ACS IC: The International Post

The ACS IC International Post is where you can find monthly features from our international affiliates on their agency's activities, and on subjects relating to scientific mobility, transatlantic dialogue, and current affairs in the global scientific landscape.


Articles will be featured in our ACS Global Chemistry newsletter, where we circulate news and information on ACS international activities and programs.


Summer 2014 (June-August)

ECPA Fellows Respond to President Obama’s Announcement to Cut Carbon Pollution

Team Partners, The Partners Blog, Partners of the Americas

On June 3, President Obama announced a bold move to push carbon plants to reduce their emissions 30% by 2030. The U.S. has been leading initiatives worldwide to prevent climate change and promote clean energy. In 2009 President Obama designed the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) initiative to stimulate collaboration within the Western Hemisphere. The Senior ECPA Fellows program, which is administered by Partners of the Americas, is one of 11 initiatives that bring together experts from the public and private sector to address these topics and build capacity within Americas to find solutions to our hemisphere’s greatest challenges. President Obama’s recent announcement encourages our ECPA Fellows to continue serving and connecting institutions and governments to sustainably reduce the impacts of climate change. The proposed rules for cutting carbon pollution are important and we thank the President for his leadership.

In response, our Senior ECPA Fellows have sent us the following reactions:

Dan Kammen - Professor of Energy, Public Policy, and Nuclear Engineering, Director of Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley

image of dan kammen

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency released its proposed rules for reducing carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants in an effort to address the negative impacts of climate change. The goal of this innovative and flexible plan is to reduce carbon emissions from American power plants by 30 percent over 2005 levels between now and 2030. The plan allows States lots of flexibility to meet these goals with any mix of gas (including retrofitting coal plants with gas, building new-design nuclear, or the two likely to have the largest impact, scaling up renewable energy deployment and conservation and/or efficiency. It’s this flexibility that will most likely let these rules stand, which is key to making progress in the U. S. at present. The devolution of the detailed plans to the states poses one challenge: states not inclined to act may not need to do much beyond incentivizing some conservation and letting the natural shift from coal to gas continue.

The big plus, however, is that this flexibility -- the Yoga Principle of public policy as some of my colleagues call it (the more flexible the better) -- will show that costs are little to nothing, and in some cases utilities will save money. The public will benefit in terms of health (as will the environment). This 'see, it did not hurt, it helped' finding can lead to a next round of innovations. All this is a plus. Our challenge is that this step is, ultimately modest, so we will need to see follow-up with this step leading to next steps -- and rapidly.

Ana Barros - Professor of Engineering, Duke University

image of anna barros

The proposed emissions reductions and implementation will catalyze advancement and innovation of renewable energy technology, grid infrastructure engineering, as well as energy policy, including conservation and market-based instruments to achieve the stated goals. This provides a great opportunity for collaboration and exchange among ECPA countries, which can spur advances in energy efficiency and potential diversification of the renewable energy portfolio across Central and South America, already heavily reliant on hydropower for electricity, to meet economic growth demands with 21st century solutions.

Jigar Shah;CEO of Jigar Shah Consulting, Founder of SunEdison, Author of 'Creating Climate Wealth: Unlocking the Impact Economy'

image of jigar shah

The new greenhouse gas regulations from the President represents a thoughtful approach around transitioning the United States away from coal. Today, the United States is already transitioning to more wind, solar, and other renewable energies. In fact, since 2008, over 50% of all new electric capacity additions have been renewable energy. The acceleration of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States makes the goals that the President has put forward, eminently doable.

Frank Lowenstein - Deputy Director, New England Forestry Foundation

image of frank lowenstein

President Obama's plan to reduce emissions from coal fired power plants represents another significant step forward in U.S. climate policy, and should serve to re-energize the climate negotiations ahead of December's crucial UNFCCC conference of the parties in Lima, Peru. By providing flexibility to states to implement the required cuts, the rule will encourage approaches that are compatible with continued economic growth. For example, nine northeastern states of the United States participating in a regional cap-and-trade initiative have outperformed the other 41 states in both carbon emissions reductions and economic growth.

Suresh Garimella - Chief Global Affairs Officer and Goodson Distinguished Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Executive Vice President for Research & Partnerships, Purdue University

image of suresh garimella

It is great to see the United States taking a lead on clean energy. As the details of the plan are worked out and rolled out in partnership with the states, this will give strong momentum and encouragement to Senior ECPA Fellows like us and others involved in multilateral climate change discussions.

Janaki Alavalapati - Professor and Head, Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, College of Natural Resources and Environment, Virginia Tech

image of janaki alavalapati

The EPA’s rule--power plants to reduce their emissions 30% by 2030--might stimulate the exploration of carbon offsets as a flexible mechanism to meet the target. This would have direct implications for ECPA program which focuses on Energy and Climate issues of the Americas. In particular, interests to explore avenues to use forest biomass as low cost energy source and/or carbon offsets will grow. This provides an additional opportunity for ECPA fellows to provide their expertise and bring stakeholders together to address the issue.

