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Get Involved: Send A Letter, Create A Committee, Or Run For Elective Office

by Bonnie A. Charpentier, Chair, Board of Directors
November 29, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 48

Bonnie A. Charpentier
Credit: Kathleen Dylan
Chair, Board of Directors
Credit: Kathleen Dylan
Chair, Board of Directors

The ACS vision statement—“Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry”—is a powerful statement, but how many people, in particular our elected officials and the media, truly appreciate the truth behind those words?

ACS members and staff invest a lot of time communicating to elected officials, the media, and the general public how the science of chemistry is vital to our economy, advances innovation, and holds the keys to solving some of our most pressing global challenges.

But we can never have enough advocates to help communicate the value of chemistry—and that is where you come in. Despite busy schedules and the hectic pace of life, do you still find time to follow the actions and activities of your elected and appointed officials? Do you have a passion for public policy matters and their ramifications on our economy and quality of life? Does the debate on those issues spark your interests and passions? Do you sometimes wonder aloud how some discussions of issues seem out of touch with matters of importance to you, your family, neighbors, and colleagues?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you represent a segment of our population that is politically astute and keenly aware of decisions being made at the local, state, and federal levels of government that affect our lives. I would like to suggest that you consider getting more involved in the public policy arena to leverage your expertise and skills to help define, shape, and affect the important issues of our day.

How can you do this? ACS provides several outlets to help you channel your interest in this area. They are tailored to the amount of time you have to get involved:

■ Less than 10 minutes? Team up with 15,000 of your colleagues by joining the ACS Act 4 Chemistry Network ( Joining takes no more than entering your name and address. Once enrolled, you will receive eight to 10 legislative alerts annually that link you directly to your elected representatives so you can express your views on issues of importance to science. A posted letter is available for you to send. If you agree with the letter, you simply hit “send” and you have made your voice heard in less than 15 seconds. You also have the ability to modify and customize the letter before sending it.

■ One to two hours a month? Consider joining your local section Government Affairs Committee and help plan activities to communicate about chemistry to your elected officials through letters, telephone calls, office visits, and attending governmental body meetings. Better yet, if your local section doesn’t have a Government Affairs Committee, consider starting one. ACS has all the tools you need to create and operate a successful Government Affairs Committee on its website (

■ Several hours to a couple of days a month? ACS members in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have formed statewide government affairs committees that link local sections in each state and have developed comprehensive advocacy agendas aligned around improving science, technology, engineering, and math education in those states. For information and assistance in creating your own statewide government affairs committee, contact the ACS Office of Public Affairs at (202) 872-4386.

■ Lots of energy and more time to devote? Perhaps you are the perfect candidate to consider running for elective office—school board, town or county council, state legislature, or higher office.

No matter what level of office you may decide to seek, your scientific background and training are valuable assets that provide you with a point of view that is not typically heard in public policy debates. That does not mean that all chemists and engineers agree on specific issues, but your training in analytical thinking skills and problem solving via the scientific method are extremely valuable decision-making tools.

For example, on the federal level, ACS often hears from members of Congress that they wish they heard more often from the scientific community because they value the input and expertise to help them make difficult policy decisions. Of the 535 members of the House and Senate, fewer than 5% have any scientific or technical degrees.

If the idea of running for elective office interests you, I suggest you visit the website of Scientists & Engineers for America (, a group that ACS helps support in a number of ways. One of SEA’s main goals is to convince scientists and engineers to run for elective office. Their website offers a wealth of materials and short videos about running for elective office. One video in particular that resonates with me features scientists who have taken the plunge and successfully attained elective offices ( This may be the perfect time for you to consider taking that next bold step and becoming a candidate for elective office.

And if you already hold a political office, please let us know at or e-mail me at

Whichever role you decide to take in getting involved, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping ensure that science is front and center in policy decisions that affect us all.

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



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