Using Technology To Expand Access To National Meeting Content | March 16, 2009 Issue - Vol. 87 Issue 11 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 11 | p. 62 | ACS Comments
Issue Date: March 16, 2009

Using Technology To Expand Access To National Meeting Content

Department: ACS News
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

SEEING ONE'S CONCEPT move from the drawing board to the real world is most gratifying.

Two years ago, C&EN published my ACS Comment on the need to use the Internet to permit larger numbers of ACS members to access content delivered at ACS national meetings (Jan. 8, 2007, page 49). In the comment, I asked, "Is it in the society's best interest to limit the value delivered at our national meetings to those fortunate enough to physically attend the meeting?"

In the past, this question was irrelevant. To hear the presentations delivered at national meetings, one needed to make the time and find the money to physically attend. With the Web, we can make selected content from our meetings available to everyone. This makes sense to me for several reasons.

First, our divisions invest significant amounts of volunteer time and money to organize and present the programs delivered at national meetings. Leveraging the value of the information appears to me to be in the interests of the organizing division and the member who couldn't be there in person.

Second, making information available via the Web makes sense because people today expect to accomplish all sorts of things online. We buy music, we pay bills, we shop, we get our news, and we book flights. Do we suspend our expectations regarding accessing ACS technical information online? I don't.

Finally, our national meetings largely depend on one's ability and willingness to travel. Economic downturns, terrorist activity, expensive airfare, and hotel charges—and, in general, the price one pays for being away from work and family—all represent current or potential disincentives to travel. Supplementing the dissemination of information at our national meeting with online dissemination provides the society with a way to mitigate the risks associated with holding face-to-face meetings.

It became clear during a series of breakfasts sponsored at two national meetings by the Committee on Professional & Member Relations that ACS should identify and discuss the issues associated with making selected national meeting content available online. A task force chaired by Grace Baysinger was formed in early 2008 to, among other things, study and make recommendations for a project to be implemented at a future national meeting. I am pleased to announce that the task force has completed its work. It has arranged for a number of presentations to be recorded at the Salt Lake City national meeting and subsequently to be made available online.

Most of the presentations to be made available will focus on the meeting's theme, "Nanoscience: Challenges for the Future." They will include presentations from the following symposia:

  • "Frontiers in Imaging Biological Nanostructures"
  • "Nano Meets Neuro: Novel Challenges for Nanoscience in Probing Brain Chemistry"
  • "Molecular Rotors and Motors"
  • "Chemical Methods of Nanofabrication"
  • "Genetically Designed Molecular Materials."

ACS also plans to record and post the keynote address delivered by Angela M. Belcher, Germehausen Professor of Materials Science & Engineering & Biological Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and presentations from the Kavli Foundation ACS Presidential Plenary Symposium on "Challenges in Nanoscience" organized by Paul S. Weiss, editor-in-chief of ACS Nano. The 2009 Priestley Medal winner, M. Frederick Hawthorne, has been asked to permit his address to be recorded and posted.

Making information available via the Web makes sense because people today expect to accomplish all sorts of things online.

ACS is depending on the presenters' willingness to have their presentations recorded and posted. Presenter participation in this project is completely optional—indeed, one intriguing aspect of this pilot program will be to find out how many are willing to participate.

Within a week or two after the meeting concludes, the content will be posted online and made available to all, including the general public. The task force is anxious to understand the overall demand for this type of information without introducing complicating factors that might dampen demand, such as access authentication or fees. However, restricting access to content or charging a fee may be necessary or desirable in the future.

I want to thank several groups who have cooperated to make this project a reality: the task force chaired by Baysinger, which completed its work in time to make this pilot possible; the editors of the ACS journals, who established prior-publication policy; the divisions and the Divisional Activities Committee, who have been helpful and supportive along the way; and ACS staffers who have worked to make this project a reality. Finally, I extend a special thanks to the presenters who have given permission to record and post their talks.

This project will probably not be perfect, but it is an important step in our experiment to assess interest in this area. Please review the content and pass along any comments. The meeting content will be posted on


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

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