How To Reach C&ENACS Membership Number


November 18, 2002
Volume 80, Number 46
CENEAR 80 46 p. 69
ISSN 0009-2347


They have more in common than you might think


Here's an amazing discovery I made while researching information for this column: I share a heretofore-unknown common bond with motorcyclists! We both want to increase our membership rolls.

The president of the American Motorcyclist Association recently announced a goal of 300,000 members by 2005. Funny, but I was thinking the same way: I would like the American Chemical Society to shoot for a membership goal of 300,000. I firmly believe that we should be able to nearly double our current membership of 163,000.

Chemistry is an enabling science and an increasingly interdisciplinary one. As we've seen in emerging areas like nanotechnology and proteomics, much of today's research integrates biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, and physics to take a research idea from development to production. But paradoxically, chemistry's central position in these discoveries puts it at risk of being overshadowed by these other disciplines.

We've already seen examples of scientists who are more apt to describe themselves as "materials scientists" than polymer chemists or as "ceramists" instead of ceramic chemists. Recent studies confirm that a large number of chemical professionals are pursuing careers outside traditional laboratory or academic settings. ChemCensus 2000 shows that ACS members are increasingly classifying their work functions and specialties in the "other chemistry sciences" category. And this year's salary survey shows that younger chemists are more likely to work for drug, analytical, and service-oriented industries than are older chemists.

"Chemistry is ... what chemists and chemical engineers do." We're not the "American Chemists' Society." We represent all chemical professionals whose work and interests relate to chemistry--even those in "allied professions" like corporate management, patent law, and sales and marketing--regardless of what they call themselves. In my mind, there's no such thing as traditional and nontraditional careers in chemistry. In the same way, we represent not only chemistry but also the chemical sciences, including nanotechnology, biotechnology, and proteomics.

The scientific enterprise is a veritable wellspring of potential members. For example, compare the Institute of Food Technologists, which boasts some 29,000 members, with our Agricultural & Food Chemistry Division, which has 2,800 members. Or consider that the ACS Division of Chemistry & the Law has 1,150 members, yet the American Bar Association's section for Science & Technology Law has more than 7,000 members. How many of those attorneys regularly use the CAS Registry but aren't ACS members?

What can we do to help these groups understand that there's professional value in belonging to our society? Some local sections are already holding joint meetings with "boutique" societies--smaller societies at the edges of interdisciplinary research. For example, as a polymer chemist, I was especially pleased to speak at a joint meeting of the ACS Connecticut Valley Section and the Society of Plastics Engineers. I'd like to see more of this kind of collaboration.

We also need to take better care of our divisions, which are like small societies themselves. Should our divisions be broadened to include professionals at the "fringes" of chemistry, and should ACS adopt a less restrictive admissions process? Alternatively, should we provide more job-related member services and benefits?

New graduates, including increasing proportions of women and minorities--who have been entering our profession in record numbers--are another source of new members. Half of these new chemists--those who earned their bachelor's degrees two to four years ago--are women.

ACS has a unique opportunity to develop programs and services that meet the needs of this changing population. We already have many bold programs in place to help these bright young men and women succeed in their careers, but are we missing something? Are we doing enough to support our members with disabilities, who make up more than 10% of the overall U.S. workforce but less than 3% of those in science and technology? Is ACS providing the kinds of activities and benefits that attract them in the first place? Should we organize our senior members--who make up nearly 15% of our members--to act as mentors and guides for these promising scientists and the public?

I have a confession to make: I don't ride a motorcycle. I live in Manhattan and usually walk to where I need to go. But I still dream big.

My hope is that ACS will reposition itself as an organization--300,000 members strong--that represents the true interdisciplinary and diverse nature of our science and profession. Under the larger umbrella of the American Chemical Society, chemical professionals will speak with one voice that echoes loudly and clearly--in Congress, in our communities, and across the globe.


Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society

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