Please Vote for ACS President

October 28th, 2013

cenfc_kit_250For those of you who are members of the American Chemical Society, online voting for the national election is open and will close on November 15th. You can find your ballot instructions by searching your e-mail inbox for a message from the domain “vres.us”. Your vote is especially important—annual turnout is usually very low (~15%).

You can view the candidates’ official statements in C&EN here:

Bryan Balazs
Chuck Kolb
Diane Schmidt

The candidates’ official Web sites are here:

Balazs
Kolb
Schmidt

The candidates’ answers to ChemBark’s annual questionnaire are here:

Balazs
Kolb
Schmidt (updated 11/1)

The candidates’ answers to Chemjobber’s questionnaire on #chemjobs are here:

Balazs
Kolb
Schmidt (updated 10/31)

 


36 Responses to “Please Vote for ACS President”

  1. Rhenium Says:

    So a clarification, was Diane Grob Schmidt planning on responding and never did, or did she never indicate that she was going to respond?

  2. Paul Bracher Says:

    I never received a response of any kind. I’m not sure about Chemjobber.

    If Schmidt does respond, I’ll post her answers as soon as possible.

  3. Rhenium Says:

    Thanks.
    Minor quibble, Kolb questions link redirects to his website.

  4. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Rhenium: Thanks! I think all the links are correct now.

  5. Chemjobber Says:

    On October 3, Dr. Schmidt did respond to me with her intention to answer the questions but that her responses would be delayed ; I haven’t received any response since then.

  6. bad wolf Says:

    15%? That’s funny, the turnout in sideshow elections in totalitarian states (to “elect” the candidate with no power) is usually much higher.

  7. Chemjobber Says:

    I got a response from Dr. Schmidt this morning; her item will go up tomorrow.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    ACS elections close in 3 days (November 15): I hope all of you got a chance to vote for the ACS Elections for President elect and other positions. As a supporter of Bryan Balazs, I would like all of you to consider voting for him. You can find more information about him @ http://www.bryanbalazs.com
    Thanks!

  9. Bryan Balazs Says:

    To the Nov. 12 at 1:39 PM poster: Thank you! I’m honored and humbled by the chance to be ACS President, and as always, I will answer each and every question that you send to me by email. Given that some days bring hundreds of emails from ACS members pertaining to the election and my thoughts about chemistry and the profession, please grant me sufficient time for a response. I will get to all of them, promise!

  10. Umbisam Says:

    Hi Bryan. I noticed in Google Scholar that there is both a GB Balazs and a G Balazs. Are you both? Any post-doc experience? Thanks.

  11. Bryan Balazs Says:

    My first name starts with “G”, and I use my middle name “Bryan”, so my guess is that both are me. Yes, I did a post-doc for two years after completing my Ph.D. in 1992.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Looks like we finally (or for the first time?) have a candidate (Bryan Balazs) who cares to interact with the members. How come the other two candidates don’t bother responding to comments? I guess they are like mainstream politicians who just like to make statements and move on!

  13. Bryan Balazs Says:

    I believe that I do offer something different to members in my approach to the ACS President role. My goal is to hear from as many people as possible before making any decisions, and I don’t bring my own “agenda” or “corporate-speak” to the position. I believe that I have the personality and leadership approach necessary for this role, but I need all of you to tell me what’s on your mind. Grant me a bit of time to respond to your comments, given that there are dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of you typing, with only one of me to respond. Please do help educate me as to what the issues are, though. Thank you! – Bryan

  14. Chemjobber Says:

    As I recall, Tom Barton is/was fairly active in the comments here. (low bar, of course.)

    Gotta say, appreciate Dr. Balazs’ willingness to comment.

  15. Umbisam Says:

    Bryan, if you get elected my suggestion is to focus energy and creativity on jobs. I don’t know how much lobbying power the ACS has, but there’s a lot of money in Washington. Find a way to get this money distributed to chemists in the form of jobs (not mega-grants or mega salaries for one individual). Build more national labs, but not all in the same place. Obviously the ACS doesn’t build labs, but do you have lobbying power to get the fedral money in our court? Also, we need to dispel the idea that the only thing chemists do is synthesize organic molecules. Particularly at national labs, I have found a bias against chemists at national labs in favor of engineers when a research task involves something other than making an organic molecule. Obviously the ACS represents both, so you can’t make an us vs. them situation. Didn’t the ACS recently have a panel of experts suggest that the two departments become merged?

