Monday, December 4, 2017

Your morning raised eyebrow

Also in this week's issue of C&EN, an article by outgoing ACS Board of Directors chair Pat N. Confalone: 
My watch began in 2007 just when the financial markets were on the verge of collapse and the Great Recession was about to commence. 
Working closely with ACS management, the board of directors had to take immediate action guided by the ACS finance department. Those were difficult days that required hard choices such as freezing the defined contribution retirement plan, capping the society’s financial contributions to the retiree medical plan, calling for a hiring freeze along with a workforce reduction, and eliminating open requisitions for new hires. Without these difficult steps, the society would have become technically insolvent in 2008 to 2009. 
As employment in the chemical industry began to track the downward spiral in the general economy, we ramped up the many services for unemployed chemists and established an entrepreneurial initiative to help members interested in chemically based start-ups. 
Fortunately, those challenging years are largely behind us, allowing for a laser focus on all the wonderful programs that ACS offers.
It's not clear to me that 1) services for unemployed chemists were significantly ramped up, or that spending on these services was dramatically increased and 2) that these challenging years are largely behind us. Naturally, people are going to point to the lower ACS Salary Survey unemployment rates, and I am going to point back to the fact that the median ACS member salary has stagnated when measured against inflation. 'Twas ever thus, including senior ACS volunteer leadership patting themselves on the back for unclear outcomes and NOT preparing the Society's domestic members for the next recession.

*It is AMAZING to me that the only nod to enabling member careers is about entrepreneurship in Chair Confalone's 21 Board accomplishments and responsibilities. If the answer from the American Chemical Society's Board to "help me with my career in chemistry" is "make your own job", then what's the point of the ACS?


  1. And how does the compensation of the ACS executives track versus that of their membership?

  2. Some of us who have been following some of the board directors over the years, let me say this. They did nothing, and I repeat, Zilch! Filling their coffer was important to them, and the rest were forsaken! And, now all these crocodile tears and such is too little, too late.

  3. Let me point out that one of the things that every goddamned President likes to point out with regards to employment is the career counseling they offer. Let me clarify that career counselors are A) frequently unavailable because B) they're VOLUNTEERS from the society. ACS doesn't have full-time career counselors and they never have. Rightfully so because it's an UNPAID position. They get helpful people who are willing to assist other members and then claim victory over unemployment. So where this money they claim to have spent ended up going I have no idea. Maybe they gave a bonus to Confalone for coming up with it, that would fit with ACS politics.

    But in the interest of fairness, I did find nice job leads through their site multiple times so that service has helped my personal unemployment rate.

  4. I will take ACS's employment related resources more seriously when they bring down Postdoctoral scholar's membership dues and conference registration fees. As long as they list postdocs as "gainfully employed" and list us in the "black column" - purely for inflating employment numbers, it safe to think that they have not understood the real problem!

  5. Well, Confalone is former Dupont management. What else would you expect from him?

  6. If "entrepreneurship" means starting a side business so I can remain underpaid in my day job, then ACS is doing a great job.

    Non-sarcastically, though, it has been a real eye-opener for me. It's an obvious thing to say, but there are more opportunities outside of chemistry than inside.

  7. I do not want to make this political. I repeat I do not want to make this political. This kind of palaver is the same crap we have all been fed for years by an organization filled with swamp. The major focus of the ACS for my 45 years of membership has been to advance the egos, pocket books and DC cocktail party invites of the senior managers.

  8. "laser focus on all the wonderful programs that ACS offers"
    Such as?
    Who is paying for this garbage and why?

  9. My view is that the ACS is a vibrant consortium of thriving local groups who are forced, for some reason, to send off some of their money to a national office where little of value is created, except C&EN. Curt F.