The Fruits of Collaboration
The American Chemical Society (ACS) enjoyed another successful year in 2018. Key to that success was an emphasis on collaboration, not only across our staff but also with our members and with other scientific organizations. We saw the benefits of that collaboration in the stabilization of ACS membership figures, expansion of our international programs, improved efficiency and effectiveness of our operations and enhanced financial strength.
The Society’s 2018 achievements are too numerous to squeeze onto these pages, so I’ll limit this message to the most significant activities from the past year. If you’d like to delve deeper, you can find more details and additional accomplishments in the “2018 Highlights of ACS Achievements.”
We began the year with the rallying cry “Membership is Everyone’s Responsibility.” Led by the new strategies and tactics of our Membership & Society Services team, and supported by ACS volunteers and staff throughout the organization, ACS expanded membership for the first time in several years. We introduced new options for membership, including on-site renewal at national meetings and multiyear renewals. We began testing the World Bank dues structure that is based on country income levels.
To continue this positive trend, we need our members’ involvement to attract newcomers to the Society. We have to do a better job at connecting with the next generation of chemists, who affiliate in different ways than prior generations. We need our membership benefits to keep pace with their needs. And we must strengthen our connection with chemists in industry and in government laboratories, whose needs are different from those in academic settings.
Growing our ranks allows us to advance chemistry further and faster and to broaden its impact on the world. For example, with partner societies from four continents, we held the first Atlantic Basin Conference on Chemistry in Cancún, Mexico, in January 2018. It was well attended by graduate students from Mexico and Latin America. We also increased the amount of joint programming with our international chapters. And we continued a series of international workshops sponsored by the State Department to offer training on the Global Chemists’ Code of Ethics.
For its part, ACS Publications had a banner year in 2018. Manuscript submissions, articles published, citations and impact factors — a measure of the importance of a journal in its field — rose significantly for many of our journals. Part of that progress can be traced to efforts to make additional journal content available via open access. Those initiatives include ACS Omega, our rapidly growing open-access journal, and the chemical sciences preprint server ChemRxivTM, a joint effort with the Royal Society of Chemistry and the German Chemical Society. We also began publishing six new journals in 2018. And Chemical & Engineering News debuted a new online format, while its C&EN Brand Lab contributed to improved fiscal performance.
Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) successfully launched SciFindern , an interface that speeds up online research of CAS content. In addition, the division continued to extend its services beyond supplying information to providing customers with insights and solutions, in some cases by customizing its search products to the specific needs of companies or institutions to improve their data mining capabilities.
Late in the year, the ACS Board of Directors added “respect” to the Society’s Core Values, in recognition of the prevalence of sexual harassment in science. As a leading professional society, we needed to step up and make a clear statement about it. To reinforce this value, we revised a number of policies to address the possible consequences of inappropriate personal conduct — measures such as rescinding of an award, for example.
Another core value, safety, continues to pervade all activities across the Society. We held our first Safety Summit in 2018, with special emphasis on safety in academic institutions. ACS Publications reinforced this core value by encouraging the discussion of safety in its journals. The unit also signed an agreement to acquire the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety from the Chemical Health and Safety Division in 2020.
Our Human Resources unit introduced a new career management system in 2018 and updated and simplified position descriptions and salary ranges to streamline career planning for staff. The Finance team launched a new payroll system and new digital travel and expense reporting system, while the Information Technologies unit consolidated and enhanced computer platforms for staff and members. These improvements required extensive cooperation across the Society and contributed to improvements in member services and in our internal operations and bottom line.
In fact, this past year was a strong one financially. Thanks to the strength of our information services divisions, combined with excellent cost management across the Society, we had record sales and strong revenue growth. Despite the difficult capital equity markets, we finished the year with an increase in our reserves, which protect the Society during financial downturns.
This success allows us to support important programs such as ACS Scholars, which offered more than $1.2 million in scholarships in 2018, and Project SEED, which has helped more than 11,000 economically disadvantaged high school students carry out summer research. In 2018, we marked Project SEED’s 50th anniversary with a successful fundraising campaign. Our Education Division received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the ACS Bridge Program, which is intended to increase diversity in the graduate student ranks and ultimately in the chemistry profession. The division also extended ACS’ Earth Day outreach campaign to Chemists Celebrate Earth Week.
Outreach is also an important mission for our External Affairs and Communications unit. Its media and public outreach efforts resulted in publications of thousands of print and online news articles and millions of views of videos about chemistry. The unit worked closely with members and other stakeholders to advance ACS’ legislative agenda as defined in the Society’s public policy statements. Examples include working to get key language into a bill signed into law to encourage collaboration between education partners and industry to better align funding and to ensure support for hands-on activities in the STEM fields.
In sum, 2018 was a success in large part because ACS members and staff collaborated on reaching our ambitious goals. I look forward to our continued partnership in 2019.