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Committee on CAS: Highlighting Chemical information centrality

by Wendy Cornell, chair, ACS Committee on CAS
June 5, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 23

Credit: Courtesy of Wendy Cornell
A photo of Wendy Cornell.
Credit: Courtesy of Wendy Cornell

A major reason for the strength and vibrancy of the American Chemical Society and a key differentiator with respect to other scientific societies is the engagement and commitment of our members.

ACS signature programs such as National Chemistry Week, ChemLuminary Awards, and Project SEED were conceived and implemented and continue to operate as a result of the combined contributions of members and ACS staff.

The Committee on CAS (CCAS) is one of many committees within the ACS governance system that is aligned with an ACS staff office or operational unit, in this case the largest unit, the CAS division. This comment provides background on the committee and envisions additional opportunities for the committee and CAS to contribute across ACS.

CCAS has the broad responsibility to serve as a communication channel between CAS, society members, the Governing Board for Publishing (GBP), and CAS solutions users. CAS SciFinder and STN chemical information products directly support the first of the four goals of the 2017 ACS strategic plan: to provide information, and more specifically, to demonstrate the value of authoritative, comprehensive, and indispensable chemistry-related information for addressing global challenges.

Information is central to many ACS priorities, such as education, safety, public policy, and outreach. As a member committee, CCAS thus has the opportunity to partner with CAS and across ACS to provide a member perspective on opportunities, goals, and mission-related activities that involve chemical information.

Information is integral to chemistry, and CAS is an integral part of ACS.

CCAS is a joint board-council committee responsible for reporting to both of those bodies. CCAS’s role as a society-centric communication channel is unique and distinct from that of GBP, a standing committee of the board whose responsibilities include acting as a governing body for CAS. CCAS consists exclusively of ACS members, and as with other ACS committees, the experience that CCAS members bring from other parts of the governance system—such as committees, technical divisions, or even the board of directors—allows them to recognize opportunities to advance the ACS mission by collaborating across organizational boundaries.

In contrast to CCAS, GBP includes a mix of ACS members and nonmembers, and importantly, it also includes the publishing business senior management expertise required to provide CAS and ACS publications with financial and governance guidance. GBP holds the general responsibility and authority for the operation and performance of CAS and the ACS Publications Division, except for appointing editors and creating editorial content for journals and magazines.

Because CAS receives operational guidance from GBP and receives customer feedback primarily via focus groups and other channels, CCAS can complete the picture by providing the member perspective on issues and opportunities related to the ACS mission, general goodwill, or member benefits.

CAS has independently established or pursued a number of goodwill initiatives, which target the general population, the chemistry community, or ACS members in particular. For example, through a collaboration with Wikipedia, CAS created the free resource Common Chemistry (, which includes names and CAS Registry Numbers for approximately 7,900 common chemicals.

Through the ACS on Campus program, the CAS, Membership, and the Publications Divisions visit domestic and international college and university campuses and offer training in career development and planning; the publishing process, including peer review, copyright, and ethics; grant proposal writing; research resources such as SciFinder and ACS journals; and professional networking and scientific communication.

The SciFinder Future Leaders program is another initiative that benefits early-career scientists. Each year, approximately 25 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers from U.S. and international universities spend one week at CAS headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to learn about chemical information technologies and build relationships that will serve them well into their careers, and then they attend the fall ACS national meeting. Another example is the ACS Member SciFinder Benefit, which provides 25 free searches per year.

These activities demonstrate the potential of ACS and CAS products to impact the broad scientific community, but like other ACS committees, CCAS can use the insight of members and active volunteers to suggest new activities and help extend the reach of existing activities. Given ACS’s priorities and the skills and creative bents of our members, it is interesting to consider how CCAS could partner with CAS and groups across ACS to contribute to important programs such as National Chemistry Week and regional meetings. Through such outreach, the committee could highlight the value of authoritative chemical information to professional chemists, students, and the general population.

Do you have other ideas? If so, please contact me or another CCAS member because we would love to hear from you. Information is integral to chemistry, and CAS is an integral part of ACS. Please join us as we imagine new and impactful ways to partner within ACS using our combined expertise and resources to advance our ACS mission and the number one goal, to provide information to support better, smarter, faster, and safer decisions.

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


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