society. C6 societies agreed that international cooperation and exchange are of central importance. Increasing international student exchange and leveraging the resources on the Internet for information were seen by all as highly desirable. Attendees also agreed that industry and government agencies should be approached to provide funding for these projects.
Armand Lattes, president of the French Chemical Society (SFC), chaired a session on "Collaboration with Developing Countries." In this session, society representatives agreed that it is important to accelerate cooperation with developing countries while taking into account environmental concerns related to sustainable development. Highlights of the discussion included the importance of education and training of students in their home countries.
The next C6 meeting will be held in Paris in 2007 on the occasion of SFC's 150th anniversary.