Monday, October 28, 2013

What should I expect for my membership in the Division of Organic Chemistry?

This year, for the first time in a while, I will be paying $15 for my membership in the ACS' Division of Organic Chemistry. (In the past, it had been paid for my employer, but policies change.) This brings to mind a certain question: why am I a member of the Division of Organic Chemistry, anyway? Here's what DOC has to say on this issue:
What are the benefits of ORGN membership? 
You join the premier society that supports, educates, networks, and advocates for organic chemists. 
Some of the ways we achieve these objectives are shown below:
  • You will receive an annual Newsletter containing information about divisional and joint programs at National ACS Meetings, details about presenting papers/posters at these meetings, deadlines for paper submissions, and notices of other meetings of interest.
  • You can view the completed Abstract Booklet in electronic form for papers presented at National Meetings by the Organic Division, including those cosponsored with other divisions.
  • You can access the Members only portion of the website and view a clear presentation of your Membership Profile and post your information in the Division Directory for networking.
  • You will receive discounts on books from selected publishers. Access the Link (For Members only on the Book Discounts Page.
  • Through the process of nomination, you can participate in selection of speakers at the National Organic Symposia.
  • Through yearly input by nomination, you can assist in selecting the Officers of the Division.
  • By further individual or group involvement, you can contribute to enhancing the stature of the field of organic chemistry in and outside of the ACS.
That's not really a compelling list. I do actually read the annual Newsletter, but it's mostly internal Division business that isn't particularly interesting to me. I don't go to enough ACS National Meetings to get me very excited about the Abstract Booklet.

I'll tell you what used to make me happy about my DOC membership: the annual copy of Organic Syntheses that I would get in the mail. Man, that little brown booklet made for great reading and a real sense that I was part of something. I will still (for the meantime) cough up the $15 for my dues, but it's more out of inertia than anything else. This is the problem with that move they made, by the way; by getting rid of paper copies of OrgSyn (A Worthwhile Endeavor), they removed the one tangible, useful, Item Full of Truth that you'd get from the division. Now, it's just a sort of vague sense-of-belonging* -- and the Division is too big (14,000 members?) and too diffuse (who IS an organic chemist, exactly?) to make that mean anything, I think.

Do you know what would make me really excited to be a DOC member? If I got exclusive access to high-quality video of every presentation from NOS and every ACS national meeting. That, in my opinion, would be worth my $15, and it might even be worth another $15 on top of it.

*This is the generational problem that both the Division and the ACS itself needs to face, by the way: that "sense of belonging" used to work in the 1950s and 1960s doesn't seem to work anymore. It makes me wonder if this is a problem with the profession/chemical enterprise, or if it's actually a problem with American culture, broadly speaking. 

18 comments:

  1. For me, it was the meeting abstracts for the national meetings. I don't think I appreciated Org. Syn., but I liked seeing the structures that people were making (because sometimes the names are not clear), and it was easier to browse for people and structures, to keep track of who was giving talks even if I wasn't going.

    "Sense of belonging" works well for smaller groups, when there is social capital to be gained by being a member (you feel productive and appreciated for being a member of a group), or when there is pride of profession. When the group is really big, when society either cares little for what you do or actively fears it, and when you seem like a replaceable cog in a large impersonal machine (and in lots of cases are treated as such), "sense of belonging" doesn't really exist and if so doesn't help much.

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    1. I don't mean that DOC treats me as a cog, but more the general treatment of people. I would positiong that belonging stopped being as compelling when people started feeling that the things they belonged to betrayed them, and when the connections that previously held and supported them were either replaced by institutions that valued them as customers but little else or valued them not at all, or by nothing.

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    2. "...valued them not at all, or by nothing." Which, when i think about it, is exactly what we got here--a tangible object replaced with nothing at all. I mean, it's not even a subscription website! "Members" get exactly as much out of the Org Div as everyone else--which is to say, nothing.

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  2. I used to be a member of both the Organic Division and the Medicinal Chemistry Division, but, in my most recent membership renewal, due to circumstances beyond my control, I made use of an "Unemployed Member Dues Waiver". This dropped both of my divisions. Interestingly, it kept my local section voluntary membership (which I've never gotten any use out of either....).

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    1. I found that the ACS allowed the Unemployed Member Dues Waiver while allowing Division memberships as late as last year. Moot presently for I'm now employed.

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  3. Mandarin for chemists?

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  4. Couldn't agree with you more. This intangible "sense of belonging" isn't worth the air it's printed on.

    Org Syn was a great ref and had other intangible benefits--like seeing it grow year by year on the shelf over your desk. You'd get really attached to the volume that had a great prep you had to keep going back to, or the one that had the photos of your colleagues in the last couple of years.

    I almost felt bad for the editors of the last few (online) years, especially the first one to go exclusively online (i think it was Peter Wipf?). He and the next guy probably put a decent amount of time and effort in to what they expected to be a real publication, just to have it turned into a searchable website contribution.

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    1. You know, it's far more likely to be read, in my opinion, if you print out some words onto pieces of dead tree and send them to people in the mail. Heck, does Org. Syn. have an RSS feed?

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  5. I could say the same things about membership of the whole ACS, never mind the divisions.

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  6. Yeah I gave up my organic membership too, it definitely was not worth the $15 to me.

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  7. So what would bring you folks back? What do you think about my idea of the video presentations?

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  8. It's $15. Y'all are really complaining about $15? I guess the new generation of chemists was driven to one too many play-dates by mom and dad. Skip a few cups of coffee and stay connected with your peers and future colleagues. The thing I enjoy most about being a member is reading about the grad students who have earned DOC fellowships. They are our future and I'm happy to hear their stories.

    Org Syn goes online and is freely accessible, and this is something to complain about, too? It must be a slow news day.

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    1. You know, $15 would buy me a hell of a lot of coffee, since I make my own coffee at home.

      I actually think the DOC fellowships are a good idea and something to celebrate.

      Org Syn was online and freely accessible before they decided to get rid of the booklets. The money for the booklets went to another DOC fellowship, as I recall.

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    2. And you know what? $15 is a lot of money.

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    3. $15 for coffee, or a book, or anything is one thing. $15 for nothing is something else entirely. They charged us a price, then removed the only thing we received for it, and now we all we get is a lot of feeling of community. The community of suckers paying something for nothing, apparently.

      Anyway, thanks for the trolling, anonymous (clever name, btw). As with yesterday's Chembark and the ever-present defenders of Harran, every statement or position can be countered and/or dismissed in one way or another.

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  9. Back when I started undergrad research, one of the first reactions that I did came out of the brown OrgSyn books. My advisor had them lined up on his book shelf. I was excited when I joined the ACS and ORGN because I wanted my own collections of those brown books. Well, I joined just in time to get one volume and then they quit publishing them. I was actually pretty down about that, but like you, every year I've paid my money. This year, though, when my membership came due in September, I just didn't have the money to afford ACS membership much less the extra $15 for ORGN. Maybe I can come up with the money at the beginning of next year, but I don't know if it's worth joining any of the divisions.

    The other thing that gets me is that since I now live in Japan, it seems I'm not eligible for any of the travel grants, which I think is crap. As long as I'm a dues paying member, why can't I get a travel grant?

    Now I really have no reason to be a member of the divisions.

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    1. I have been told that it is possible to be a DOC member without being an ACS member. It means that you will not be able to vote in Society-wide elections. (A loss?)

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