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Join a Dialogue on Membership

August 16, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 33

Over the past year, the committee on Admissions has engaged in numerous lively discussions on the criteria for membership in the American Chemical Society. In the coming months, we hope to expand this critical dialogue to include the comments and views of the entire membership in order to better represent the wishes and values of all chemical practitioners among us and to reflect more closely the practice of science in the world today.

Our constitution and bylaws clearly set forth the criteria for membership in the various categories. According to Article IV of the constitution, "members of the SOCIETY shall be those individuals who are interested in the objects of the SOCIETY and who meet the requirements for MEMBERS or ASSOCIATE MEMBERS, as provided in the Bylaws."

And Bylaw I describes in detail the requisite levels of "formal training and experience in a chemical science or in a science closely related to chemistry" for members and associate members.

However, as with every document, no matter how carefully conceived, crafted, and executed, there is always ample room for interpretation. For example, over our 128-year history, we have gradually expanded our definition of the "objects" of the society--the subject matter of chemical science--to include chemical engineering and multidisciplinary scientific approaches to chemistry.

Since relatively new disciplines such as materials engineering share significant foundations and aims with the chemical sciences, it seems advant ageous to all to weigh the pros and cons of including practitioners of these related sciences as ACS members. As the lines between scientific disciplines continue to blur and overlap, shouldn't we continue to reevaluate our membership requirements to see whether they adequately capture all new categories of potential members?

Likewise, concerns over the level of training required for membership have been voiced repeatedly and education requirements reevaluated and redefined throughout the society's history. Once, our society was restricted to those who had earned doctorates in chemistry; we have since incorporated clauses in our bylaws covering persons with associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in science, as well as measures of less formal training with "significant achievement" in a chemical science.

An example in this category is that we are currently considering bringing precollege teachers into our ranks. Their key role in science education is undisputed--they are the first line of contact between young students and science. How these teachers work with their students will largely determine the breadth of curiosity and enthusiasm of tomorrow's scientific leaders. The ACS Council will face a petition for council action on this subject at the national meeting in Philadelphia (C&EN, July 12, page 33).

And yet these teachers often do not have degrees in science. Their potential inclusion as members of ACS raises the question: Should the society be open to everyone with an interest in, or a commitment to, science, regardless of formal training or experience?

At this time, the Committee on Admissions is putting together a strategic plan for 2004–06. It is vital that the Committee on Admissions work with the entire membership in ensuring the most beneficial requirements for inclusion in our society--requirements that will enhance the power and prestige of all concerned. Your input regarding membership eligibility is valuable to us and will help maintain our society as the truly great member-focused organization it is now. Please let us know what you think.

You can contact the chair of the Admissions Committee by e-mail at

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of the committee.


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