  16. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    @Dr Balazs
    The USA really could use a slightly more German-like approach to technology development; although the Germans have gone a bit overboard. (Don’t get me started on the Frauenhofer Institute.) Basically, have research institutes in, say, every State with cheap land, cheap power, and low cost of living. Some can focus on applied work and get funds from both public (Federal and State) and private sources. Others can focus on the “discovery” work at research institutes, and collaborate with the applied institutes on patents when a Natural Law is vetted and ready to be applied.

    Make sure all finances and funding are fully transparent if public funds are used (and quite frankly, if they’re private as well). The public will give us money if they can see a clear ROI: job creation, technology development, and the birth and growth of new industries must be clearly linked to this work for which they provided the initial investment.

    This would create stable lab tech jobs for people with PhDs and Masters. (Many really would like to do “real lab work” for a living, and have others communicate their results.) Have “research-only” PIs who do not have to teach classes and only take very advanced students, and usually hire permanent staff. Encourage collaboration with high school, undergrad, and grad programs to get kids internships that lead to stable, reasonably paid positions. Create these jobs at a slow, steady rate; and try to ensure that overproduction of specialized degrees does not occur and that students have useful, generalized credentials that will get them stable work. (By “stable” I mean: 5 to 7 year contracts, with the promise of renewal given reasonable productivity.)

    The university professors are trying to do everything right now, and it’s driving whole fields mildly schizophrenic. The profs need to be teaching, we have kids dying in labs due to lack of proper safety training.

    Also: fields like cancer research and drug discovery could do with a bit of impartial replication. (You could have “Reproducibility Institutes” and hire a whole army of pippetters!) These could be funded in part or in whole by the military- they’re usually good at large scale projects that need serious organization and adherence to protocols.

  17. Bryan Balazs Says:

    @Umbisam
    Jobs is a very big item on my list of priorities, as talent not hired is talent wasted in our quest to remain at the forefront of technological competitiveness. The ACS has to be a little careful as a non-profit organization, in that we can advocate for chemistry and an environment that fosters the creation of jobs, but we run afoul of The Tax Man if we lobby. I thank you for your points!

    @DrStelling
    Having spent a year in Germany doing research, I can attest to some of the models of German efficiency that you point out. To be honest, I need to do some thinking on this one, as it is complex. Any others that can weigh in on some of the thoughts Allison has?

  18. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree the issue is a complex one. And, one that will require some careful thinking. You’re got a whole generation of rather disenchanted youth on your hands, and the fact that industry does not want to shell out for “discovery research” & stable research positions.

    I wrote a short essay about STEM educational issues that compared and contrasted the American and German systems. There’s a flowchart for “STEM Degree” timelines & options at the back. “Industry PhD/PI” can also be thought of as “Research-only-institute PI”, I view this as a work in progress. And, me trying to explain to my Dad (an English major from Cal Poly) just what the heck happened to American Science.

    https://peerj.com/preprints/3/
    “How to turn USA science degrees into science careers”
    Abstract: This essay discusses the current situation in USA Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) higher education. Possible solutions to the current “skills gap” facing an entire generation of young Americans are considered. It is put forth that an “Industry PhD” may be helpful for guiding the next generation of scientists into stable careers in the sciences. Discovery science, wherein one discovers natural laws of the universe, requires a different toolkit than one needs for doing applied science. This is the proposed “Academic PhD” track. Applied science is usually focused around a three to five year targeted plan, with a directly patentable application as the “end product”. Discovery science usually takes longer, and is by its very nature uncertain. However, one must discover natural laws before one can apply and patent them. Both “Academic PhD” and “Industry PhD” tracks are required for healthy economic growth in industrial nations.
    —————————————————————————————-

    I have also noticed that many chemists who are phenomenal, highly intelligent, ground breaking, extremely productive researchers are also, at the same time, rather terrible teachers (at the basic levels, at least). Which is FINE. But it’s unfair to both the students and the scientists to force these people to teach.

  19. eugene Says:

    “Any others that can weigh in on some of the thoughts Allison has?”

    It’s not only the institutes that are a good thing in Germany. Also during the economic crisis before this one, the government made a deal with many companies to subsidize salaries and for companies to only employ people 4 days a week with a 3 day weekend. That kept a lot of people from being fired and a lot actually enjoyed the longer 3 day weekend (despite the lower salary). When business picked up again, the companies had a lot of loyal workforce to step in again immediately. This could be something that is suggested to government and business in the USA in the future to think about when the next crisis hits.

