...Council was livened up with an advisory vote of the Council to the Board, requesting that some of the built in escalator clauses for raising dues and meeting registration costs be held back. I took an interesting turn as the financial health of the national meetings was discussed. I think there is some truth that in the current economic environment salaries do not go up even in line with the CPI; the flat starting salaries and actual declines in salary give cred to that. The dues raise by $4 was a symptom of a larger lack of perceived value of ACS membership by industry members, who now are about the same percentage as academic members.I think Pete's idea is a good one, although I do wonder if the audio/visual broadcast requirements would be pretty high. Convention center WiFi is notoriously slow and I would think that there would be considerable technical challenges. I would be concerned that the revenue would not match the capital outlay. That said, I certainly would be willing to plunk down $50 of my own money to watch live broadcasts of technical presentations of new science in my field.
The truth- evident to all, if not acknowledged- is not that a $4 increase in dues is not going to break anyone- clearly it is not. But it was a nice departure point to highlight the industry problem ACS has, and that recent actions, while welcome, have not stemmed the hemorrhaging. The true extent of the problem is obscured by the changed ACS membership requirements allowing HS chem teachers and others to join (to which I heartily agree), but also the drive to rope in new ACS members (at cut rate dues I might add) in greener pastures overseas, in India and China mainly, but also in old Europe of UK Germany etc. Remove these adjustments and my guess is ACS membership would be in the 140Ks instead of 158K.
As a way to create better value for the 93% of ACS members that do not attend the national meeting and raise some significant $$ from the meeting content that the army of volunteer symposia chairs and their speakers have created, I was able to suggest my "ACS Meeting A La Carte" idea to the full Council - in about 90 seconds no less, an idea that I have been hounding people about since the last Denver meeting in August 2011. Basically prime top level symposia from Divisions should be turned into live webinars that an ACS member stuck in Debuque, Des Moines, Detroit, etc. could participate in for a dirt cheap price of say $10-20 per half day symposia.
Being generous and assuming 160K ACS members and 10% at the meetings, that still leaves 144K members that currently get zero benefit from all the effort that goes into organizing a meeting. If only 10% of those 144K stay at members bought $20 of symposia that is still 14400 X $20 = $288K. Basically the ACS needs to sell the radio and tv rights to "the game" for those that can't make it to the stadium: the hard work of creating the content has already been done. This may finally get some traction.
Also, I am bothered by the seeming continual gaming of ACS membership stats. If the numbers of industrial/academic members who are employed in the United States are falling (and I do not know if they are or are not), then I would think this should be something that should be addressed and talked about. It won't happen in C&EN - so I guess it needs to happen here.