Pittcon And NSF's Realignment | March 30, 2009 Issue - Vol. 87 Issue 13 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 13 | p. 3 | Editor's Page
Issue Date: March 30, 2009

Pittcon And NSF's Realignment

Department: Editor's Page

THIS WEEK'S COVER is devoted to our coverage of Pittcon 2009. C&EN sent a team of four seasoned Pittcon reporters to the annual instrumentation exposition and conference this year, led by Deputy Assistant Managing Editor Stu Borman, who wrote the overview story (see page 35).

All told there are six features on Pittcon in this issue. In addition to Borman's overview, there are three stories on technical symposia held at Pittcon by Senior Editors Celia Arnaud and Mitch Jacoby. Another story by Jacoby is a Web-only feature on C&EN Online. Senior Editor Steve Ritter compiled the annual catalog of interesting new instruments introduced this year at Pittcon. And Associate Editor Linda Wang (who did not attend the show) produced the story on awards given at Pittcon.

This package of cover stories is the most comprehensive coverage of Pittcon by any magazine in the world. It is another mark of C&EN's commitment to serving the chemical, life sciences, and laboratory worlds.

However, while C&EN's Washington, D.C.-based staff was producing this issue, I was in Salt Lake City at the ACS national meeting. C&EN's Editorial Board met as it does at every national meeting. I reported to the board on C&EN's editorial health, which is excellent. Ken Carroll, director of advertising sales for the Publications Division, reported on ad revenues, which are being suppressed by the weak economy.

C&EN's coverage of the ACS meeting begins in this week's issue. Coverage of the technical program will continue over the next four weeks.

One of the news stories in this week's issue concerns the proposed realignment of NSF's Division of Chemistry programs (see page 7). I attended NSF's Town Hall meeting on Monday evening at which Chemistry Division Director Luis Echegoyen presented the outline of the proposed realignment.

The realignment is an important and long-overdue recognition of how much chemistry has changed over the past two decades—and continues to change. In his presentation, Echegoyen outlined the drivers and restraints related to making such a change. Among the drivers is a desire to structure the division to more efficiently address the grand challenges of chemistry and to better serve the community. Interdisciplinary proposals, Echegoyen said, need better homes, and new ways need to be found to ameliorate the "cracks" that such proposals too often fall into. The realignment will also allow chemists to more effectively communicate the value of chemical research to the public and more effectively argue for a higher Chemistry Division budget.

The restraints? Any structure, Echegoyen noted, has cracks; there is concern that the realignment will just create different silos. And perhaps more important is tradition, both external and internal to NSF. "Everyone likes progress, but nobody likes change," Echegoyen said.

Before Echegoyen's presentation, I spent a few minutes talking to Bill Jorgensen, a Yale University chemistry professor, editor of two ACS journals, and an active participant in helping NSF develop the realignment plan. The realignment, he told me, "represents a modernization of chemistry at NSF. We have been talking about restructuring the antiquated structure of academic chemistry departments for years because we know it doesn't represent the reality of how chemistry is done in the real world. If this realignment serves as a catalyst to effect change in the structure of chemistry departments, it will be worthwhile."

I couldn't agree more with Jorgensen. For the past several years, I have been talking to chemists who are putting innovative academic structures into place to advance chemical research at places like Georgia Tech, Duke University, and just recently, Vanderbilt University. These chemical innovators and Echegoyen and his team at NSF recognize that chemistry isn't just the "central science," it is the "enabling science." And as the enabling science, it will move forward and evolve in the 21st century.

I urge you to get involved in what will no doubt be a spirited debate about the proposed realignment of NSF's Chemistry Division. The future of our science depends on it.

Thanks for reading.


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

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