    Unfortunately, one of the most important factors in economics is demography and Germany is doing badly on that, and it has the potential to wipe out all their economic gains in the future. That’s something the ACS can do nothing about however, just keep in mind that it’s not necessarily a failed experiment if the GDP doesn’t grow and conversely things are not always great for chemists in the USA while the GDP growth is strong.

  20. Bryan Balazs Says:

    Eugene, I totally agree with you about the connection between economics and demographics. If you overlay a plot of the growth in US GDP since the early 1960s (about when the baby boomers came of working age) with the number of workers in the labor force (say post-high school age to age 60 or so), the plots are almost identical. What does this tell us? GDP is driven by the demographics of the workforce. This connection hasn’t worked out well for countries with aging populations and a declining number in the workforce, and the US is starting to feel the pressures of this relationship as boomers age. Time will tell how all this turns for the US, but these are things our government should be thinking about (and maybe they are amidst all the other distractions).

    But I digress from Allison’s original topic about Germany. Yes, Germany made some important changes in the economics of its workforce in the early 2000s and are benefiting as a result of this. They also are an export-driven economy with an efficient workforce (relative to others in the EU) and a ready world market for their precision products. Both of you have pointed out some other positive attributes of the German economy relative to R&D.

    With that, I gotta jump on a plane back to the West Coast after a short visit to Virginia!

  21. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    OK: I just had a bit of a discussion with my boyfriend, an Irish theoretical physicist who does quantum screening of alloys etc with DFT. (He collaborates a lot with Berkeley.) He was in Germany longer than me (I was there about 4 years), and is more familiar with the history of the German situation.

    Europeans, and Germans in particular, view “the economy” as a means to an end. It is meant to provide useful things, like cheap and good health care for the entire population. Good, free schools for their children. It is meant to provide vacations (the Germans I worked with would get annoyed if I didn’t take my allocated vacation time- they see working too much as “unhealthy” and “inefficient”). Or solid products that reduce the amount of time they need to spend working. They “do it once, they do it right, and they do it quick” and seek to minimize the amount of labor while maximizing the output. Thus, they spend less time fixing bungled jobs; and more time innovating ways to increase efficiency. So they can go on vacation. Or they go learn something- recreational learning is a way of life for many in the EU.

    Meanwhile, the USA creates useless work just to keep themselves “busy”- and we see this as “job creation”. Americans see work- and “economic growth”- as an end in and of itself, with no “product” like “an educated population” that can “innovate new ways of building things”. The American approach results in bad products and an unhealthy, uneducated workforce.

    Now, Germany is not entirely sunshine and roses. There are disturbing inter-generational power imbalances (some of which I see in the USA as well). There’s a distinct tilt in the funding system towards applied products that fails to grasp the need for discoveries to be made before laws may be applied and products patented. I can’t really blame them for this given they need to pay of Greece, but it does strike me as a bit myopic.

    So: what can you do about it? Many of these issues are very deep-seated in America- a sort of reflection of the adage “idle hands are the Devil’s playthings”. Work in and of itself is seen as a virtue- which is grand when the work produces something useful (like “health insurance”), but can be damaging to the population as a whole when careers are build upon “busywork” that requires little to no education.

    What societies like the ACS can do is start nation wide, standardized science curricula that can be distributed to teachers for free or at low cost. Increasing the general level of education in the sciences should be seen as a national security issue. I’ve taught many kids at this point in my career, in many countries. The American ones just are not measuring up in terms of quality of education.

    I’m not sure what the best course of action is, but we do need to do something soon, and on a large scale if we are going to actually start making a dent into problems like cancer that is already starting to kill my parent’s generation. Compared to curing cancer, the Manhattan Project was cheap, easy, and fast. We need to replicate work in parallel in labs across the nation- the solution will be for all States to work together. We need to work with our international partners as well; especially China. No single person, institute, city, State, country or scientific discipline can manage this on their own.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Here’s something concrete that I’d like to see an ACS president address – the issue of post-doctoral fellowships in federal labs and agencies only being available to persons who are no more than 5 years out from having earned their PhDs.

    This is a real hardship on 1. Chemists who want to switch areas of research, and would be willing to do so again as a post-doc in a federal lab, but who are past the 5-year mark. 2. Chemists who would like to work for the federal government in a variety of roles (research, policy, regulatory, and so on), but find that that many federal workplaces only hire from within their fellowship pools, which puts such chemists immediately out of the running.

