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ACS Comments

October 30, 2006
Volume 84, Number 44
p. 48

Invigorating The ACS Web Presence—And More

Madeleine Jacobs, ACS Executive Director and chief executive officer

The ACS Web reinvention effort is squarely on course to deliver a valuable, consistent, and user-driven experience for American Chemical Society members and nonmembers alike (C&EN, March 20, page 47). To this end, ACS has recently elicited hundreds of comments from ACS members and nonmembers who tried out new features-such as wikis, blogs, and community software-at the Atlanta and San Francisco national meetings.

Jacobs Peter Cutts Photography

Behind the scenes, staff members are applying this user research to define the overarching information architecture of the new website. This major effort includes taking inventory of all the data that will go on the site and organizing it in meaningful ways for users.

Additional user research and field studies will guide the ACS Web Presence team in developing interactive community-driven tools that support scientists and educators working together through their professional networks.

With the Web as a central component, ACS is also moving to invigorate its overall delivery of high-quality scientific and other information. In January, the ACS Board of Directors launched a multiphase project titled "Assessing the Impact of Evolving Information and Communications Technologies and Trends on ACS." This study aimed to answer the question: "How can the society ensure the fulfillment of its charter mission of providing scientific and other information globally-via Chemical Abstracts Service, the Publications Division, meetings, and/or alternative means-in the context of changing technological and sociological trends?"

The goal is to inform decisions on how ACS should alter its services to optimally serve our members and our profession in a changing technological landscape. It is also timed to advise the development of the ACS strategic plan, which is now open for member comment (acswebcontent.acs.org/strategicplan/strategicplan.html).

The project began with extensive external research on technology and user trends relevant to the society's leadership in delivering high-quality scientific and other information to its members and stakeholders. Various experts and staff were interviewed to draw input on technological and user trends relevant to scientific organizations.

The combined outcome of these efforts shaped the development of the centerpiece of the project, a leadership workshop in Baltimore on June 19-21. The workshop was attended by 84 people, including the ACS Board of Directors, the Governing Board for Publishing, ACS volunteer leaders from other governance units, senior ACS staff, and outside experts. The society partnered on this project with the Institute for the Future, a highly respected nonprofit research organization with more than 30 years of experience in long-term data-based forecasting.

Issues receiving the most attention throughout the workshop included Web social software, open access, ubiquitous computing, new business models, globalization, data mining and visualization, e-learning, virtual meetings, new publishing media, and peer production.

Given the broad scope of the project and the focus on evaluating trends and technologies years before they become commonplace, a wide range of ideas and challenges were presented. The challenge following the workshop was to review the technologies and trends that received the most attention during all phases of this project, identify key and overlapping themes, assess the key implications for ACS, and develop a set of recommended actions and a timeline for implementation.

The ACS Board of Directors and the ACS Governing Board for Publishing are currently reviewing a report that sets forth key trends, implications, and recommendations. In the coming months, they will use the findings and recommendations to ensure that the society's programs, products, and services provide the greatest value to its members and the scientific enterprise.

An executive summary of the project is available (http://www.cen-online.org/acsnews/84/8444executive.html). I hope you will read this summary and send your comments to executivedirector@acs.org. ACS Board Chair Jim Burke and I sincerely believe that this forward-looking effort, along with the ACS strategic plan and other governance initiatives under way, provide a clear road map for our journey forward as a premier scientific society.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ACS Board of Directors.

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