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ACS News

November 28, 2005
Volume 83, Number 48
p. 35

COMMENT

Achieving the 'Objects' of the Society

James D. Burke, Chair, acs Board of Directors

The charter of the American Chemical Society is broad and ambitious. As Article II of the ACS constitution states, the “objects” of the society “shall be to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner the advancement of chemistry in all its branches.” Everything following that statement merely itemizes the initiatives ACS should pursue in advancing the chemical sciences.

The ACS mission begins where the growth of the science, the success of the practitioners, and the vitality of their employers, through research, are inseparably intertwined. If the ACS mission ended there, it would be clearly important and possibly compelling. And ACS could be properly termed an organization of the members, by the members, and for the members.

But our founders had in mind a far more daring vision than merely a highly successful trinity of chemical science, practitioners, and employers mutually advancing common interests. They proposed that this enterprise take aim at “fostering public welfare and education, aiding the development of our country’s industries, and adding to the material prosperity and happiness of our people.” Even that broad agenda was inadequate for a later generation of society leaders, who proposed that the society “cooperate with scientists internationally” and foster “the worldwide application of chemistry to the needs of humanity.”

Ironically, challenging the society to be a treasured asset for the nation and the world makes it more critical than ever that we remain insistent about advancing our science, the practitioners, and their employers. Unless these are properly served, the larger agenda will collapse.

Since our beginning, the objects of ACS have been advanced primarily by the volunteer efforts of members. The value of their contributions, to this day, cannot be overestimated. However, starting around the middle of the 20th century and increasing over time as the society became more successful and more complex, it became necessary to employ more and more professional staff. Working as partners with society governance and volunteer members in order to ensure the timely and effective advancement of our objects, our staff adds immense value.

The partnership is authentic. It is erroneous to refer to “staff” and “members” as if they are in opposition. Indeed, hundreds of our staff are ACS members. Staff and member volunteers truly work together. It is likewise misleading to distinguish broadly between the society units contributing revenues and those expending them in providing member services. ACS is an organic whole. All the units provide services to members; all advance the objects of the society.

Many ACS units contribute to promoting research in chemical science and industry. CAS SciFinder may be the most important chemical information research tool ever. Technical divisions and local sections provide opportunities for research scientists with common interests to establish professional relationships and collaborations. The ACS Petroleum Research Fund provides more than $20 million in research grants annually. The ACS Awards program celebrates the triumphs of the chemical research community. Thousands of ACS members, working with the Office of Legislative & Government Affairs, advocate increased funding for basic research and science education.

Many ACS units improve the qualifications and usefulness of chemical scientists through ethics, education, and attainments. The Ethics Committee, the Committee on Professional Training, the Membership Affairs Committee, the Continuing Education and ProSpectives programs, the Department of Career Services and its career consultant program staffed by member volunteers, the ACS Scholars Program and Project SEED, and the Committee on Minority Affairs are only some of the many member and staff units involved.

For the increase and diffusion of chemical knowledge, the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry offers scientists a compendium of trustworthy information on more than 25 million substances. The ACS Publications Division is the leading nonprofit publisher of peer-reviewed research journals in the chemical and related sciences. Its success depends heavily on the generous efforts of ACS members serving as reviewers and editors. Chemical & Engineering News is the leading newsmagazine of the chemical world. In partnership with the Society Committee on Education, the Education Division develops and publishes innovative textbooks and student-focused magazines, and provides online courses to enhance the qualifications of K–8 teachers. National Chemistry Week, an effort involving thousands of local section volunteers, and the Office of Communications also present the benefits of chemistry to the world. The ACS Green Chemistry Institute promotes environmental stewardship, conducts educational programs, and elevates public appreciation of green chemistry.

To promote scientific interests and inquiry, the technical divisions organize national meetings and symposia, working with the Committee on Meetings & Expositions and the Meetings Department. Local sections organize local and regional meetings, the latter coordinated with the Meetings Department and Regional Activities Coordination Team.

Our national meetings and our publications are genuinely international achievements. Also, the Office of International Activities coordinates relationships and cooperative initiatives, including international conferences and symposia, with chemical societies of other countries.

Finally, the Office of the Treasurer, Finance & Administration and the Office of the Secretary work closely with the board of directors and the Committee on Budget & Finance to ensure that the many initiatives and enterprises cited above are properly funded and directed.

By the relentless pursuit of its objects, ACS has become a strong and successful resource for the chemical sciences and their practitioners and for the world. As we strive to articulate a clear vision of our future in the face of rapidly changing times, we must stay true to our fundamental mission and values.

The objects represent our guide to the future. If we align our plans and actions toward achieving these important goals, we can be confident we are following the right path.

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

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ACS Comments, which appear in C&EN from time to time, are written by society officers and committee chairs. They are available on C&EN Online at www.cen-online.org/html/acscomments.html. Comments are archived back to 2000.

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