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Strategic Directions For ACS

by Judith L. Benham, Chair, Board of Directors
November 19, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 47

We must align our energies toward te most important issues facing our science, our profession, our members, and our communities.

In recent years, ACS has undertaken increased examination of strategic directions for the society. We must align our energies toward the most important issues facing our science, our profession, our members, and our communities. This requires that we pay close attention to changing trends, and emerging issues and patterns, and that we be both focused and agile in addressing the new directions.

Early this year, we released "Strategic Directions for 2007 and Beyond," with our new ACS vision: "Improving people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry," and mission: "To advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people." The vision and mission were developed in 2006, with input from thousands of ACS members.

The plan set out three areas for ACS and its members to work toward:

◾ Enabling scientific progress: To provide the highest quality education, knowledge, and tools to facilitate solutions for major scientific challenges safely and sustainably.

◾ Fostering community: To strengthen the power of association by connecting people around the world in chemistry-related disciplines.

◾ Transforming the world: To focus on challenges and opportunities at the intersection of chemistry and society that improve the quality of human life.

The feedback on "Strategic Directions for 2007 and Beyond" showed that members like our vision and mission, but that we need to transform that document into an "actionable plan" as a road map for the future of ACS.

In June, the board of directors and senior staff created a draft "Strategic Plan for 2008 and Beyond." Input from councilors and committees, along with member input from online discussion of the current strategic directions website, provided a valuable foundation for setting a member-driven course. During the workshop, we identified core values that are central to the society, including a passion for chemistry, a focus on members, professionalism, diversity, and inclusion.

We reviewed external trends that face the chemical enterprise, professionals, and ACS in order to consider the environment in which ACS operates. Among these are growth of industry in China and India that will negatively impact U.S. jobs; movement of R&D offshore; the U.S. becoming a service-focused nation; changes in scientific membership demographics, participation, and volunteerism; increased globalization; impact of technology on information and communication; jeopardy of funding for research; declining image of the chemical sciences; and lack of understanding of chemistry by the general public.

We identified "mega-issues," which are key strategic challenges that ACS must address to live up to its vision and support its mission. These include organizational capacity, globalization, value to members, public policy, infrastructure, technology, and financial sustainability.

We then identified six specific forward-thinking goals for ACS that both support the ACS vision and mission and establish priorities for society activity during the coming years:

◾ ACS will be the indispensable professional and information resource for members and other chemistry-related practitioners.

◾ ACS will be a preeminent global scientific community that engages members and other scientific professionals to advance science education, research, knowledge, interaction, and collaboration.

◾ ACS will be a global leader in enlisting the world's scientific professionals in collaboration to address, through chemistry, the challenges facing our world.

◾ ACS will be a leader in communicating the nature and value of chemistry and related sciences.

◾ ACS will be a premier advocacy organization for members and the profession, creating and communicating policy statements in accordance with our Congressional Charter.

◾ ACS will be a financially sustainable organization that serves our members, chemistry, and related sciences.

Preliminary milestones and strategies were created to define success, or progress, and to help achieve it. In July, a revised draft was presented to the board and e-mailed to councilors and committee chairs.

the board and Planning Committee began the process of refining the descriptions of the goals and developing effective metrics for each goal and strategy at our August meeting. The board began setting short-term strategies and tactics for 2008 within these broad goals, feeding information into the process by which objectives are set for ACS operations. The discussion is informed by valuable input received from councilors and committees prior to the meeting, from those able to attend the board's open session in Boston, and from those sending thoughts by e-mail.

Concurrently, the Planning Committee, composed of representatives from several council committees, began developing explanatory text to more clearly specify the desired outcomes of each goal and appropriate metrics to measure progress for each of the six goals. The Planning Committee hopes to work with appropriate committees through the autumn and winter to develop a concise, yet comprehensive, list of metrics for each goal.

When the "Strategic Plan for 2008 and Beyond" is ready for a broader collection of our members and the public to join the discussion, it will be laid out at The plan will maintain some interactive features similar to those of the strategic directions laid out for 2007, such as an open forum to discuss the plan and links to related ACS activities. This is an exciting and challenging time for ACS, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to refine and implement the strategic plan.

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


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