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ACS News

The future of ACS: a case for governance agility

by Paul W. Jagodzinski, District VI Director
October 31, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 43

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
A photo of a Paul W. Jagodzinski.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

Our predecessors in the American Chemical Society have built a great organization, and they have entrusted it to us. We have myriad programs and services that provide wide-ranging opportunities for professional support and development of our members and the chemistry enterprise. We have two information services: CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, and ACS Publications, which together help us meet our mandate to achieve the “increase and diffusion of chemical knowledge.” They also provide significant resources to allow us to offer our various member programs.

Our society, however, is now going through a period of rapid change that our predecessors could never have anticipated. This is in part due to the technology that all of us are impacted by and that most of us take for granted. This rapid change has positive impacts, such as nearly instant communication with family and friends anywhere on the planet, as well as negative impacts, such as automation that results in fewer jobs. And while our publishing and database operations are acknowledged global leaders in the use of technology to provide information in the chemical sciences with unprecedented ease and at unprecedented scale and speed, our society is not as agile at making governance decisions that govern those operations.

Committee collaboration

The newly formed Joint Task Force on Governance Design comprises the following governance entities:

▸ ACS Board of Directors
▸ Council Policy Committee
▸ Committee on Constitution & Bylaws
▸ Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board
▸ Committee on Committees
▸ Younger Chemists Committee
▸ Committee on Nominations & Elections
▸ Committee on Corporation Associates

Our challenge is to modify ACS’s governance structure so that our members are best served through carefully considered decisions based on input from all members through councilors, as well as through engaged leaders of local sections, divisions, and committees that focus on what is important to our members.

This is not new. We have addressed this issue before, but we were not facing the imperative that we are facing today. We are an inclusive and deliberative decision-making body, but that focus on involvement often comes at a cost in efficiency and speed, especially given the pace of change around us in 2016. To address this issue, the ACS Board of Directors and the ACS Council Policy Committee (CPC) have formed a Joint Task Force on Governance Design, which was announced on Aug. 24 at the ACS Council meeting during the ACS fall national meeting in Philadelphia. Members of the task force are experienced and opinionated society-wide thinkers.

Our society is now going through a period of rapid change that our predecessors could never have anticipated.

The task force will be considering national-level governance, and its charge is to do the following:

▸ engage stakeholders in identifying opportunities and issues for governance improvement;

▸ design a next-generation governance model enabling ACS to advance its objectives;

▸ develop the case for effective change based on that model, and communicate with stakeholders to incorporate their feedback; and

▸ provide the model and implementation road map to the board and council.

As was described in ACS Board Chair Pat Confalone’s recent comment (C&EN, Aug. 15/22, page 53), there are a variety of groups already considering how we might streamline ACS governance. The Joint Task Force on Governance Design will work cooperatively and proactively with these groups to ensure that the broadest range of society members are part of the process. The board of directors has embraced the need for change and will soon make changes to its own committee structure to increase agility, efficiency, and effectiveness in its own activities.

The task force seeks your input as it works to develop a governance model that will allow us to make decisions and implement changes in a time frame reflective of the world in 2016 and beyond. You may e-mail the task force at Your suggestions are critical to the success of this effort, but don’t wait too long. The task force is working on an accelerated schedule and will have a major interim report available by the ACS spring national meeting in San Francisco.

I am pleased to cochair this task force with Mary Carroll, a member of CPC Policy Committee. I consider it a solemn responsibility to help position our society for the rapidly changing future.

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


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