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Policy

A Year For Opportunity: Recap

by William F. Carroll, ACS President
December 19, 2005 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 83, ISSUE 51

Carroll
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Credit: Photo by Peter Cutts
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Credit: Photo by Peter Cutts

To start this year, in the Jan. 3 issue, I wrote about three specific items on my agenda: envisioning the chemistry enterprise in 2015, secondary education, and the public's perception of chemistry, with "opportunity" as the overall theme. Let's finish the year by reviewing results.

Chemistry Enterprise 2015. When I was running for this office, members expressed concern to me about whether chemistry even had a future. This troubled me deeply, and I decided to use 2005 to discuss the future of the chemistry enterprise and envision its state 10 years from now.

Now available from the ACS website at chemistry.org/chemistryenterprise2015.html, the document is the final paper of the Enterprise project, written by Douglas J. Raber and me. From expert opinions expressed in national meeting symposia to personal experience of individual members, we invited dialogue. The paper is a concise summary of where we see ourselves today and contains predictions of things that will happen in the coming years.

I hope you'll take the time to read this paper—it will only take you 30 minutes or so—and I also hope you'll take the time to comment on it at the website. In short, we, and most of those we talked with, believe that the future still holds plenty of opportunity in chemistry, but it may be different from what we're used to. There will be competition, collaboration, and challenge, as well as very little entitlement. But despite some twists and bumps, the road to everything from sustainable energy to superior medicine goes through chemistry. There was never a broader or more important set of problems for chemists to work on and never a greater societal need that we do so.

Secondary Education. We are critically short of chemistry-trained high school teachers in the U.S. To help address the shortage, we created resources for industry chemists or early retirees who might like to transition into a second career as a teacher, and many have taken up the challenge. In addition, through the efforts of ACS's Chemical Education Division and the Journal of Chemical Education, we created a new product for high school teachers. Chemistry Teacher Connections provides useful tools and an affiliate ACS division membership at an affordable price.

I've been privileged to have the best job in America, working with the best people, both staff and members. As we close this year, let me simply say thank you for your support, advice, criticism, and friendship.

Public Perception of Chemistry. In order to deliver a positive message about chemistry to the public, we need to borrow a microphone from the media. Getting media attention is difficult, of course, but with a service project or slightly unusual behavior, it can be done.

This fall, we did something a little unusual in the Extreme NCW Tour. To celebrate National Chemistry Week, we visited 15 cities in 10 days, energized our staff and local sections, and reached more than 5 million people on radio coverage alone. The blog and podcasts we did from the road broke new ground for us and are still available at www.chemistryweek.org. We will use what we learned about promotions and technology to make next year's NCW an even bigger success. People are interested in the benefits of chemistry, and we're now in a better position to tell them.

Visibility, Credibility. When I was running for this office, I told you I believed that the president should be the most visible face and credible voice for chemists and chemistry. I've tried to live that belief in a number of ways.

◾ I've attended more than 80 ACS events in 65 different local sections in the past two years. I've spoken to members of Congress and members of school boards. I've taught more than 50 high school classes and held discussions with as many student affiliate groups. I've met and corresponded with thousands of members. Each has different questions and issues, but all have something in common: They gave their lives to chemistry, and they want to see it flourish.

◾ We communicated about issues resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and their impact on our members. Through the task force, we are just now starting to see how, within the stricture of the constitution and bylaws, we can take substantive action related to chemists and chemistry that no other agency will tackle.

◾ We achieved a workable relationship with the National Institutes of Health regarding PubChem. Challenges abound for our publications enterprises, but our commitment hasn't changed. We will provide chemical information that is accurate, accessible, and affordable for authors and users through sustainable support and delivery models.

Thanks to you, it's been a gas. This year, I've been privileged to have the best job in America, working with the best people, both staff and members. So as we close this year, let me simply say thank you for your support, advice, criticism, and friendship. I have one more year in the presidential succession, and I hope to use it wisely, if less visibly. May your 2006 be healthy, prosperous, and yet another year for opportunity.

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