    I myself ran into this problem – a supervisory chemist at a federal agency has an opening for a PhD with my background; he contacted me by phone about taking a fellowship, only to have me remind him of the 5-year cut-off. Unfortunately for him, and me, and his agency, he had to rescind any interest in hiring me.

    It’s my understanding that this 5-year mark is not set in law, but has simply been a practice that has developed over time.

    Would you be willing to address this with federal agencies?

    Since I’m posting, I’d just like to add something – I’ve worked in the chemical industry for most of my career. 95% of the time I have not been doing busywork – I’ve been doing work, period. I have also had the pleasure of having worked with chemists from Canada, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain. American industrial chemists are just as focused, well-trained, and efficient as chemists from those countries. Although our educational systems may be different, ours is not inferior to those in other Western countries.

  23. Chemjobber Says:

    I agree entirely with Anon853 on the federal postdoc issue.

  24. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    @Anon:

    I found in the EU that while the American science education system up to the undergrad level is, well, seen as a bit of a scam; our grad programs are still well thought of. Of course, many of our grad programs are not taking American-educated applicants anymore. I know PIs that do not hire postdocs from their own schools anymore, as the quality and work ethic of non-American young scientists is just so much higher. (They also hire from the good State schools, actually- they’re mostly avoiding the Ivy League types. This is due in part to grade inflation, which started to get really bad in the 1990s. Lord knows not everyone- or even most!- of us “kids” are bad apples- but there’s enough in my generation that PIs are getting quite wary.)

    As to postdocs- we need to set up more institutes, separate from universities, and hire the excess we have created (esp. in biomed). We do need these people, but they killed Bell Labs, and the biomed/pharma companies are starting to go the way of the dinosaurs. They refuse to invest in the discovery research- and the staff scientists required to perform it- that is needed to galvanize the production of novel products. Germany solves this issue with its private/public funded research institutes that companies can contract to get cost-effective research done in a large lab they could not otherwise afford.

    These institutes need to be permanently funded and offer stable 5 to 7 year contracts with renewals. (I’ve long given up on the idea that tenure will still be around in the future. I just want some stability. I was strung out on 6 month contracts in Germany for a while, it’s impossible to get any work done under those conditions. Science takes time, I can’t do 100 measurements a day because tissue cells takes weeks to grow.) You’d want to put them in places that are cheap to live in, too- so no NY or SF or Boston or LA or Seattle.

  25. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    PS

    The UK does institutes as well- even “pure research” ones like Rutherford Appleton Labs where I did part of my PhD work. They hire physics and physical chemistry PhDs just to take care of and make novel lasers for various “discovery research” applications. These are permanent staff scientist positions. You don’t make what a banker makes, but at least your job is stable and you get to discover things all day…..

  26. Graet Chem Says:

    @Allison

    It’s nice to see some positive comments about the UK research sector (we are generally relentless bashed on all sides internally). However, although we do do research institutes we are neither consistent nor particular good on how they are created and administered. Mainland Europe provides much better examples of these organisations that bridge the commercial/academic divide. Leading examples in my opinion are the Frauenhofer Society in Germany, TNO in the Netherlands and SINTEF in Norway.

  27. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    @GC

    Agreed Germany leads the way for this sort of institute science- you can’t swing a stick in Dresden without hitting a small Institute for Applied Something to do with Polymers. Or Genes. Or Nano-something. What they lack is a graduate school like system for students that permits for more fluid interdisciplinary communication (not to mention prevents, ah, “abuse” from PIs); although I know the Max Planck PI types are working on that. (One of my former thesis students is in their new Master’s Program for Nanobiophysics, and I’ve been keeping track of their progress.)

    In fact, what really seems to be the issue with such institutes is the huge variations in quality of production (like papers and patents) you can see even within the same city, the same institution. This happens in all nations, I think; and of course across different disciplines you get different measure of “quality” which also complicates the issue.

    I had a great time with the British spectroscopists, at least! And the flavin photoprotein project I started in the Tonge lab just got renewed funding for a few more trips, so that’s exciting. I just saw a bunch of them at a conference where we caught up– couldn’t speak to other sub-fields in UK, but this one seems like it’s working to me…..

    I did have a bad experience with Frauenhofer, but I respect the idea behind it and think the States could stand to emulate a few things about it. (It’s like they’re trying to force all the kids to be engineers, heh. Can’t blame ‘em, but some kids just are not that type of scientist!)

