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Pride In The Past, Working For The Future

by Diane Grob Schmidt, District II Director
November 22, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 47

Diane Grob Schmidt
Credit: Courtesy of Diane Grob Schmidt
District II Director
Credit: Courtesy of Diane Grob Schmidt
District II Director

Graduations usually occur in May, but I “graduate” from serving nine years on the American Chemical Society Board of Directors this December. I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with members in this capacity, and I’d like to offer some perspectives in a sort of valedictory letter.

We are in a global economy where knowledge creation is critical to passing the unparalleled tests ahead. Simply put, I see unprecedented challenges requiring innovative solutions, with ACS playing a key role on behalf of members. Fueled by members, the society has the core strengths to address these challenges—if we are open to the possibilities.

Over the past nine years, ACS has made great strides for members, the economy, and our world. But we cannot become complacent. The future offers new challenges, new opportunities. We have a global economy struggling to recover from the Great Recession. We are prioritizing limited resources. We are adjusting to the new reality—a globally competitive workforce. As district director, I have had an opportunity to be in close contact with members and to advocate for member services that are meaningful now. We need to identify current needs and to leverage ACS’s significant competencies to address them.

Keeping pace with and anticipating what members—our most important asset—most value now is a must. Three of these top needs that members have voiced are highlighted below.

Jobs & Professional ­Advancement

The Past Chemistry enjoyed a strong reputation as an enabling, central science that improved and added considerable value to people’s lives and to our world. Jobs were plentiful. Financial support for research was great. Students were eager to join the society. The public image of chemistry was highly favorable.

The Present What a change! Jobs in chemistry are less plentiful. Students question a future in chemistry versus other professional career choices. Those in the profession—younger members, displaced midcareer scientists, and later-career chemists now working longer and harder—look to ACS for help to meet their needs. When members do not have jobs, they are not at work improving lives, and their lives are not improved.

Jobs, including those in R&D, are being outsourced. Domestic research is not being supported as it once was. Other governments are investing more in R&D and the education of their citizens than is the U.S. Where jobs are, and how work is accomplished, has changed. ACS cannot create jobs, but it must recognize that jobs are a critically important issue. How can we help equip our members for the world as it is now?

Looking Forward We must continue to advocate for R&D tax incentives and increased research funding. The major job opportunities for our graduates today are in industry—a scene that’s evolving through downsizing and transfer of jobs overseas. Finding enough jobs for chemists is an ongoing, difficult dilemma. We must bite the bullet and balance supply and demand in our profession.

Importantly, we must ensure that members know and understand the education and experiences needed to be competitive in a global economy.

Networking & Collaboration

The Past Coauthors and colleagues were just “down the hall.”

The Present The “world electronic!” Our networking, our collaboration, needs to be global and digital—and it is. The ACS Network ( facilitates dialogue, information exchange, and collaboration; it is global connectedness made real. The network allows participation in decision making; it enables connection one-on-one and in groups. It has capacity for many more participants. If the society is to engage the world’s scientists to address global challenges, then growing this resource is a priority.

Looking Forward Increasing participation in the ACS Network is needed. Further, student use of the network could encourage greater student engagement.

Scientific Information

We are the largest scientific professional organization in the world. Trusted scientific information is a core member need.

The Past Our world-class achievements began with member volunteers. ACS built on those efforts first by hiring full-time staff and later by shepherding the transition of scientific information from print to digital. By the dissemination of trusted, high-quality, high-impact scientific information, Chemical Abstracts Service and ACS Publications have been a crucial foundation to the global chemical enterprise. CAS and ACS Publications, our outstanding meetings and expositions, and our society grew because of the unselfish, diligent work of members.

The Present CAS and ACS Publications grow in importance as critical enablers, helping to accelerate innovation and enhance the productivity of our members in their work. Mobile access to ACS’s quality information permits real-time access anywhere, anytime. Further, these core competencies exemplify fulfillment of our congressional charter and mission.

Looking Forward The development of new information streams is an opportunity area for ACS. Broadening access to national meeting content by recording and posting it online is an avenue to be supported. In the current tough economic times, encouraging mission-critical services for members is a priority.

In conclusion, we live in a time of unprecedented change. If we are determined, we have the opportunity to deliver innovative solutions. The future is ours. It will be what we make it.

Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving on the board.

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



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