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ACS Governance Review: A Report On Progress

by James D. Burke and E. Ann Nalley, Cochairs, Joint Board-Council Policy Committee Governance Review Task Force
June 25, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 26

IN 2005, the ACS Board of Directors and the Council Policy Committee (CPC) jointly appointed a Governance Review Task Force and charged it with reviewing the society's governance, and constitution and bylaws, to ensure that the society has a governing framework that enables it to fulfill its mission, meet member needs, and remain a world-class organization. At the spring 2007 national meeting, through a process involving broad governance and membership participation, the effort reached a significant milestone. Acting on the task force's recommendation, the board of directors and CPC approved a final disposition of all the ideas raised by the task force. We are pleased to share with you the list of all proposals currently being implemented and their status.

At the spring 2007 national meeting, the Membership Affairs Committee and governance review action teams presented a white paper on reexamining membership requirements. The paper was broadly discussed and revised in response to member comments. Consequently, a petition to change the bylaws to allow undergraduate students and applicants with a science degree or work experience in chemistry to become ACS members has been advanced for fall 2007 consideration. Also, the board of directors has convened a working group to develop a comprehensive international strategy for ACS and to explore opportunities for increasing membership value to international ACS members.

To strengthen local sections, an action team is surveying local sections, regional meeting planners, and regional boards about how best to provide increased staff support to the volunteers leading their important activities. Likewise, an action team surveyed divisional officers in February and March to determine the advantages of additional staff support.

Governance review action teams are still working in interrelated areas pertaining to the society's disciplinary organization. In particular, an action team and several ACS committees are considering how to replace secretariats with a more robust framework for focused technical interest groups. Another action team is considering how to centralize aspects of national meeting programming to enable a more attendee-focused program while retaining the best elements of the current programming structure.

Recently, an action team implemented various ways to involve alternate councilors more intimately in governance activities and enhance their future impact as a resource for ACS. Also, the task force and the Committee on Committees have scheduled a meeting in July to conduct a data-driven examination of ACS committee structure. The intent is to maximize the value of interactions between committees and ensure that the committee structure effectively supports the ACS Vision and Strategic Directions (

We are also examining the petition candidate process. The Governance Review Task Force's proposal for a review of election processes involving petition candidates was delegated to the Committee on Nominations & Elections, which is currently working with the ACS Council toward an equitable and amicable resolution to this complex issue. Finally, the society is creating a comprehensive communications strategy that enlists members in efforts to share the value of chemistry and ACS with the public.

As one might expect, some ideas initially proposed in the governance review process have, upon member consideration and review of relevant data, been set aside. For example, a careful study of councilor turnover and length of service led the task force to oppose establishing councilor term limits. Likewise, an examination of ratios of councilors to others appointed to committees convinced us that placing more noncouncilors on ACS committees is unnecessary.

Also, to avoid diminishing opportunities for members to volunteer productively for ACS, the task force rejected the idea of reducing the size of council or sizes and numbers of committees. Instead, we shall carefully examine the committees' charges and areas of overlap at the July "Committee Summit" noted above. In these and other areas, we have been careful to focus the governance review process only on innovations that could improve the society's position.

Certainly, changes to an organization as successful as ACS are not made lightly. It will take time to see the final outcomes of the many governance reforms under way. Still, much has already been accomplished. We fully expect that within the near future, ACS will be superbly positioned to advance our vision: "Improving people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry."

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


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