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A strong ACS

by Thomas Connelly, ACS Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer
July 24, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 30

Thomas Connelly
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
A photo of Thomas Connelly.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

The American Chemical Society is the world’s largest society dedicated to a single field of science. We have a long and proud history that stretches back nearly 150 years. We want to continue our service to society, science, students, government, and chemical scientists for another 150 years. Like other scientific societies, ACS has both strengths and challenges.

Governance oversight

The ACS Board of Directors takes the leadership role in defining the continued development of the society. The board’s Strategic Planning Committee leads the planning process that includes the monitoring of future trends that will impact ACS. And the Task Force on Governance Design is looking at ways to simplify our governance structures and enhance our ability to deliver the four goals of our “Strategic Plan for 2017 and Beyond.”

Society programs

We must continue to update our programs and services. We need to be as relevant to the next generation of chemical scientists as we are to present members. We need to enhance our relevance to chemists in industrial roles as the transformation of those industries continues apace. We need to continue producing new products and services at ACS Publications and CAS, a division of ACS. We need to embrace the reality that the practice of chemistry is increasingly global. We need to be willing to let go of some programs that worked in the past but that are less effective today.

Membership is everyone’s responsibility.

Our support of science education at all levels is needed more than ever, in the U.S. and beyond. ACS instituted the American Association of Chemistry Teachers four years ago to strengthen our involvement in primary and secondary science education. The scientific information we provide to the research community must continue to be best in class. Our science outreach to the general public is more important than ever as people struggle to find credible sources in a sea of pseudoscience and misinformation. In the midst of a challenging outlook for federal budgets, our advocacy for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and research support are also more important than ever. ACS participation in the recently formed Congressional Chemistry Caucus provides another vehicle to carry these messages to lawmakers. Our work through the ACS Green Chemistry Institute furthers practical steps to advance environmental benefit through the practice of chemistry. And ACS support of chemical scientists, in all fields of endeavor and at all stages of their lives, is every bit as important as at any time in our history.

Information services continue to evolve based on technology advancements and changes in user preferences. ACS Publications is expanding in both its number of journals and its geographic reach despite facing challenges from the evolving landscape of scientific publishing. The development of open access publishing, preprint servers, and websites providing pirated content are a few of them. Similarly, CAS also recognizes that its users want not just scientific information but also insights and solutions to their information needs. CAS has responded to its users with exciting new products, including its research discovery application SciFindern.


Cybersecurity is a mounting threat. Our hiring this year of Joe Greene as ACS’s first chief information security officer is an important step. We will need to continue to invest in our IT infrastructure to safeguard our members’ and our staff’s confidential information and also our proprietary scientific information. IT provides an important interface with our members, and this interface must be welcoming and easy to use. Although all costs are being carefully managed, IT costs continue to be a challenge.

Maintaining ACS’s financial strength is essential to our ability to advance our vision and mission. Under the banner of operational excellence, we are examining the efficiency and effectiveness of our staff operation. The Committee on Budget & Finance’s Program Review Subcommittee provides oversight for budgeting of all programs. Our intent is to ensure that our resources are optimally deployed to support ACS’s four strategic goals.


The key to our future success lies not just in the strength of our programs, products, and services, but also in their breadth. But this breadth is our strength only when all the elements work together seamlessly. Society membership is the glue that connects the elements. A strong membership base provides the volunteers who serve our local sections, technical divisions, and committees. These same volunteers explain chemistry to their communities during Chemists Celebrate Earth Day and National Chemistry Week. Members create preference for CAS search products. Members are likely to publish in ACS journals and to serve as editors and reviewers. Members attend ACS meetings, where they present papers and posters. As the practice of chemistry continues to globalize, so should our membership.

Our staff often hears me say, “Membership is everyone’s responsibility.” I make the same appeal to all of you, our members. And I welcome your responses.

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



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