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ACS: A Force For Good In The Global Scientific Enterprise

by Madeleine Jacobs, ACS Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer
March 9, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 10

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

EACH YEAR, I provide ACS members with highlights of the previous year and a look ahead to the future. Despite the worldwide economic and financial crisis, ACS ended 2008 with many solid accomplishments benefiting the scientific enterprise and members worldwide.

Among those accomplishments are record additions to the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) databases; the introduction of SciFinder on the Web with exciting new functionalities; the launch of a new journal, Applied Materials & Interfaces , and the electronic edition of C&EN; the inauguration of the ACS Network; increased advocacy for R&D and education funding; a new ACS Fellows Program; the re-envisioning of the ACS Petroleum Research Fund to "aid in significantly increasing the world's energy options"; the 40th year of providing Project SEED research stipends to high school students; and exciting new professional development opportunities for teachers at all levels. A list of 2008 highlights can be found at

As diverse as these accomplishments are, they all derive from the fundamental "objects" of the American Chemical Society's constitution and congressional charter—briefly stated, to encourage chemistry in all its branches, to promote research in chemical science and industry, to improve the qualifications and usefulness of chemists, and to increase and diffuse chemical knowledge, "thereby fostering public welfare and education, aiding the development of our country's industries, and adding to the material prosperity and happiness of our people." Out of the 100 words in the objects come the ACS vision, mission, core values, and strategic goals (

ACS exists and has relevance because of its fundamental objects. They are what enable ACS to be a force for good in society. The objects are the reason ACS is a 501c(3) organization and has been entrusted with a unique congressional charter. Our fundamental focus on accomplishing these objects will not change as ACS faces the economic and financial challenges of 2009 and beyond. Our objects give ACS a touchstone and more relevance in today's world than ever before.

ACS is well positioned to meet these challenges because of the thoughtful strategic and contingency planning carried out in the past five years (C&EN, Feb. 9, page 36). ACS is a strong, vibrant, and long-established organization. In addition to our many accomplishments, it is well positioned financially. We generated nearly $459 million in revenues, primarily from our publishing and information operations—CAS, ACS journals, and C&EN. Perhaps not surprisingly, the largest portion of ACS expenses is devoted to "the increase and diffusion of chemical knowledge"—creating and delivering the CAS databases and publishing 34 peer-reviewed journals and C&EN—and to "improving the qualifications and usefulness of chemists" through membership and education programs.

Through prudent expense management, ACS ended 2008 solidly in the black with a net contribution of $9.7 million. This represents the fifth consecutive year that ACS has generated positive operating results. The society's independent auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, gave ACS a "clean audit" on our consolidated financial statements with no adjusting entries and no material weaknesses in internal controls. These are accomplishments to celebrate.

However, the economic downturn made 2008 a challenging year. Like many organizations, ACS experienced a significant decline in its reserves due to investment losses and nonoperating charges related to its defined benefit pension plan. The decline in reserves was directly related to the historic drop in the capital markets. Fortunately, through sound planning and strong operating performance, ACS enjoys a healthy level of financial liquidity. Of course, this is an extremely volatile period. We must remain diligent in monitoring the economic situation and be prepared to adjust our plans accordingly. This will ensure the society's long-term financial sustainability and enable us to carry out our congressional charter.

In 2009, your professional and scientific society will continue to focus on delivering the premium information, membership, education, advocacy, and communication services that you and the global scientific community have come to expect. With the steady drumbeat of bad news in the employment sector, ACS also takes seriously its fundamental commitment to chemistry practitioners who are affected by unemployment in the industrial sector and cutbacks in funding at colleges and universities. This year, ACS is making it a priority to ensure that members are knowledgeable about the broad range of services that are especially valuable in economic hard times (C&EN, March 2, page 48).

Thus, despite sobering news in our global economy, ACS remains a strong, effective organization. During our entire 133-year history, we have made—and will continue to make—the necessary decisions to successfully navigate ACS through economic downturns. The ACS Board of Directors, governance, members, and staff will work together to continue the pursuit of the objects of our congressional charter and the goals of our strategic plan. Whether the economic times are good or bad, this pursuit requires us to plan carefully, be innovative, execute superbly, and communicate extensively with our members and other constituents of the worldwide chemistry enterprise.

It is in this spirit of optimism that I know ACS will continue to be a vibrant and innovative organization and a force for good in our global society.



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