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Building Global Relationships

by H. N. Cheng, Chair, International Activities Committee
November 23, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 46

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

Chemistry is a global enterprise, and ACS is no exception. Currently, 70% of the articles published in ACS journals—and more than 60% of CAS content—are from international sources. About 15% of ACS members reside outside the U.S. To effectively contribute to the global chemistry community and to engage our international members, it is important for ACS to build and sustain global relationships. The ACS International Activities Committee (IAC) and the Office of International Activities (OIA) have been doing this through a number of formal and informal channels.

ACS has been cooperating and collaborating with our sister chemical societies worldwide and has six formal strategic alliances in place with the Chinese Chemical Society, the German Chemical Society, the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies, the South African Chemical Institute, the Latin American Federation of Chemical Associations, and the Canadian Society for Chemistry.

ACS currently has 11 international chapters (listed in order of establishment)—Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Shanghai, Thailand, Romania, South Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Taiwan, and India—and a few more may be added by the end of this year. International chapters represent a strategic resource supporting the growth and development of scientific networks and collaborations around the world. They provide the opportunity for professional networking through scientific engagement with peers of similar backgrounds and interests via local events, conferences, outreach, and publicity, often in concert with national chemical societies.

At ACS national meetings, IAC and OIA have been organizing international receptions and formal networking events, where ACS members and students can meet, interact, discuss mutual interests, and build relationships. In conjunction with our international partners or sister chemical societies, we have also organized or participated in a number of international meetings, symposia, and special colloquiums.

At the informal level, IAC and OIA have been engaged in many global outreach and educational activities. These activities improve education, communicate chemistry’s value, and advance the careers of the scientists involved. External funding has been secured for some of these activities. For example, funding from Pittcon and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation has enabled early-career scientists from developing countries to attend the Pittcon meeting. This year, we supported 16 delegates from Caribbean countries to travel to New Orleans. Next year, we plan to do the same for delegates from Eastern Europe, particularly the Balkan and the Baltic countries.

ACS International Research Experiences for Undergraduates (IREU) is a program supported by the National Science Foundation to place U.S. chemistry students in Europe and Southeast Asia for international research experiences. This summer, 17 U.S. students from institutions with limited access to research facilities were recruited nationally to participate in the 10-week IREU program in Germany, Italy, Scotland, and Singapore. The students will report on their work in a symposium that will take place at the ACS national meeting in San Diego in March 2016.

In June, several members of IAC and OIA traveled to Thailand to conduct the ACS BOOST (Building Opportunity Out of Science & Technology) workshops. Funded by the U.S. Department of State and planned in collaboration with the Chemical Society of Thailand and the ACS Thailand Chapter, these workshops explored themes such as communicating science, publishing research, grant writing, and career pathways. They were held in five cities in Thailand involving 539 young Thai scientists and students. In October, 20 of the BOOST participants were invited to attend the Trainer Leadership Institute, where ACS representatives worked with these individuals to tailor the workshops to their own local contexts, thereby ensuring that Thai citizens can continue these events after the conclusion of ACS visits.

Another outreach activity requires mention: ACS Chemistry Festivals. These are highly successful programs, targeting teenagers and the general public through activities geared toward the impact of chemistry in their local communities. The ACS Festival concept is a volunteer-inspired initiative and, under the ACS International Activities administration, has now spread worldwide. Just last month, several successful festivals were held in Mexico. We are grateful to the ACS Board for approving ACS International Activities furthering the Chemistry Festivals program for 2016 and beyond during their August meeting.

It may be noted that many other units within ACS are also active in international engagement. These efforts are much appreciated. For example, several technical divisions currently organize international meetings in their respective fields and actively encourage exchanges and collaborations. IAC and the Divisional Activities Committee have a joint task force that has documented some of the best and most effective transnational practices among the divisions. As another example, we are partnering with the ACS Division of Education in establishing International Student Chapters in locations where there are existing international chapters. Through ACS support and continued efforts of ACS International Activities, we need to keep the momentum of global networking and community building vital and active in order to serve our members and global chemistry. If you have other activities or success stories involving global relationship building, we’d love to hear from you. Please write to

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


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