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ACS Comment

December 7, 2009
Volume 87, Number 49
p. 51

Why Bother?

Anne T. O'Brien, District I Director

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Anne T. O’Brien

LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, and other social networks have been around for some time, and they work well for their purposes. So who needs another—an ACS network?

“The ACS Network is totally unique and designed to facilitate communication among all participants in the chemical enterprise,” says Pat N. Confalone, an ACS Board member. “Unlike other broad-based networks, which substantially dilute their value by spanning all professions, the ACS version attracts the lion’s share of chemists, chemical engineers, and our allied disciplines.” The ACS Network is open to ACS members, to international scientists, and to those in bordering disciplines.


The ACS Network allows us to extend what we already do—meet, share research, collaborate on publications, discuss issues, ask and answer questions, and work together—in a way that’s not limited by geography or time.

The network makes collaboration easy. We can find the right people, connect with them, and work together. If we need input from a group, the network is a more effective tool than e-mail. Everyone in the group can view the comments, ask questions, and edit documents.

Contributors ask questions and answer others, and we share experience, expertise, and insights. In doing so, we are building an information archive resource for ACS.

Everyone can have a voice here. You can participate in discussions, post documents, and collaborate in groups. You can cast a wider net and interact with a broad range of colleagues in forums.


“I tried to search on a competitive network for a former colleague who has a pretty common first and last name,” Confalone says. “I got over 25 hits from the search and eventually realized that he was not even on the list of retrieved names. When I used the ACS Network, one name came up—his, and we immediately connected.”

Tatsuhiko Fujimoto, an ACS member who lives in Japan, has posted links to his favorite papers in medicinal chemistry. With 90 threads in his discussion topic, Fujimoto has had an amazing 14,000 views.

The Sustainability Stakeholders Steering Group (S3G) uses the open platform of an ACS Network group to review documents, discuss issues, and share information. Recently, S3G drafted and edited a C&EN Comment (C&EN, Aug. 3, page 40) and refined a diagram of the society’s sustainability opportunities using this group exclusively.

The network makes collaboration easy. We can find the right people, connect with them, and work together.

S3G uses a forum as the Web repository for this communications model. From the more than 55 members of the group, volunteers (otherwise unknown to S3G or staff) were recruited to help plan a sustainability event.

When ACS switched to the Program Abstract Creation System (PACS) for program planning, the ACS Network was used to communicate with program chairs and symposium organizers. Common questions were posted in a PACS discussion forum, with links to resources, and responses were published on the network. The forum allowed users to find answers by a quick scan of discussion topics—a welcome alternative to a user’s manual!

ACS is planning a new externally hosted website service for ACS local sections, divisions, and certain committees. Intended to find “pain points” for the webmasters using this service, a pilot test included staff and 18 representatives. All subscribed to group e-mail alerts. Initial discussions quickly showed that issues around migrating content were greater than expected. Questions were posted, and the group answered each others’ questions. These questions uncovered difficulties that needed to be addressed through support documents. The blog was used effectively to update group members on the status of the pilot.


In 2010, ACS hopes to migrate portions of the ACS Network to a new platform. You’ll be able to see the “friends” of your connections; to tag groups of connections; to send messages to friends; to view Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents directly in the browser; and to bookmark external content with shareable links.

You will be able to collaborate on your personal documents without needing a private group, to share and discuss publications in your profile, to hold private discussions, and to give status updates. There might be plug-ins, for example, for mobile access. Migration will allow new functionalities to be introduced more quickly.

The present and future value of a professional network developed under the auspices of ACS by chemists and for chemists cannot be overestimated. The ACS Network will be the preferred site for the chemical enterprise, where potential collaborations and consultations are identified, new connections with shared technical and professional interests are developed, and old friendships are renewed. ACS Board Chair Judith Benham adds, “We can’t afford not to use the network to the full. We need to let members run with it!”

What the ACS Network needs is you—to explore, to exercise its capabilities for your purposes. Try it. We think you’ll like it. Let me know how it goes at obrienatm@verizon.net.

The ACS Network was used to create this article. The group contributed and shared content on a blog and formulated and edited the text on a wiki.

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