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ACS divisions: The path to greater success

by Rodney Bennett, Chair, ACS Committee on Divisional Activities
September 19, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 37

Rod Bennett
Credit: Picture People Studios
Photo of Rod Bennett.
Credit: Picture People Studios

It’s difficult to imagine a successful American Chemical Society without a collection of thriving technical divisions. The divisions connect you to the people and the information you need to advance in your career. Along with ACS Publications, technical divisions provide the society with the subject matter expertise that is central to the organization’s members, customers, and other stakeholders.

In a rapidly changing world, ACS as a whole must be more nimble, efficient, and effective in all of its endeavors. This is especially true for the ACS technical divisions, as they maintain a desire to provide technical programming on matters of enduring interest while also exposing their members and others to new and innovative science.

Many of us find that we are multidisciplinary in our day-to-day activities, lacking a close association with the subject matter of a specific division. The question arises: Are the technical divisions still valid? My answer is “Yes!” The ACS technical divisions provide the structure around which chemists of shared interests find continuity in the quality of scientific presentations and networking on both a formal and informal basis.

It’s true that virtual societies, meetings, and special interest groups are all valuable resources in the world today. They provide a place for people of like-minded interests to gather, learn, and interact—although on a less enduring basis.

DAC needs to develop technology, tools, and incentives to foster cooperation that will advance the interests of all divisions.

The ACS technical divisions go beyond this by employing a more structured and continual approach. Apart from the continuity that the divisions provide, they are the engine that drives the programming for the national meetings. Without the immense efforts of our division volunteers in producing the national meetings’ technical programs, our biannual events would consist of little more than governance meetings.

In addition to serving as the primary suppliers of technical content at our national meetings, divisions also provide many of the authors and reviewers for the ACS journals, many of which are linked topically to one or more of our ACS technical divisions.

The peer review systems for presentations that exist within the ACS technical divisions enable chemists to continue to reach for new frontiers while recalling the foundations and realities of the past. Many say there is overlap among the collective programming of the technical divisions. That is to be celebrated, though, not disparaged. The wonderful aspect of multidisciplinary science is that it creates essential bridges from one discipline to another, which, when done correctly, foster the flow of information and people with little loss of energy.

To help manage and leverage overlapping content, the Committee on Divisional Activities (DAC) looks to the Multidisciplinary Program Planning Group (MPPG). This diverse group provides suggestions on the “thematic programming” by the ACS technical divisions at national meetings, allowing for even greater program strength and reducing competition for venues and audience. MPPG oversees the coordination and architecture needed to make these programs successful.

While there is continuity in the way DAC supports our divisions, there are new challenges to confront as well. To better support divisions and to meet the mission of DAC, we have recently decided to focus the committee on three main goals over the next three to five years: (1) enhance communication between DAC and divisions, and among the divisions; (2) increase the percentage of ACS members who belong to at least one division to 66% by 2020; and (3) enhance collaboration and networking among divisions.

As you can see, DAC is focusing heavily on having the society communicate more effectively with our divisions and finding ways for our divisions to communicate and collaborate more effectively with one another. We think this will help our division volunteers accomplish their duties more efficiently and, ultimately, even more successfully.

Although divisions will inevitably compete with one another for resources, members, and awards, I am convinced that the path to greater success resides more with collaboration and partnerships than through competition. DAC needs to develop technology, tools, and incentives to foster cooperation that will advance the interests of all divisions.

Turning the focus from divisions to the people who constitute them, my question to you is this: Are you a member of an ACS technical division? If not, why not?

The technical divisions are an excellent resource for all ACS members. When you join ACS, you can choose one division membership for free. If the division of your choice is not quite what you were expecting, then try another one. The cost of division membership is quite reasonable, and like many others, you may find that you benefit from associating with multiple divisions. In many cases, you can join three divisions for less than $50.

To learn more about the ACS technical divisions, visit and click on the division graphic on the homepage. Pursue your passion, and join an ACS technical division today.

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


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