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  December 6,  2004
Volume 82, Number 49
p. 42



As editor-in-chief of Chemical & Engineering News, I loved "talking" with ACS members every week in my editorials. I considered my editorials a dialogue with members, and, indeed, I received dozens of letters and e-mails from you.

On becoming ACS executive director and chief executive officer in January, I sought ways to continue this dialogue. I wrote columns in Chemistry (the Membership Division's periodical) and in the ACS Councilor Bulletin. I spoke with hundreds of members at ACS local sections, regional meetings, council meetings, and the ACS volunteer leadership summit. I answered hundreds of e-mails and telephone calls. In this ACS Comment, I'd like to give you an end-of-the year progress report on some major accomplishments as well as some challenges that lie ahead. Because space is limited here, I hope you will read the more detailed report, "ACS Highlights—2004" (http://www.cen-online.org/acs/2004report.pdf).

At the operational level, I reorganized all ACS operating units, excluding Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) and the Publications Division, to ensure that they were positioned to help the society achieve its strategic plan. Together with my senior management team, I carried out a series of strategic reviews of society programs: membership, education, and external affairs. These reviews revealed some areas of duplication and areas where closer cooperation among units could enhance performance. In addition, our nonpublishing units trimmed more than $1 million in administrative expenses. Some of these reductions are one-time in nature, but significant savings will come from operating efficiencies that will be sustained in future years.

Another outcome of the strategic reviews was a recommendation to the ACS Board of Directors that we sell the Belmont Conference Center. We completed the sale on Nov. 19, with sale proceeds of more than $4.7 million being added to the society's investments.

This year, we addressed many challenges facing ACS. One major challenge is membership. Like many other scientific societies, ACS has an aging demographic, a declining membership, and a need to continue to review and refine our value proposition to meet the challenges and opportunities in a multidisciplinary world.

Thirty years ago, if you were a chemist, you joined ACS as a matter of professional pride. ACS members also received print journals at a deep discount, discounted meeting registrations, and Chemical & Engineering News.

Today, members can choose from more than 200 ACS programs, products, and services, including discounted meeting registrations, C&EN, and a host of career services. But most of our members now receive their journals electronically as part of a site license at their institutions. And, as important, chemists work at the interface with a dozen other disciplines and no longer automatically think of ACS as their first professional home.

This year, we began addressing these issues in earnest. The Membership Division reorganized to better meet these challenges and also undertook a comprehensive member satisfaction and needs survey. That survey is now complete, and I'll report on the findings in a future ACS Comment. I held a meeting with a group of my senior management team and outside experts--which I called the Executive Director's 2010 Committee--to discuss the value proposition for ACS. The Membership Division hosted a summit of technical division leaders to discuss how divisions could help meet the challenge of multidisciplinarity. All ACS operating units, including CAS and the Publications Division, prepared a report on the state of multidisciplinarity at ACS, with a list of action items. Along with the results of a Board-Presidential Task Force on Multidisciplinarity, these findings will be presented next year to the ACS Board of Directors to help it prioritize current and future programs for members.

The publishing side of ACS also faced many challenges. Briefly, they center on the "open access" movement to provide free literature to the public and on competition in the chemical and patent database areas. The ACS Publications Division is working closely with other publishers and the proponents of open access to address that issue. CAS continues to develop novel services and products that outperform the competition.

Both CAS and the Publications Division had outstanding years, from both product and revenue viewpoints. CAS had its best revenue growth in 16 years. Its bibliographic database grew to nearly 23 million abstracts, and the CAS Registry reached 24.3 million substance records. SciFinder Scholar increased its lead as the foremost chemistry-related scientific information tool on campuses around the world.

The Publications Division also had a year of excellent revenues. In addition, the division announced plans to launch ACS Chemical Biology, a major new journal at the interface of chemistry and biology; launched a redesign of C&EN Online; and began significant upgrades to the division's journal production environment for authors, editors, and reviewers.

Looking ahead to 2005, we will place even greater emphasis on attracting chemists from diverse backgrounds working at the interface of biology, physics, mathematics, engineering, electronics, medicine, materials science, and computational science to consider ACS as an important professional home. We will establish a coherent communications plan that will emphasize the value of chemists and chemistry to society and the importance and contributions of ACS journals and CAS products. We will continue to address critical issues that face our publishing operations and to introduce new products and services that advance research and the profession.

As always, we seek your input. To each of you, I wish a happy, healthy holiday season and a wonderful New Year. I'm looking forward to hearing from you and to working together in 2005. Write to me at executivedirector@acs.org.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ACS Board.
  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004

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