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Shout-out To Industrial Chemists

July 1, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 26

I’d like to thank Larry Lewis for his letter to the editor (C&EN, March 25, page 4). I, too, have worked the bench for more than 30 years and am a longtime ACS member. I have not seen the science and creativity of the industrial chemist featured in C&EN, except, perhaps, in relation to the drug industry.

I have had the great privilege of working with some of the finest chemical scientists. However, despite their achievements in creating new and better products, process improvements, and in general making a company more profitable, they have not been heralded in C&EN. Honoring academic scientists and businesspeople is all well and good, but what about the majority of ACS members?

I understand that it would be difficult for C&EN reporters to write about the science created in industrial labs if it is not published research. We are generally not allowed to publish our in-house discoveries. But there are patents. And there are articles published in trade journals.

By my own nonscientific survey, most industrial chemists do not believe that ACS membership is for the industrial scientist but rather for those who work in academia or business. I hope my colleagues are wrong and the lack of acknowledgment is just an oversight that C&EN will correct.

Louis Rebrovic
Sidney, Ohio



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Bob Buntrock (July 9, 2013 4:57 PM)
From a former industrial chemists, a couple of comments on this letters on industrial chemists. They do get publicized in C&EN when they win awards. Notable are Nobelists Bill Knowles and Richard Heck.

As for the membership of ACS, the majority of members has been industrial chemists for some time. Governance is a different matter and that seems skewed toward academic chemists. Membership among industrial chemists may be dropping off, especially among younger chemists (although I'd need hard data on that), but what disturbs me even more is a decline in academic membership. I know of chemistry departments with only one or two ACS members and other departments with a majority of ACS members but are not very active, including for local affairs.
Maureen Rouhi (July 11, 2013 11:48 AM)
Bob, do you have any sense of why academic chemists are not joining ACS?
On industrial chemists, one thing that may be happening is that companies are no longer paying professional membership dues.
Larry Lewis (July 11, 2013 4:02 PM)
Our company never paid ACS dues. In my opinion the reason for decline in membership is relevance. Issue #1 is jobs. ACS does an outstanding job on the product side (C&E News, CA, Sci Finder, publications). But as a society serving their membership they do poorly. Only results matter and there are declining opportunities for careers in chemistry. While I stand by my earlier letter about awards, this is only a symptom of what is wrong with ACS. Academics feel the need to pad their resumes or egos with awards, fine. But finding jobs for chemists should be the real mission of today's ACS.
Mark Levi (July 25, 2013 10:35 AM)
When off-shoring aka outsourcing first began, ACS just reported it as fact. There was no attempt to get companies to slow its progress or even to help chemists survive it. Next, dues are expensive. Many people have to pay them out of their pockets. Sure, academics used to and may still have some unrestricted funds they could use for dues or their dept. would pick up the cost. I can tell you that does not happen anywhere else. Add up a few dues bills every year and you might have half of a month's rent.

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