Read full post and comment on The Partners Blog


Spring 2014 (March-May)

International Participation in Global Science Seminars by Young People

Richard Myhill, Conference Director

London International Youth Science Forum

Over recent years we have seen most large western economies tighten their belts and look to cut on spending, particularly with regards to opportunities afforded to students at an early stage in their career development. This article will consider the value and importance of investing in our children’s futures and why this type of spending is absolutely crucial for our full economic recovery and for the future wellbeing of the world.

I organise the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF), which, since 1959, has welcomed each year 350 of the brightest young science students from 60 countries around the world for a two week residential scientific event in London. Many students apply to attend individually, whilst others are also supported by national organisations and government departments. It can be said that in recent years across the board, spending on such activities directed to students has been altered and in most cases cut from both public and commercial sources. We have seen many nations drastically reduce their spending on sending students to such enrichment opportunities like ours and in some cases stop this activity all together. A key case in point would be America, where federal agencies have really moved towards stopping educational travel opportunities. There are many reasons that contribute towards this, but I would like to suggest that diverting money from investing in the next generation is an idea with seriously negative long-term effects.

Dr Tim Slingsby of the British Council has highlighted key issues in this area relating to policy and science education and quite rightly directs our attention to the fact that recent research has shown that not enough young people are choosing  to study science, technology, engineering and maths. (http://blog.britishcouncil.org/2014/01/24/what-policy-can-do-to-rekindle-enthusiasm-in-science-education/). This, therefore, underpins a lack of those pursuing a STEM career and raises concerns about the prospect of recovery through science and innovation. Science innovation is a key tool for economic recovery and we must invest in our students now to help build our collective future. The challenges we face are ever growing and the need to stimulate and promote science education has never been more necessary. In Europe, concerns are widely expressed that current approaches in science education are not enough to maintain economic competitiveness. This is leading to organisations like the British Council (and The European Commission) to take action to consider how to stimulate the next generation of scientists. One key area of this is to stimulate student attendance in and at science enrichment programmes.

Sending students to global science seminars provides inspirational opportunities for them that are often career defining and has benefit not only to the attending student but also their home community and country. By giving students the opportunity to attend international meetings, this really broadens their horizons, not only in terms of scientific study but also in the realisation that they are part of a large international community. Many of our students that attend LIYSF tell us that LIYSF has changed their perspective on their interest in science, realising after our meeting that their interests cross over into other science subject fields or of the potential inter-disciplinary mixes of science. Our experience tells us that this experience has helped shape our alumni’s future study and career choices. 

It is also important to consider the social impact attending global seminars has on students. Often, those interested in science can feel isolated in their home communities - as being interested in science is typically neither popular nor trendy. When students attend international science meetings they realise they are part of an exciting and thriving community and this encourages and stimulates them. Meeting face to face with other students is essential – this enables students to fully share their opinions and learn from each other. Attending such seminars enables students to develop personal and social skills that will stand them in very good stead for the future, as well as making lifelong friends. Whilst many activities and benefits can be gained online, there is still something major lacking from an entirely virtual experience. Seminars and workshops have the wonderful ability of bringing people together over an extended period of time, which enables people to really get to know each other and to actively engage in science.

Furthermore, the experience of attending an international event sets the foundation for collaborating with others from around the world.  At global seminars students are able to make friendships with people from around the world, which not only facilitates the exchange of ideas and opinion but also helps to better understand different cultures. This is an essential grounding for the modern day student, as in today’s world, it is collaborative multidisciplinary international efforts that are and will lead the way. The sooner students are exposed to this, the sooner they can learn how to work together, to learn from each other, to respect each other’s views and to work collaboratively to solve problems. We need them to really embrace the concept of being ‘citizens of the world’.  

Giving students the chance to be excited and encouraged by attending such events has a great impact on them, but also on their home community. Our students tell us that when they apply to top universities, including for example, Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge, for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses that in interviews, it is their experience at our global science seminar that they are asked about.  Attending such global seminars enables students to stand out, not only on paper, but also in their experience and what they are able to draw on in terms of contribution in an international dimension. Students return home with a new sense of purpose, but better still, as science ambassadors, showing others that might be interested in science, what might be possible for them also.  The impact of this is considerable and of great worth, not only to the individual but also in the future to their community as they are likely to go on to a great scientific career, which may very well lead to benefits to all. 

I urge all those trimming or realigning budgets to think carefully and not sacrifice long-term benefits for potential short-term gains. All societies must invest in the future and this must be done in a broad sense. Sometimes, inspiration is the work of a few initiatives combined and I believe that attending global seminars has a key role to play in stimulating the next generation of students. At LIYSF we have a long history of alumni that tell us just that – www.liysf.org.uk


Winter 2014 (December-February)

American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation: The internationalization of the scientific enterprise

american friends of the alexander von humboldt foundation logo

The internationalization of the scientific enterprise, and of research careers and networks, is central to the mission of American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and its German partner, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Since 1953, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has facilitated exchange between German and international researchers. Many of those supported by the Humboldt Foundation – the “Humboldtians” – are active in the chemical sciences. In fact, chemistry remains one of the most strongly represented fields among the over 600 awards and fellowships granted each year by the Foundation. Today some 500 US Humboldtians—nearly 10 percent of all alumni residing in the United States—are in the chemical sciences.

