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ACS News

ACS Strategic Plan: Our Value Proposition

by William F. Carroll Jr.
March 26, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 13

William F. Carroll Jr., Chair, ACS Board of Directors
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

Every organization needs a document that sets out its principles and aspirations, vision and mission, goals and objectives, values and value proposition. For the American Chemical Society, that document is our strategic plan. Over the course of last year, ACS members of all stripes contributed to a process of updating and rewriting it. The product is the ACS Strategic Plan for 2012 & Beyond.

For many of us, the idea of creating a strategic plan induces eye rolls rather than enthusiasm. But I’m asking for your indulgence for the next 700 words while I make the case that this document is the cleanest, simplest, and most accessible statement of what ACS is about. It’s why I’m a member, and I hope its content resonates with you as well.

Our vision and mission—what we do and how we imagine ourselves—are mainly unchanged:

Vision: Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.

Mission: Advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.

From those top-line statements are derived our four core values: passion for chemistry in the broadest sense, focus on members, professionalism, and diversity and inclusion.

Our passion for chemistry extends to all segments of the enterprise: research, education, innovation, and solutions. Our focus on members includes both service to them and volunteerism by them. As professionals, we value integrity and transparency and set high standards for our own behavior. And we value our differences in perspectives and heritage as tools of innovation used by a highly skilled workforce.

Having described our society’s aspirations and values, we turned to the meaty part of the plan—the goals themselves. They reflect our focus on members as well as our responsibilities as a federally chartered institution.

Provide information: Be the most authoritative, comprehensive, and indispensable provider of chemistry-related information.

Advance member careers: Empower an inclusive community of members with networks, opportunities, resources, and skills to thrive in the global economy.

Improve education: Foster the development of the most innovative, relevant, and effective chemistry education in the world.

Communicate chemistry’s value: Communicate chemistry’s vital role in addressing the world’s challenges to the public and policymakers.

For me, these goals constitute our value proposition: what we offer those who choose to ally with us as members and what we bring to the larger society around us. I personally abbreviate these to one word each that helps me remember what we’re about: information, careers, education, outreach. When you pay your dues each year, this is the core of what you’re buying into. Normalized for different fields, I think these basic activities and benefits are or should be common to every professional society.

But until we take action, a plan is only a plan, and actions are embodied in the objectives we set. I’d like to highlight just one objective from each goal area. You can find more objectives and more detail at the strategic plan website,

Provide information: We will increase ACS use of hybrid (physical/virtual) meetings to enhance member value, increase global meeting participation, and expand access to meeting content and networking. And we always strive to keep our publications and Chemical Abstracts Service best of breed.

Advance member careers: We will develop a training program for budding chemical entrepreneurs as well as a resource center to support entrepreneurs with dedicated information, expertise, and services.

Improve education: We will increase the number of highly qualified high school chemistry teachers produced in the U.S. by creating the Chemistry Teacher Education Coalition in partnership with the American Physical Society and the National Science Foundation.

Communicate chemistry’s value: We will train member spokespersons, selected for their area of expertise and communication skills, to engage media and public audiences.

Other objectives, the activities we’ve taken on to support them, and reports on results we’ve achieved can be found at If you’re interested in learning more about your professional society or being a part of the course your society has set, you’re invited to visit, consider, comment, and get involved.

The members of the ACS Board of Directors take the strategic plan very seriously. As we discuss plans and programs, we gauge how those activities support the strategic plan. And if they don’t in a substantial way, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good plans and programs; they simply might not be our priority right now.

ACS is now almost 136 years old, and we’ve made lots of changes in that time. I can assure you some significant changes will occur in the next three to five years, if we execute the strategy properly. But we also share, and will never leave behind, the basic values and goals voiced by the founders in 1876, which we believe are significantly reflected in the ACS Strategic Plan for 2012 & Beyond.

As always, you are welcome to contact me at



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