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ACS Comments

December 18, 2006
Volume 84, Number 51
p. 60

The ACS Board's Accomplishments

James D. Burke, ACS Board Chair

This is my final opportunity as chair of the ACS Board of Directors to address the readers of Chemical & Engineering News. Following the practice of previous chairs, I'd like to provide a brief summary of the board's achievements during my chairmanship.


Let me begin by thanking the ACS Council for its confidence in me by electing me to three terms on the board as director-at-large. Likewise, I thank my colleagues on the board for their faith in me by electing me their chair. The position has been educational and challenging and truly gratifying. I cannot adequately express how I have valued my colleagues' companionship and support.

Next, some comments about the board members. Like all ACS volunteers, we receive no monetary compensation for our work, only reimbursement for expenses. Each donates perhaps 1,000 hours a year—some, much more—of time and talent to our work. We are a community, not a congress, and we act together as a team for the good of the entire society. We recognize that diversity of thought can strengthen unity of purpose and that honest criticism of ideas, done with mutual respect, is a basis for enriched consensus and cooperation. Since 2004, we have set ambitious annual goals for ourselves as a policy-setting and oversight board, and we have achieved them each year. I respect my colleagues greatly for their dedication, wisdom, and commitment.

The board and ACS Executive Director Madeleine Jacobs, who is completing her third year and is also a board member, enjoy a solid and deepening relationship. She has brought great imagination, energy, and leadership to the job and labors diligently for the continuous advancement of the society. Our partnership with the very capable ACS staff is strong.

Among the key board-directed programs, one of most catalytic was the Financial Planning Conference in early 2005. This led to the now-completed Contingency Planning initiative, which offers the society a ready path forward if ever confronted by financial crises of varying magnitude. It also prompted the establishment of the Program Review Advisory Group, which assists the Committee on Budget & Finance in ensuring that all society programs are relevant, properly funded, and well-managed. We also authorized the ACS Web Presence Initiative, now under development, to make our website an attractive destination for members and other Internet visitors.

The board has developed and strengthened relationships in many directions. Internally, we have ensured that the ACS Governing Board for Publishing and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Governing Board are loaded with talent and work effectively with the ACS Board to achieve the society's goals. Our relationships with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Chemical Heritage Foundation are strong and productive.

To offer a more secure future for the highly acclaimed conference series "Frontiers of Chemical Sciences: Research and Education in the Middle East," more popularly known as the Malta Conferences, we have negotiated with the Malta Conference Organizing Committee and the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry for subsequent conferences to be managed by IUPAC, with ACS remaining a principal financial sponsor. Lastly, we have built productive relationships with other national and international chemical societies. While we compete with them amicably, we also recognize that we share a cluster of global challenges that will not be properly addressed unless we address them together.

The Chemical Abstracts Service Division and ACS Publications—the journals and this newsmagazine—are world-class and, in my judgment, indispensable to the ACS mission. Yet, despite their singular success, they face challenges. The board has addressed the "open access" issue and, in particular, the National Institutes of Health PubChem initiative in ways that ensure the integrity of ACS scientific publications and databases. This is a situation where there is sincere disagreement about what is the right outcome. Nevertheless, although we may never reach full agreement, we must sustain the climate of receptivity and collaboration that is essential for our scientific community.

Regarding the major trends of globalization and multidisciplinarity in chemical research and manufacturing, we view them as significant threats and opportunities. To address them, the board and ACS Council initiated a governance review program last year to examine the society's governing documents and operational structures. The objective is to explore new ways to make the society more open and responsive to the needs of those working at the boundaries of the chemical sciences and more agile in delivering essential services to our profession, our members, and their employers. Because of this effort's scope and sensitivity, we shall take the time to do things right.

After broadly consulting all members of governance and the entire society, the board approved a new society vision statement: "ACS: Improving people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry," and a new society mission statement: "To advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people." And we have completed the 2007-09 ACS Strategic Plan, which will primarily be a Web-based document.

Looking ahead, I believe that the society has the right leadership, plans, and resources in place to succeed and advance. However, as more and more global political and economic uncertainties accumulate, soon enough we can expect to be challenged significantly. But ACS is strong. Our thousands of able, generous volunteers are our greatest strength; no other technical organization enjoys such an advantage. If we show wisdom and the will to prevail, I have no doubt that we shall.

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