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ACS News

The Power Of Collaboration

by Bonnie A. Charpentier
January 17, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 3

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

Happy International Year of Chemistry! IYC 2011 is a great time to celebrate, create, and extend collaborations within ACS and with groups outside ACS. The purpose of this Comment is to offer some thoughts about the potential for communication and collaborative efforts, note a few examples of effective partnerships, and encourage new collaborations. Collaborations create synergies and open communication channels that benefit all involved.

Following are some examples of recent effective collaborations and some suggestions for you to consider as you plan and carry out activities related to the IYC 2011 themes of energy, environment, health, and materials as well as other future programs and activities. If you have ideas for other collaborations, I’d love to hear from you.

Within ACS

Across Committees. In an organization as complex as ACS, many areas of overlap exist among committees. One shining example of collaboration on shared interests was the Joint Subcommittee on Diversity, which involved the cooperation of several committees that work in the area of diversity. This group started with informal discussions of shared interests and established a collaborative effort with a minimum of bureaucracy and a lot of energy.

Other efforts to encourage communication include breakfasts for committee chairs sponsored by board committees at national meetings. Committee liaisons also work to establish communication between committees; work is under way to enhance those interactions. If you are working on a committee, consider reaching out to other groups with overlapping interests.

Divisions & Local Sections. Divisions often work together for programming at national meetings. However, examples of cooperative programs between local sections and divisions are less common. Some divisions do programming at regional meetings, but much more could be done. Enhanced cooperation could both strengthen regional meetings and provide visibility and leadership opportunities for divisions. I also encourage members of divisions to talk with colleagues in your local sections to explore opportunities for mutual aid. For example, division members could identify potential speakers for programs within the local sections, and local sections could provide venues for panel presentations or joint symposia in a division’s technical area. In addition to creating a fine program, you could be nominated for a ChemLuminary Award for “Outstanding Collaboration between a Division and a Local Section.”

There are numerous examples of two or more local sections working together, most prominently in the organization of our regional meetings. Some local sections routinely collaborate with adjacent sections to share speakers or do joint programming. If your section is going it alone, consider collaborating with another section—perhaps not even a geographic neighbor, but a section that shares interests or concerns. Also consider approaching a division.

With Other Organizations

Collaborations within ACS are essential, but working with groups outside the society can be more rewarding than talking to ourselves. Cooperative programs with other scientific societies such as the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Association for Women in Science, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to name a few, expand our reach and bring different perspectives. Programs with museums are a natural fit and provide interesting venues for activities.

Partnerships with non-science-based organizations offer wide-ranging possibilities. Examples include working with scouts, environmental groups, and civic organizations—the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Outreach to the public can be much more effective if members of the public outside ACS are included as partners in organizing the programs and events. For local sections, there is a ChemLuminary Award for working with another group (internal or external to ACS), the ChemLuminary Local Section Partnership Award.

To provide effective outreach to the public and improve the public perception and appreciation of chemistry, partnerships with individuals in the media are particularly important. The best way to get coverage of your ACS events is to develop professional and trusting relationships with reporters. The Sparkle Workshop was restarted in 2010 to provide public relations chairs of local sections and divisions with the training and tools to build media relationships and relevant skills (such as how to write a press release). Consider becoming a “Sparkler” for your local section or division.

In the area of advocacy, working with partners outside ACS is particularly helpful. For example, local section government affairs committees have partnered with state teachers associations to provide input to, monitor, and advocate for legislation in support of science education.

Finally, ACS has memoranda of understanding with several chemical societies in other countries and works collaboratively in organizing meetings. (Pacifichem is an outstanding example.) ACS is working with other chemistry societies in many areas, including outreach to students and the public. Space here does not allow me to list all of the collaborations; one example, however, is the work with colleagues in Brazil and Mexico to share materials for outreach to students on themes such as chemistry and art.

Please help celebrate IYC 2011 by building new collaborations. The tools available to you as a Chemistry Ambassador can help you focus on the C on the IYC 2011 pin and connect, communicate, collaborate, and celebrate!

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



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