Friday, October 10, 2014

ACS presidential candidates on #chemjobs issues

The relevant portion of the 3 ACS presidential candidates, presented in order that they were published in the September 8 edition of C&EN. 

Peter K. Dourhout:
...2. I believe that the solution to our economic woes and the employment outlook resides with us as ACS members... 
...Employment Solutions. I believe that the solution to our economic woes and changing the employment outlook resides with us as ACS members. To paraphrase the comic strip character Pogo: “I have seen the solution, and it is us.” Our talented members are agents for change—no need to add new programs to ACS. Let’s rally around the things we do already to promote jobs: local section and division activities, career services, international and entrepreneurship centers, and leadership development, to name a few. I will build on the partnership with Corporation Associates and engage the Committee on Professional Training, the Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Division, the Graduate Education Advisory Board, the Leadership Institute, and the Committee on Technician Affairs in discourse and action. We can leverage what we have already to make a difference and advocate for an environment that supports jobs in the chemical sciences...
William A. Lester:
...This quickly gets us to the employment sector and current realities. That times are difficult is a statement of the obvious as young people strive for employment in sectors that they have studied to work in. At the same time, we recognize that some people who work in these sectors are confronting issues of continued employment. We must work to assist in identifying optimum ways of assisting these important problem areas that impact our membership and society more broadly....
Donna J. Nelson:
A difficult time for chemistry. At the Dallas ACS meeting, it was reported that 16% of young chemists remain unemployed six months after graduation. In industry, many chemists have experienced employment problems for years. ACS can’t directly create new jobs to solve these problems, but we ACS members can deduce and address factors that destabilize STEM employment. 
The balance between STEM jobs and job candidates is out of equilibrium for multiple reasons. First, in the Sputnik years of the 1960s, there were too few chemists. We met the challenge but later ignored the fact that mergers and outsourcing decreased jobs. Second, the media influenced public opinion against STEM, causing a decrease in STEM funding and ultimately its available jobs. Third, chemistry is increasingly a global community and enjoys drawing the best and brightest from across the world. The impact of all of these must be addressed now. 
Appreciation produces jobs. Chemists’ creativity gave the world vital benefits and luxuries, and producing future benefits and luxuries is dependent upon our continued creativity. But this is possible only if science is appreciated and funded sufficiently to employ them. Most chemistry jobs are and will continue to be in industry, which needs public appreciation and support to thrive. This support will foster balanced regulations, greater funding for research, and more jobs for chemists. Increasing employment for chemists will enhance education, the work environment, meetings, publications, and research—improving employment in academe, government, and elsewhere. But the general public is not familiar enough with chemistry to appreciate and support chemists as they deserve to be so that chemistry will thrive. I will find opportunities for this to improve.
Readers, if you have questions that you'd like me to ask, I would be willing to contact the candidates like I did last year. 


  1. Wow, what an impressive collection of nothing statements.

    I don't know if "I believe that the solution to our economic woes and the employment outlook resides with us as ACS members" is more meaningless than "Appreciation produces jobs".

    This: "We must work to assist in identifying optimum ways of assisting these important problem areas that impact our membership and society more broadly" is also pretty good.

    Do these guys think what they're saying has any merit?

    I'd love to hear a specific, concrete, proposal from any of these clowns. Until then, I guess the ACS can just keep synergizing its paradigms using a green field strategy coupled with a blue sky. I'll bet some is whiteboarding that as we speak.

  2. These statements read like they were made by the Pointy-Haired Boss in the Dilbert cartoon series.

    I especially like the "keep doing what we are doing" strategy. They say that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing but expecting to get different results.

  3. At least they are aware of problems, but I think there is little that can be done. Jobs will continued to be insourced (academia) and outsourced (industry) as long as they can possibly be. The only way to win is to come up with creative ideas that have societal value. I know its as much of a problem with my abilities as much as I complain about immigration.

  4. Dr Dourhout seems to want to stay the course. I see little that would shake up the status quo. Dr Nelson seems to grasp the root of the problem but her proposed solution makes no sense. Necessity and not appreciation is what leads to job creation. I'm all for combating chemphobia and making sure the public appreciates and better understands chemistry, but that's not going to create jobs. I have no idea why she thinks that more funding of STEM would be beneficial - more graduate students is the last thing needed. Unless a change is made to how funds are allocated additional funding would make things worse for individual scientists. Dr Nelson could propose several concrete actions with regards to STEM funding - something as small as designating more of it go to national labs for full time postdoctoral researcher positions instead of R01s to fund graduate students would demonstrate at least some thought on the issue.

  5. Alas, none of the three candidates seems willing to address the status quo issue, through which they became tenured professors and the rest of us are threatened with undeserved economic and intellectual obscurity.

  6. CG, you offered to contact the candidates with questions. Why don't you ask them what their CONCRETE plans would be to address the imbalance between numbers of doctorates granted in the US and commensurate employment opportunities?

    If I were a candidate for this office, then I already have a list of measures which would be on my platform.