I am honored to be 2021 President-Elect of the American Chemical Society. Throughout my career and for so many of us, the ACS has been an invaluable source for science, scientific news, networking, training, education, career information, employment opportunities, international opportunities, chemical safety, and so much more. The continuing vitality of the ACS over time is attributed to our involved membership, excellent ACS staff, and adaptability in times of change and anticipated change. In considering the future of ACS, and, in alignment with the ACS Strategic Plan, we need to:
Empower and equip:
Education, training, and careers are at the forefront of our society. ACS plays an important role at all levels of education. Motivating career interests in the chemical sciences and ensuring that our future workforce is well equipped for the changing needs of the chemical enterprise, from more extensive safety education to training in data science and analytics, are critical. Training and transition opportunities are important to address the changing needs of our membership, from job transitions to career enrichment. Effective routes are important to address our unemployed or underemployed members, particularly in light of downsizing, outsourcing, and relocating of operations overseas.
Communicate and advocate:
We must improve communication to the public and to our policymakers about the importance of the chemical sciences on our national and global economies, health, national security, and daily lives. Many nations across the globe are investing heavily in the sciences and STEM education. In the U.S., federal investments in science have been mostly flat for well over a decade. At the state level, K-12 schools, particularly in economically depressed areas, often reduce or eliminate chemistry laboratory offerings because of reduced budgets and safety concerns that can shortchange student preparation. As the largest scientific society in the world, ACS needs to more strongly emphasize the chemical sciences at the state and federal levels to gain greater traction and support in areas including education, workforce development, R&D, and manufacturing in chemistry.
There is a significant gap between our exciting discoveries and the public’s knowledge and understanding of our work. This became clear to me during my service as head of the NSF Division of Chemistry, when I saw first-hand the extraordinary work being done by so many in our field, and the limited national leadership realization about this work and the impact of decreasing R&D investments as compared to those of a number of other countries. ACS needs to further its role as a conduit to address this communication gap, providing increased training on the communication of science to the public, and aiding the public in understanding science, inspiring a greater appreciation of the chemical sciences.
Diversify and amplify:
Current ACS membership does not mirror the diversity that is in our society. While ACS has made important strides to improve and embrace diversity, further efforts are needed. There are pathways to pursue as a society, partnering with other organizations such as NOBCChE and SACNAS, to be the innovator and broker of new opportunities to enhance diversity. Also, ACS should provide greater opportunities for collaboration between industry, academia, and government scientists and organizations than currently exists. The multiplicative effects can be extraordinary, impacting discovery and workforce training.
Adapt and innovate:
A thriving society is dependent upon its membership. A challenge facing ACS has been many years of declining membership. While an upswing in membership is now occurring, ensuring currency and lasting value and impact of society membership at all career stages in an ever-evolving environment, particularly in an increasingly multidisciplinary community, is vital.
The list of ACS strengths and offerings is immense. The global leadership of ACS in the chemical sciences has been paramount. Relationships have been built and continue to be built with international and multidisciplinary scientific societies to address global challenges in research, technology, and education. ACS has the strongest journal portfolio in chemistry in the world, which continues to expand, incorporating a broader multidisciplinary focus, and withstanding the intense and growing global competition for the very best science.
Indeed, there is a bright future for ACS, but we must continue to be strategic in ensuring the society remains strong and relevant for chemical scientists and our future chemical scientists.
ACS has been critical to my career for over thirty years. I look forward to further advancing the effectiveness and impact of ACS on the national and international fronts, and for our members, striving to “improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry”. I look forward to working with our engaged ACS membership to advance ACS and the global chemical enterprise.
"Angela Wilson is an award-winning chemist who has demonstrated a passion to serve the chemistry community at the highest levels including as Director of the Chemistry Division of the National Science Foundation. With its directives to “empower and equip”, “communicate and advocate”, “diversify and amplify” and “adapt and innovate”, Angela’s election statement should resonate with all ACS members who want a forward-looking ACS President to lead our society."
Vicki Grassian, Distinguished Professor and Chair
University of California, San Diego