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Energizing global thinking as part of ACS’s diversity and inclusion efforts

by Ellene Tratras Contis, Chair, ACS Committee On International Activities
August 1, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 31

Ellene Contis
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
A photo of Ellene Contis.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

As my father used to say in Greek, “Η δουλειές σου όμορφες”: “Whatever you do, do it well.” That is just what the American Chemical Society does in terms of global inclusion.

ACS provides its leadership and volunteers with a vital lens through which to engage on the global scientific stage. According to Article II, Sec. 3 of the ACS constitution, “The Society shall cooperate with scientists internationally and shall be concerned with the worldwide application of chemistry to the needs of humanity.”

This constitutional vision for the society catalyzes global thinking, which is critical to ACS becoming more diverse and inclusive. As we become more aware of cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and national and regional differences on a global scale, we create opportunities to better understand and contribute to chemistry communities within our own countries.

As a first step, we as an organization need to agree upon and embrace a global definition of diversity and inclusion. We then need to develop organizational structures to foster global connections and networks among our member scientists, engineers, and educators and recognize scientific excellence around the world.

Chemists, chemical engineers, and chemistry educators—and their knowledge—are increasingly being spread around the world, thanks to the shifting nature of science and engineering. ACS local sections, technical divisions, committees, and members and staff are in a unique position to help the society become more globally diverse and inclusive of chemistry communities and individual professionals worldwide.

A photo of the Brazilian international chapter holding an ACS banner.
Credit: Vivian Chies/EMBRAPA
ACS now has 16 international chemical sciences chapters. Shown here is the ACS Brazil International Chemical Sciences Chapter, which launched earlier this year.

ACS international chemical sciences chapters, like ACS local sections in the U.S., represent a strategic resource in supporting the growth and development of diverse scientific networks and collaborations around the world. They can create an environment for ACS global and diversity interests and priorities to flourish. And they are positioned to play an instrumental role in developing member-serving, science-based global partnerships. In addition, they provide a means to accomplish the following:

• Support ACS global growth.

• Gather and catalyze ACS members around the world.

• Serve as a forum for member networking and collaboration.

• Serve as local ambassadors of the society’s activities, products, and services.

• Link domestic ACS members to scientific communities around the world.

• Provide ACS with a voice on the global stage.

• Provide a space for diverse thought and various points of view as ACS contemplates growth and activity overseas.

It should go both ways. ACS needs to explore opportunities to help our international chapters integrate within ACS member communities. ACS also needs to identify ways in which it can improve its efforts to make chapters feel welcomed and provide equitable, relevant, and value-added offerings, services, support structures, recognition, and policies toward ACS international chapters and overseas membership.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in the interest and number of requests from members for the formation of international chapters around the world. Recognizing that chapters are key partners to support the ACS global strategy and a more robust commitment to diversity and inclusion, we may wish to examine the limitations of Bylaw IX, Sec. 4, which states that “an International Chemical Sciences Chapter shall receive no allotment of funds from the Society and shall not be entitled to elected representation on the Council.”

The ACS Committee on International Activities (IAC) has held summits of international chapter leaders to catalyze and act upon strategic development opportunities. One of the key recommendations of these summits was to provide start-up and programmatic support to international chapters to build ACS’s capacity to deliver value to members with international interests, wherever they practice their science as chemists, engineers, and educators.

What can ACS local sections, technical divisions, and committees, as well as members and staff, do to better understand their own global interests, priorities, and capacities for 2016 and beyond? How can we better include, serve, and recognize overseas ACS members and chapters and identify the factors that accelerate and/or hinder fulfillment of those aspirations? In the process, how can we become a more diverse and inclusive professional society?

I invite readers to share their ideas and insights. Please send an e-mail to with your input. Please also join us for the IAC Open Meeting on Saturday, Aug. 20, at 1 PM and the IAC International Welcoming Reception on Sunday, Aug. 21, at 5:30 PM, both at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

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


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