    While we’re on the topic, the USA does have some of its own institutes— don’t know how they are run; although I did visit Brookhaven to take some IRs once. And they do seem….few and far between for such a large nation, and usually oddly beholden to the universities.

  28. Umbisam Says:

    “How many potential future Nobel Prize winners are struggling to find research support today, or have been sent home on furlough? How many of them are wondering if they should do something else – or move to another country?” – Francis Collins, Director of NIH.

    I would add, how many of them are unemployed and can’t find a job? How many of them completed a post-doc and can’t find employment in a research setting? I’d rather have my funding cut or be furloughed than not be able to find any job.

  29. Chemjobber Says:

    C&EN has tweeted that Diane Grob Schmidt has won the ACS presidency. Congratulations to her.

  30. Bryan Balazs Says:

    As one of the candidates, I can say that it was an honor to be able to run for President, and I wish Diane all the best in her three-year presidential succession. Keep the comments coming, folks! Cheers, Bryan

  31. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    @BB

    You seen this yet? Maybe send it on to the new prez. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6160/817.full

    “This change drives a shift toward appropriable R&D, that is, more “D” and less “R,” because that is the kind of investment that more likely yields products and services that can get to the market quickly, thus yielding returns for the investors who invest in the companies that fund the work. The federally funded fraction, which has been decreasing, is the less appropriable part, the part that is a public good—the seed corn.”

    “The current situation is dangerous. Short-term actions in a time of budget crisis and financial austerity might become the triggers of long-term underinvestment in the ultimate fuel of economic growth, basic research in science.”

  32. Bryan Balazs Says:

    Allison, thanks. I have not seen this particular statement, but I have read many articles on the overall topic of sacrificing the “seed corn” research work to fund short-term work to bring existing technologies to market. I agree it is not a good situation to be in. Diane Schmidt will become ACS President-Elect January 1st, and there will be an email address where you can convey these thoughts to her directly at that time.

  33. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    One thing that may be Helpful is if us scientists stopped calling it “basic” research. (The author does this all through the article.)

    I know by “basic” we mean “fundamental”, but I fear politicians and taxpayers may just think “not useful”. Maybe use “fundamental” or “discovery” or “essential” science, instead. We have to convince taxpayers to re-activate the USA’s investment in its children.

    “and there will be an email address where you can convey these thoughts to her directly at that time.”

    Are you sure that this is something that should be handled with private communication methods? I respect the need for privileged/confidential information and exchanges- but, is the current state of chemistry research and jobs in America not something that should be discussed on the record, in public……?

  34. Bryan Balazs Says:

    @Allison, I agree that this is a topic worthy of public discussion.

  35. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    @Bryan, I suspect American chemists like you, at your level, need to convince others at a similar level to engage in “Internet Discourse” that isn’t privately controlled email.

    Everyone’s inboxes are flooded right now in any case. Bringing certain issues (like the jobs situation) into any public forum may be quite beneficial to us youngsters- and may help ease the flooding a bit.

    I’ve been working with the NCBI on PubMed Commons (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedcommons/), which I think may be very helpful for students to learn from, amongst other things. What’s interesting about it is that comments are fully citable and you cannot comment anonymously. (You can also edit and delete your own comments.) So, this could be a quick way to do short “Letters to the Editor”. I’m advocating for Moderators, but this may not go over too well with the community. (I for one both respect and fear my physical chemistry Editors, but this does not hold across fields.)

    PubMed Commons is really for biomedical folks, though. I know not every chemical or physical sub-field really needs its own website of publicly available discourse from experts- some are simply too small and too specialized to warrant such action. However, this could be invaluable to students in larger, broader fields; as well as to journalists and the general public, who do- at the end of the day- have a right to view the conversation, if not participate in it.

    There’s also the issue of the death of the generations before us. We have a whole generation of highly experienced scientists that are going to die, fairly soon. I’d love it if they had the opportunity to easily record their thoughts on the literature. My Grandpa Stelling died while I was in Germany. He was a chemical engineer, out of Purdue. He paid for it by serving in the Army Core of Engineers, and went on to do a lot of work for the USA nuclear program. (And, with only an undergrad degree!) I wish he had been given this opportunity to record his thoughts prior to his death, as I was so busy earning my PhD (the first in my family) that I never had the opportunity to …. talk with him.

  36. Umbisam Says:

    In case anyone was worried that the economy might take a toll on hard-working people at the ACS, no worries. http://chemjobber.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-latest-acs-form-990.html?showComment=1385495284771#c3952877219027214397


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