Engaging A Global Scientific Community | March 24, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 12 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 12 | pp. 73-75 | ACS Comments
Issue Date: March 24, 2008

Engaging A Global Scientific Community

By Anne T. O'Brien, District I Director
Department: ACS News

To be "a preeminent global scientific community that engages members and other scientific professionals to advance science education, research, knowledge, interaction, and collaboration" is a major goal of the new ACS Strategic Plan.

Rapid globalization, accelerated by virtual collaboration worldwide, urges us to ask how we can best offer an enticing venue for scientists to connect and work together. How do we best nurture collaboration and interaction? How do we become a natural home for the global scientific community?

New Technologies. ACS is fostering and supporting a vibrant professional community in new ways through ACS Chemical Biology online (www.acschemicalbiology.org), which offers a wiki, podcast, list of events, and other tools to the community of chemical biologists. ACS Nanotation (www.acsnanotation.org) is designed to be "the premier destination for nanoscience and nanotechnology news, highlights, and community" and offers career resources, "Ask the Scientist," a wiki, podcasts, article picks, and more. Chemistry.org/exchange (www.exchange.chemistry.org/cms) allows users to share, assign tags, vote, and comment on articles of interest to the scientific community. CollectiveX (www.collectivex.com) offers committees and ACS groups the ability to have a "groupsite" for sharing and keeping connected. WebEx (http://acs.webex.com) enables various ACS groups to meet virtually online. And a planned online member network will allow users to participate in a network of ACS members.

Traditional Methods. ACS also supports a vibrant professional community in familiar ways by convening meetings on various scales, including Pacifichem; facilitating networking; accommodating resource sharing from kindergarten to graduate school via student affiliates, high school chemistry clubs, and Kids & Chemistry; dispersing knowledge through 36 ACS journals, Chemical Abstracts Service, ProSpectives Conferences, and short courses; advocating on behalf of the community for science education and research funding; honoring outstanding contributors to the community, for example, through ACS National Awards and the Heroes of Chemistry program; and communicating with the public on behalf of the scientific community via National Chemistry Week, Earth Day, the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program, and by keeping journalists informed about chemistry, among other activities.

Beyond these efforts, what can ACS do to engage the global scientific community more broadly, more deeply? How do we best provide a home, even a virtual home, that facilitates collaboration among scientists who may not be members, who use chemistry but don't describe themselves as chemists, who live outside the U.S., and who are young and technologically adept?

Welcome begins at home. One challenge is offering a comfortable environment for Americans who are not yet members. Why are they not? How can we best attract and welcome African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and other populations? Our future is diverse, so our present needs to be inclusive and varied. Can we build on achievements like the Percy Julian documentary to extend outreach and to engage diverse members as leaders?

Welcome extends across the world. The world is flat; it is "smart" everywhere; it is "on" 24/7/365. Multidisciplinary partnerships are organized to work with Western quality standards in an Internet-enabled integrated global environment and are gradually replacing single-nation-based specialized research groups. Given access to extensive global networks, highly trained, highly skilled scientists from very different cultures can participate from virtually anywhere. We need ACS to be welcoming of all these networks.

How will ACS best build and sustain global community in this environment? Can we leverage digital capabilities to encourage networking and collaboration worldwide in a lively, enticing way? Can we convene global conferences and invite participation on issues of worldwide concern? Can we facilitate the formation of alliances around the globe, support knowledge transfer, and stimulate innovation to tackle challenges we all share?

We must ask how ACS Careers can directly support people in their effort to participate and thrive in this fluid global framework. No matter where we are physically, we work in a transnational context. How can ACS help prepare scientists to function effectively in this integrated milieu? And how can ACS members function best among colleagues from unfamiliar cultures, who speak different languages, and whose habits and environments differ? How shall we best equip U.S. scientists for global employment? Those who are successful internationally emphasize adaptability, communication and computer skills, tenacity, patience, a multidisciplinary mind-set, and appreciation of cultural differences. A few success stories may help (we have them among members). Let's share them!

ACS holds an ace: its extraordinary ability to elicit participation, engender enthusiasm, and engage volunteers. Uncommon among professional societies, the sense of ownership, degree of involvement, and passionately generous work of ACS members are creating and sustaining this community now. Can we share this with the global scientific community? How?

One guide in this exploration can be the ACS Committee on International Activities, which reviews its mission and goals periodically, supports global awareness and participation broadly, aligns itself with the society's Strategic Plan, and is a leader in this ACS effort.

Beyond existing programs, what do you think ACS should do to engage global scientists in a collaborative environment in which they can thrive? Visit the ACS Strategic Plan at www.acs.org/strategicplan and join the ongoing discussion. ACS welcomes your suggestions.


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

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