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ACS policy statements need your voice

by Raymond Forslund, Chair, ACS Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs
March 20, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 12

Credit: Courtesy of Raymond Forslund
A photo of a man.
Credit: Courtesy of Raymond Forslund

The American Chemical Society has announced its support for the upcoming March for Science, where thousands of scientists are expected to gather and advocate for science (see page 15). Like many marches, its success will likely be measured by how big and noisy it is, but the event’s long-term impact on scientific funding or policy may be small.

Conversely, day in and day out, ACS quietly engages in policy discussions in which the society’s emphasis is on being a coherent voice sharing concise messages on behalf of ACS members.

So how do we make that happen? The starting point is ACS public policy statements, which provide guidelines for ACS advocacy on specific topics. An ACS Board-approved statement provides the ACS team of government affairs volunteers and professionals the permission, guidance, and “guardrails” for advocating on an issue.

As ACS Board Member Lee Latimer shared in a recent ACS Comment (C&EN, Feb. 13, page 35), ACS advocacy leads to tangible policy outcomes. Who gets to decide what will become ACS policy and the subjects on which ACS will advocate? The short answer is ACS members do. What’s more, now is the time to share your input on policy statements up for renewal.

As chair of the ACS Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs (CCPA), I have some responsibility for policy statements, particularly at the earliest stage of their development. I realize ACS policy statements must represent the interests of more than 157,000 ACS members, who have different jobs, are at different stages of their careers, and live in different geographic regions. Our challenge is to come up with coherent, convincing messages.

ACS policy statements are written for a policy-maker audience, and as such, they must be succinct, relevant to current policy discussions, and written for nonscientists.

In effect for three years, policy statements must avoid being too specific to today’s headlines and instead focus on general principles and policy directions. The policy statements can be supplemented with materials such as infographics and charts, which are often not included in the policy statements.

ACS policy statements must represent the interests of more than 157,000 ACS members.

Nine ACS position statements are set to expire at the end of 2017. Society members are encouraged to review the expiring statements and offer their thoughts and comments to the ACS committees considering revisions.

Out of the nine position statements, two are under review by CCPA, and we want your voice to be included in our messages. Please take a look at the summaries that follow, and share your thoughts by e-mailing

Science and technology in the budget

Given the long-term nature of research, predictable and sustained federal funding is critical to the health of our technology-driven economy. Shrinking and flat federal contributions have had a negative impact on many areas of science and technology (S&T), and the impact of cuts has been exacerbated by uncertainty and knee-jerk decision-making in the federal budget process. This statement urges policy-makers to restore investments in federal R&D funding to levels nearer to 1.2% of U.S. gross domestic product. The statement also

Recommends strategies to ensure federal dollars dedicated to R&D are used as efficiently as possible.

Recognizes the function of federal S&T funding in educating future scientists and supports federal agency investments that are coordinated, are complementary, and broaden participation of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

A competitive U.S. business climate: The role of chemistry

In an effort to address the U.S. economic policy environment, this statement outlines specific actions for the federal government to foster a more hospitable environment for the technology industries of the future. These policy recommendations include U.S. corporate tax and trade policies that will make U.S. firms competitive with international rivals, establish predictable and sustained ­investments in basic scientific research, and provide for a skilled 21st-century S&T workforce prepared to invent and innovate. The statement also supports

▸ A fair and level playing field that enhances competition and stimulates research and development.
▸ Policies that foster the growth of small research and development businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.
▸ Efforts to foster U.S. corporate tax and trade policies that will support U.S. firms’ competitiveness in the global business atmosphere.
▸ Reforms to the U.S. regulatory and intellectual property frameworks that will promote, and minimize impediments to, innovation.

Given the new management team in Congress and the White House, there will be new issues, priorities, and federal budget parameters. Providing feedback on ACS policy statements by e-mailing is a way to influence the messages ACS shares with policy-makers. Comments received before April 1 will be considered in CCPA writing team discussions.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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