August is a month most chemists love because every year we have the opportunity to get together with friends, colleagues, and collaborators at an ACS fall national meeting and talk chemistry. This month, the meeting’s 252nd edition was held on Aug. 21–25 in Philadelphia, with the fittingly historical theme “Chemistry of the People, by the People & for the People.”
You can read highlights of the meeting on page 5 and learn more about the research that was presented on pages 6–10 or online at acsmeetings.cenmag.org.
For me, the highlight was the Talented 12 symposium that C&EN organized last Monday morning.
C&EN’s Talented 12, now in its second edition, recognizes the talent of young chemical trailblazers from industry, government, and academia who are addressing problems as varied as monitoring food for contaminants and finding better ways to convert sunlight into electricity. This year, we went with the theme of secret agents working to solve the world’s problems with the power of chemistry. We couldn’t have chosen 12 better agents. They truly represent the rising stars of our science and, in Philly, proved that they not only are accomplished scientists but also gifted science communicators. The format of the symposium was a series of brief TED Talks-style presentations that really suited them. We heard about the research they have done, the future of their field, and how they got to where they are. C&EN recorded videos of all the presentations, which we’ll make available as soon as they are ready for prime time. Of course, we’ll let you know when that happens.
In the meantime, you can read more about the winners at cenm.ag/t12, where you’ll also be able to explore an interactive academic family tree for each winner and much more. You can also nominate candidates for the class of 2017 by completing a simple form that you can find at bit.ly/NominateT12. In 2016, about 50% of nominations came via this route. The other 50% came from our panel of advisers, editorial and advisory board members, past Talented 12 winners, representatives who manage ACS awards, and C&EN reporters.
One other event that was interesting was the ACS Board of Directors open meeting on Sunday Aug. 21. Besides reports from the chair of the board, ACS’s chief executive officer, and other board members, the session offered a topic for public discussion: the future of ACS national meetings. These meetings have been tremendously successful in terms of attendance, bringing together an average of 13,000–14,000 attendees in recent years. But here’s the conundrum: The society has a little more than 156,000 members; if 14,000 members attend every national meeting, this means that 142,000 do not participate at all. What can ACS do to engage with that audience? How can we attract a more diverse set of attendees?
A number of ideas were discussed, including making posters available electronically, offering scholarships for travel to students, live-streaming sessions that allow online interaction with speakers, recording sessions and making them available on demand, streamlining the program using themes rather than tracks for each division, and extending the exhibition to Wednesday and Thursday.
I’d argue that scientific meetings—not just ACS’s—are very important for the health of our science as a whole. As I mentioned, they provide an opportunity to see old friends and catch up with colleagues and collaborators. They are a forum to present cutting-edge research, exchange and discuss new ideas, and establish partnerships. Of course, many of these interactions are now possible by the use of technology, but—you can call me old-school—I believe real-time, in-person exchanges are crucial to the scientific endeavor and help keep our science vibrant, dynamic, and innovative. So I’d be interested in hearing your views: What makes a meeting a “must-attend”?
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.