Like the ACS International Center™, American Friends seeks to help researchers in the chemical sciences—as in other fields—to develop a truly global outlook.  At a time of much debate about the future of US higher education and research, American Friends is committed to promoting national and international networking, exchange, and creative collaboration among scientists, scholars, artists, and other professionals. In addition to supporting the network of US alumni and promotion of the Humboldt Foundation’s opportunities, American Friends seeks to encourage US researchers to participate more fully in international collaborations, and to shape policies and strategies that advance the internationalization of US research institutions. American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is the professional partner of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) in the United States and a U.S. 501(c)3 charitable organization.

American Friends Programs:  The Internationalization of Research, Science, and Society

In the 21st century, higher education and research are international enterprises. While countries and institutions increasingly compete for the best scientific talent, they are also compelled to cooperate across national and disciplinary boundaries to tackle the grand challenges of our time. A truly global system of knowledge production offers not only new opportunities but also poses significant challenges for the higher education and research enterprise in the United States and many other countries.

In cooperation with Humboldtians and other partners, American Friends is organizing several pilot programs focused on the internationalization strategies of US universities and future US-German research exchanges. Through events and online programming, we hope to engage the broader Humboldt network as well as others interested in these themes.

A Discussion on US & German Universities and the Globalization of Research:

Join American Friends and the German Center for Research and Innovation as they convene a panel discussion among US and German thought leaders on the impact of globalization on research universities in United States and Germany. In the United States, universities have quickly embraced “internationalization,” but systematic efforts to integrate international experience into department missions, faculty activities, and incentive structures have not taken place. The German government, on the other hand, has launched the ‘Excellence Initiative,’ expanding graduate programs, interdisciplinary research clusters, and institutional strategies to raise the profile and attractiveness of German research institutions. How successful have US and German universities been in adapting to the globalization of the research enterprise? What are the stakes for US and German universities, their research enterprises, and for innovation and international competitiveness? And just how “strategic” are universities’ internationalization strategies? This event is tentatively scheduled for May 2014.

image of Alexander von humboldt foundation members with the ACS mole

DC Science &Technology Roundtables: Science and technology are intrinsic to most every security, environmental, health, and civil society challenge faced by the United States and Germany. Science and technology underpin and help to shape our respective national policy debates. The 2010 US-German Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement formalized the desire of both countries to intensify their research collaboration in this regard. While new initiatives have been launched, much remains to be done if the US and German are to maximize the benefits of S&T collaboration. Through activities exploring the connections between science, policy, and society, American Friends will bring Humboldtians and other DC-based scholars and researchers together with the policy community to address key societal challenges in the United States and Germany. The roundtable series will begin  in 2014.

A New Transatlantic Dialogue: The American Friends blog – launching this spring – will feature alumni, guest, and affiliate contributions on two broad issues: (i) the Globalization of Research; and (ii) Transatlantic Perspectives on Science, Society, and Policy. American Friends invites valued input from our partners, including ACS members, on these topics, drawing from the vast knowledge and varied experiences of the community.

If you are interested in taking part in any of our programs or contributing to our transatlantic dialogue, please e-mail info@americanfriends-of-avh.org for more details!

Website Re-launch – A Resource for Alumni, Prospective Applicants, and Others Interested in Building their International Research and Higher Education Networks

In addition to these programs, American Friends is pleased to announce the launch of its recently redesigned website, which offers refined content and streamlined navigation to better serve readers.  The website includes a summary of AvH programs of particular interest to American applicants, along with links to other valuable information on the AvH website.  Featured are a multitude of resources on pursuing research in Germany, including: how to find hosts; where to receive German language training; an overview of the scientific landscape in Germany; and general information on the logistics of moving to Germany.  The Alumni pages also got a fresh coat of paint, with the re-launch of the Humboldtians on Campus program as well as resources for Humboldtians to get involved.  Stay tuned in the coming months for new pages on American Friends programmatic themes.

Join American Friends at the American Chemical Society’s 28th National Meeting, August 10-14: Come visit the American Friends booth at the ACS August meeting in San Francisco, CA! American Friends joins Research in Germany colleagues at the 2014 National Meeting. Meet alumni of the Humboldt Foundation’s fellowship and award programs and speak with promotions staff about research opportunities for chemical professionals in Germany. 

image of alexander von humboldt foundation staff members at acs meeting

ACS members are invited to:

Submit a Fellowship Application: Review fellowships offered by the AvH and submit an application.  Please visit the AvH or American Friends website for more information. For questions, please email info@avh.de or Jessica Bell (jessica.bell@americanfriends-of-avh.org).

Collaborate with American Friends: American Friends seeks to support international collaboration in research, to expand the circle of scholars familiar with the research programs of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and to facilitate exchanges and social interaction among alumni of Foundation programs with the broader science and policy community. If interested in collaborating as an institution or individual on a future event with American Friends, please contact us at info@americanfriends-of-avh.org.

Check out American Friends Social Media! Follow American Friends on Facebookand Twitter to keep updated on American Friends activities.