Now, as chair of the Member Communities Board (MCB), I am proud to put my name to the outcomes of our member-initiated, member-informed review of RSC Divisions. This new way to organise our subject communities will benefit individual members, member groups, and our science as a whole: the changes we propose will also help to achieve the RSC’s new purpose – to help the chemical science community make the world a better place – ensuring that our subject communities and their activities are better connected and meaningfully contribute to the RSC’s strategy.
It follows from our most recent Governance Review in 2016, the implementation of which included changes to our Board of Trustees (formerly RSC Council), on which I sit, and our governance boards, such as MCB. Together, all of the proposed changes help to modernise the way we think about our communities, how our subject communities help our members contribute to science, technology, education and beyond, and how these communities can work together to help deliver the RSC strategy and to make the world a better place. The changes are also designed to increase engagement by members with the subject communities, as well as the overall impact these communities can achieve.
One of the most obvious changes we’re proposing is to the name: from Division to Community. We want to emphasise how communities of people, from varying sectors, career stages, disciplines and locations work together to advance a specific aspect of chemistry, such as organic or materials chemistry. The improvements go far beyond a name change, though. They will help the members of the subject communities to be better represented, better connected, and better able to influence.
The new subject communities will bring together people from different interest groups, career stages, sectors and disciplines to build consensus, provide holistic views of issues to achieve greater impact. We are making it easier for our communities to collaborate in the cross-sector, interdisciplinary fashion the modern world requires, and support our communities to respond to external drivers with agility. And the new communities provide a clear route for members to contribute their expertise to RSC policy, thought leadership and strategy.
An important part of the proposed changes is the focus on connecting the chemistry community – representing the full breadth of our community no matter where they work or study. You've told us the importance of being able to network with people in your scientific area, and the changes reflect this. By making it easier for members to collaborate within a particular subject community – whether that’s for members in industry, academia, education or beyond – we hope to better enable those valuable connections and greater cross-sector impact.
We will also be creating a new Forum to bring together leaders representing each of the subject communities. This group will facilitate sharing of best practise between our subject communities, identify opportunities for collaboration as well as provide important insights and vision to inform thought leadership and RSC strategy development.
Better meeting the needs of industry
These changes mean that the Industry and Technology Division will no longer exist in its current form. However, a survey of ITD members in 2019 indicated they would prefer to be better integrated on a subject basis; and, as a colleague previously said to me, “most members in industry think of themselves as a subject chemist – I would introduce myself as an analytical chemist rather than an industry chemist.”
The survey also indicated that the focus should be the development of new digital content and communications. We’ve successfully trialled a new offering covering policy, perspectives and thought leadership, innovation and sustainability developments, senior jobs and management skills for industry, and relevant news, events and business networking opportunities. With positive feedback on the trial, we’re aiming to launch this more widely by the end of the year.
Making the transition through 2022
Over the next year, I will be working with the Member Communities Board, our Division Councils and Interest Groups to realise this new way of organising and engaging with our subject communities. The current Divisions will remain throughout, until July 2022, when we officially transition to subject communities. I encourage you to keep an eye out for future communications about this and to share your views with me and RSC staff – through your Division communications and activities – as we move to this new way of organising our subject communities.
I am championing these proposed changes because I firmly believe they are in the best interests of chemistry and of our members. The changes will enable each of us to find, join and contribute to relevant communities; build professional networks, knowledge and opportunities; and to contribute our expertise and insights from our subject communities to the RSC's mission.
Over my 33 years as a member of the RSC, I have seen more changes to our professional body than many – and perhaps fewer changes than some. One thing I have learned though, is that there are no perfect solutions; however, these proposed changes represent the RSC’s unwavering commitment to put all members at the heart of the organisation and to continue our mission to champion the value of the chemical sciences in our ever-changing world for many years to come.