The past 10 days have been tumultuous, dominated by the events that took place on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, a small university town in Virginia. During a rally to protest the planned removal of a Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue, a 20-year-old man with suspected ties to white nationalist groups allegedly drove a car into counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring many others.
President Donald J. Trump’s reaction to this event was a matter of much heated debate. Merck & Co. CEO Kenneth Frazier and several other business leaders responded to Trump’s equivocal condemnation of the attack by stepping down from the American Manufacturing Council (see page 15). Members of the Strategic & Policy Forum, an elite group formed to advise the president on economic issues, agreed to withdraw their support. Trump promptly dissolved both groups.
At C&EN, we reject racism, hatred, and bigotry and mourn the loss of life in Charlottesville. The violence seen in Virginia challenges the very core of what we—chemists—stand for. We work to improve the world around us by creating cheaper and cleaner ways of producing energy that are sustainable and less harmful to the environment. We work to improve the health and well-being of all, especially those most vulnerable, by making more effective and accessible medicines that improve the lives of those who suffer. We work to address the global food and water challenges by producing fertilizers and pesticides to support sustainable agriculture as well as clean water to feed the world’s growing population.
As a community we are rational, are rigorous, and apply the scientific method to learn about the world around us. We are diverse and understand that science has no borders and that there is a need to collaborate across disciplines and territories to achieve our goals regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, class, or country of birth. We are driven by a vision that can be very simply summarized by ACS’s: To improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry. I hope that during this week’s ACS national meeting we can find time to discuss some of these issues as a community and work toward creating goodwill in those around us. We must show leadership.
Related to this, I wanted to address a handful of readers’ comments that we have received at C&EN in recent months. The feedback is focused on a perception that some coverage in C&EN is “political” and a belief that our coverage of diversity issues distracts from the science.
To address the first point, C&EN’s coverage is nonpartisan and apolitical. We cover news and analysis relating to how governments around the world support the chemical enterprise. We aim to bring you important information about funding, education, jobs, policy, regulation, and ethics—all of which are driven by who is in power in the different territories and how those governments choose to fund, regulate, or promote science. In our service to members of ACS, we do this in an impartial and rigorous way, undisturbed by personal beliefs or ideology. If you think this is political, then the criticism is granted.
To address the second point, C&EN remains committed to covering issues of diversity and inclusion. Two recent, widely read and shared examples are Jyllian Kemsley’s “Grappling with graduate student mental health and suicide” and Linda Wang’s “LGBT chemists seek a place at the bench.” Diversity and inclusion are part of ACS’s core values, and as a society we have defined a strategic goal to “empower an inclusive community of members with networks, opportunities, resources, and skills to thrive in the global economy.” Diversity is neither political nor a distraction: it’s an integral part of our science and what defines us as a community.
We will soldier on.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.