For many, the waning days of December are a time to place the concluding year into perspective and to ponder what the coming year will bring. That is my theme for this comment. Some important things have occurred this year or are now in sight.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD. At the end of 2003, John K Crum retired after a long and distinguished term as ACS executive director. Madeleine Jacobs, former editor-in-chief of Chemical & Engineering News, succeeded him. Bringing a new vision, strong managerial skills, and remarkable energy to the job, she transformed the ACS staff and forged a vibrant relationship with the ACS Board of Directors. For any new chief executive officer, that would be quite an accomplishment. The result was a very successful year for ACS by any measure. We shall build on this strong start.
THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERS. In August 2003, you may recall, the boards of ACS and AIChE began to discuss what kind of joint future we might pursue. Since then, our boards and executive directors have been in regular conversation about how we might cooperate for the long term. This is where things now stand:
◾ Together, we shall seek to advance the chemical sciences by frequent and imaginative co-programming at local, divisional, regional, and national meetings. The design of these collaborations is under way, and plans for their implementation are under discussion. We have already agreed to co-locate our spring 2007 national meetings in New Orleans.
◾ We shall co-advocate for increased federal funding to support basic research in science and engineering and precollege education in science and mathematics. We have invited AIChE members to join our Congressional Visits program and participate in our Legislative Action Network.
◾ As the cofounders and co-owners of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, we shall work together to ensure a bright and enduring future for this remarkable organization.
◾ We shall communicate frequently and seek additional ways to cooperate for our mutual benefit and the good of the profession and our members.
Early next year, our ACS-AIChE Board-to-Board Task Force expects to conclude its discussions, draft a guiding document for our future cooperation, and present it to our boards for endorsement. I view these developments of the past year, after decades of institutional separation, as a notable achievement and cause for celebration. Our initiatives have already benefited both organizations.
ACS EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION. This topic has been aired in C&EN and elsewhere several times this year. Some find it a sore point, but when it is fully and patiently explained, most understand and agree that the ACS Board is applying a disciplined approach to it. In brief terms, the board seeks to ensure that senior ACS staff--roughly, the top 2%--are competitively compensated for their work
"Competitively" has two usages here. It means that salaries are neither leading nor lagging, but somewhere in the middle. According to our truly exhaustive benchmarking study of compensation programs of peer organizations earlier this year, our salary programs rank truly in the middle. "Competitive" also connotes being able to hire selectively and to retain the talent that a complex organization needs to perform its numerous functions with excellence, without distorting salary ranges. ACS does this well.
In most large nonprofit organizations, compensation consists of salary plus benefits plus bonus. Hence, the board also sought to ensure that the ACS executive bonus program properly rewards exceptional performance in achieving demanding goals, and not "business as usual." Here, too, executive bonus programs at peer organizations were thoroughly benchmarked, and again, ours is competitive.
What remains is to improve how we explain our compensation philosophy to our members. Valid philosophies are based on observable reality and not simply on wishful thinking or one's personal view or "what my gut tells me." Compensation philosophy must likewise start with valid data. Ours is based on a coherent data set derived from repeated testing. For those members who seek a better understanding of this issue, we pledge to make our explanation clearer and more persuasive.
GATHERING THREATS. Our Chemical Abstracts Service and our Publications Division are the major sources of the contributions that support ACS member services and programs. However, they are beginning to face serious risks. CAS faces many challenges from free databases and services. Likewise, the Publications Division is addressing the advocacy of "open access." Both units are working diligently and adroitly to balance the desire for the free flow of information with the enormous intellectual and monetary resources that have created, and now sustain, CAS and our outstanding journals. We shall communicate more about these issues with you in the coming months.
In closing, I thank our ACS members for your support--especially our numerous volunteers for your generous donation of time, talent, and, often enough, treasure. ACS is a unique entity. Our Publications Division and CAS are world-class operations. We contribute to the future of the chemical sciences through the Petroleum Research Fund, Project SEED, the ACS Scholars Program, the Green Chemistry Institute, and more. Our program of member services is broad and enviable. We work hard to provide reliable scientific perspective to legislators and the public. We are respected around the world. All of this is the result of a very talented staff and gifted members working in partnership. Although times have changed and we have changed with them, we are still the member-driven scientific society that was born in 1876. Happy Holidays!
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ACS Board.