ACS Office of International Activities aids in global interaction of the chemical world
SUSAN R. MORRISSEY, C&EN WASHINGTON
Ever wonder what the graduate requirements for chemical study in Brazil are? Planning an international trip and need visa information? Interested in finding information on chemically related activities going on in Africa? If you've answered yes to any or all of these questions, then the American Chemical Society's Office of International Activities (OIA) can help.
By providing information on international travel, different educational systems, and ongoing chemical activities around the globe, OIA is the heart of international relations for ACS. As part of the Education & International Division under the direction of Sylvia A. Ware, OIA was first organized on an experimental basis in 1976, was made a permanent part of ACS a year later, and has become a leading source for information about the international chemistry community.
"OIA is the 'go-to' group within ACS for producing new projects with chemical communities around the world," explains John M. Malin, assistant director of OIA. "The office has developed connections on behalf of ACS with sister societies and with academic and industrial communities comprising the world's chemically related activities," he says, jesting that his office is the State Department of ACS.
"The office has an astonishing knowledge of incredible things, such as the shape of the chemical enterprise in Africa, the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in Slovenia, and how to get a visa to visit Cuba," says William F. Carroll Jr., chair of the ACS International Activities Committee (IAC).
Perhaps OIA's best kept secret, according to Malin, "is that we have names and addresses of hundreds of chemical and related societies and other organizations worldwide. ACS members planning to visit overseas who are interested in those organizations can inquire with our office for information on how to make contact."
Getting to this information can be as simple as visiting OIA's website at http://chemistry.org/international. There, members can find helpful links such as a guide of programs and information about chemically related international exchange and education programs. The website provides resources on agencies and organizations worldwide that inform, fund, and sustain scientific collaboration and exchange.
Also available on the website is CHEMTRAV--a list of frequently asked questions regarding information on aspects of international travel. The list is the result of a joint effort of OIA and IAC. In addition to providing useful information about visa requirements and other resources of interest to all, Carroll notes, "CHEMTRAV is an especially helpful resource for ACS members who aren't in a company or university that provides that type of support."
OIA has also compiled key information about the chemically related activities carried out by industry, academia, and government in Africa and Latin America. The goal of this initiative is to identify opportunities for scientists to interact and collaborate to advance the chemical field.
But OIA does more than just provide information; it administers several programs relating to international exchange of chemists and chemical information. ACS International Initiatives is one such program. Designed to encourage visits by chemical scientists to the U.S., the program provides partial funding for up to two visits to the U.S. per calender year from each of the 19 participating countries--which include Brazil, Costa Rica, Lithuania, and Poland. The program is credited with helping to establish professional contacts and collaborations between U.S. and participating country scientists.
GLOBE-TROTTING Malin and ACS Board Chair Nina I. McClelland take time to visit the statue of Peter the Great during a trip to Moscow.
COMMUNICATING Aron Kuppermann (left), Satinder Ahuja, and Henrique Toma discuss electrocatalysis at the University of São Paulo during an NSF-sponsored mission to Brazil.
PROJECT BOOKSHARE is also part of OIA. Launched in 1984, the program collects chemistry textbooks (not more than 10 years old) and journals that are then distributed to universities in developing countries, as well as small colleges within the U.S. Collected materials have been sent all over the U.S. and throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In 2002, approximately 120 tons of donated material was shipped worldwide with the help of $30,000 in funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization.
OIA also actively participates in several conferences. Along with IAC, OIA hosts a contingent of chemists from a country outside the U.S.--in 2002, 16 chemists from Southeast Asia and South Korea made the trip, and in 2003, the visiting group will be composed of about 16 chemists from China--to participate in the Pittsburgh Conference & Exposition on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy. OIA was also an active participant in the 25th Latin American Chemistry Congress in 2002 (C&EN, Oct. 14, 2002, page 54).
As 2003 begins, the hard-working staff of OIA is busy preparing for another year of supporting and encouraging international relations among chemists around the globe. The office will continue its central role in building international networks connecting ACS governance, members, and staff with chemical scientists and engineers worldwide.