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Policy

Helping Chemists Thrive Through Global Connections

by H. N. Cheng , Mike Morello
October 28, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 43

Morello
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Credit: Courtesy of Mike Morello
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Credit: Courtesy of Mike Morello

Helping chemists thrive in this new global environment is a goal of the American Chemical Society’s Divisional Activities Committee (DAC) and International Activities Committee (IAC). The two committees are uniquely positioned to help identify and share best practices for building collaborations and overcoming obstacles between countries.

Cheng
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Credit: Courtesy of H. N. Cheng
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Credit: Courtesy of H. N. Cheng

The ACS constitution provides a simple yet far-reaching principle for DAC and IAC to explore cooperative endeavors in 2014 and beyond: “The SOCIETY shall cooperate with scientists internationally and shall be concerned with the worldwide application of chemistry to the needs of humanity.”

IAC works to serve the international priorities of the society and the needs of chemical practitioners with international interests wherever they may be. It does this through fostering ACS international collaborations and furthering chemistry’s role in addressing global challenges, extending the society’s engagements in international education and training, engaging developing countries in cooperation with partner societies, ensuring support of ACS science and human rights initiatives, supporting the development and quality of the ACS International Center, and sustaining momentum of the International Year of Chemistry beyond 2011.

DAC, as the representative of ACS technical divisions, serves as a focal point for assimilating and sharing best practices across the divisions. This permits divisions to apply best practices for global outreach that include fostering connections among persons with common scientific interests, promoting connections across multidisciplinary areas of chemistry, demonstrating the professionalism of chemists within their area of specialization, rendering service within their field to scientific and lay communities, promoting education and training, and stimulating interest in and emphasizing the importance of their areas of science.

The expanding globalization of chemistry provides further opportunities for ACS and its members. Many technical divisions are already actively involved in international collaboration. To build on the success of these efforts, in July 2013, DAC and IAC surveyed the 32 divisions to begin to quantify the level of activity, to learn what has been effective, and to understand challenges that inhibit international collaboration.

The survey confirmed that many ACS divisions are internationally active. Forty percent of the divisions indicated that they have done outreach or specific programming to engage international scientists in the U.S. or abroad. Many divisions indicated that they plan to continue to engage international scientists in the next three years. Divisions also expressed interest in receiving training materials, and some were interested in consulting services, such as cultural training and assistance in obtaining visas.

A number of respondents reported barriers in engaging international scientists, such as high perceived cost of ACS membership, language barriers, logistics coordination, fund transfer, travel costs, and limited financial resources of divisions to fund meeting cosponsorships. Prior discussions with divisions in 2011 elicited suggestions that ACS take more of an international role by either hosting or cosponsoring international meetings, holding more virtual meetings, providing visa tracking and assistance, and reducing registration fees for international members.

IAC and the ACS International Activities Office have been involved in several of these issues. We try to facilitate visas when we can. We have been involved with international scientific meetings in collaboration with our sister chemical societies, such as the Chemical Sciences & Society Summit, a collaboration among six countries; the Asia-America Chemical Symposium, a collaboration with the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies; and the Transatlantic Frontiers of Chemistry, involving ACS and German, British, and Brazilian societies. We also participate in key regional chemical conferences, such as the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry World Chemistry Congress, European Association for Chemical & Molecular Sciences, Asian Chemical Congress, and Latin American Federation of Chemical Associations meetings.

DAC continues to foster international collaboration through Innovative Project Grants. Working with the Committee on Meetings & Expositions, DAC helped institute the visa application instructions that appear when users submit a national meeting abstract. DAC also modified the annual report form to more readily capture best practices for international activity.

In addition, ACS has built a new online resource, called the ACS International Center (www.acs.org/ic). The website contains comprehensive information on educational opportunities and international work experiences for the benefit of ACS members and potential members.

Still, many of the barriers cited above do not have obvious answers. So how can DAC and IAC best enable technical divisions and chemists with international interests to thrive in the global chemical enterprise?

We welcome your thoughts. Stop by our booth at the ACS Leadership Institute at the InterContinental hotel in Dallas in January 2014, or send an e-mail to intlacts@acs.org.

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

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