C&EN: You haven’t started on the job yet, but do you have a concept of two or three of the biggest challenges that ACS faces over the next five years and what needs to be done to address those?
Connelly: One is globalizing the reach of ACS. It is the leading professional scientific society within the field of chemistry. ACS has a tremendous amount to bring to practicing chemists and chemical engineers in other parts of the world.
Parallel to that, the chemical industry has different needs from what it had in the past. The industry has become more globalized. Making ACS a continuing resource for industrial chemists and engineers, both those in the established markets and those in the developing world, is another area where we can have increased impact.
Another challenge involves education in its multiple dimensions. On one level, there’s the scientific awareness of the general public. I’m cautious about making statements on that because that is such a vast problem that nobody owns it entirely. But I think ACS can be an important voice.
In education, at the university level the U.S. is the gold standard, particularly when you talk about chemical research graduate education. We need to maintain that, and we need a steady stream of young people coming in through the K–12 system who are excited about chemistry and the chemical sciences. I think that is where ACS can play an increasingly important role. The American Association of Chemistry Teachers is a tremendous initiative. Many of my colleagues and friends talk about the high school teacher who was so influential in shaping their careers and shaping their decision to go into the chemical sciences.
Of course, I understand the importance of the publishing businesses at ACS. They are on the right track. There are some competitive threats out there. But that’s business. There’s always going to be competition. It makes you better and keeps you on your game. ACS brings tremendous strengths to those areas. We’re the envy of the people who might aspire to compete with us. But it’s not a birthright that you’ll always have that position.I hate to repeat myself, but it is apparent to me that high unemployment for recent B.S. graduates or recently high unemployment for ACS members is not a concern for the new ACS CEO.