Monday, September 14, 2015

What would you ask an ACS presidential candidate?

Also in this week's C&EN, the presidential candidates make their statements: 
Readers, I plan to send the candidates a 4-question questionnaire. In the past, we've asked the following 4 questions: 
1. Which ACS program do you think best helps the job-seeking ACS member? How would you improve it?
2. Is it ACS policy to get more students to study in STEM fields, specifically chemistry? If so, how do we reconcile the fact that wages for chemists are stagnant or falling? Does this argue against the idea of a STEM shortage and the need for more STEM students?
3. Each ACS president candidate, for at least the past decade, knows the challenging job market facing ACS members and inevitably speaks of "growing jobs" in the US. Specifically, what tangible steps would you take to increase the number of chemistry jobs in the US, and is this something you think is really achievable?
4. How would you describe ACS' response to the Great Recession and the increase in unemployment amongst its members? How should ACS respond to similar situations in the future?
Readers, what questions would you ask? I intend to keep #2 and #3 (or, at least, to have similar questions.) Knowing whether or not ACS presidential candidates buy into the "STEM shortage" is important to me, as well as what steps they actually will take. 


  1. It's also important to know whether they believe that there enough talented and qualified chemists available to fill positions. A candidate may not believe there's a shortage, but are they willing to admit that there may be a glut?

  2. For Q3, maybe add a proviso that "will study the issue" is neither tangible nor specific.....

  3. In the past decade, what was the one action of any ACS President that has had the greatest influence--good or bad--on members' employment and careers?

  4. Which "transferable skill" do you think sets chemists apart from other STEM disciplines when applying for jobs?

  5. Bryan Balazs, Candidate for ACS PresidentSeptember 14, 2015 at 5:35 PM

    As many readers of CJ's blog know, I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the questions. As soon as the questions are finalized, of course!

  6. On #3, you're likely to get the same boiler plate responses from everyone. Perhaps having a follow up question on ranking specific strategies that will best increase chemjobs? Don't know all the strategies you could list, but a question like, which of these do you think would best increase jobs and should ACS advocate for? a) increased grant funding b) more training in entrepreneurship c) shifting funding from academia to more SBIRs d) retraining postdocs

    I've just listed a few I've heard; I'm sure there are many others. Of those I listed, C seems like the only one to me that might tangibly help the job market but given the demographics of ACS membership wouldn't go over well. A&B seem like basically scientists begging for more money to fund more students. D might help a few older PhD scientists at the margin who are stuck in dead fields.

  7. CJ, you wrote in your question #3:
    "Specifically, what tangible steps would you take to increase the number of chemistry jobs in the US, and is this something you think is really achievable?"

    Considering how the ACS is this week sponsoring a program having the goal of assisting in obtaining Green Cards, it's not clear that your sort of question can be creditably proposed without recollecting real examples of what the priorities of the ACS management really do stand for.

    Wasn't there a well-known public speaker who proclaimed "judge me not by my words, but rather by my actions!" ?

    I would ask if you would be willing to put forth a more logical challenge to the candidates. For example, why not ask them how they specifically intend to change the ACS in a way which contributes to bringing the job market back into balance with the over-supply of chemists - whatever that takes. Ahem.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20