ACS Chemistry Enterprise 2015 report predicts strong growth, expanding markets

Looking ahead a decade, experts predict strong growth, expanding markets and increased capacity for the Chemistry Enterprise.

This vision for the future is contained in “The Chemistry Enterprise 2015,” a report recently issued by the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. Throughout 2005, then ACS President William F. Carroll, Jr., Ph.D., led a Society-wide effort to anticipate how chemistry will change by 2015. The focus was on education, industry and government.

The objective was to gather information about what the 2015 landscape will look like, so chemical scientists might better prepare for those changes and take appropriate action. The full report, which is based on a year-long series of discussions and symposia, is available at: http://chemistry.org/chemistryenterprise2015.html

Following are highlights of the report:

  • Multidisciplinary Activity. Multidisciplinary research will be increasingly common in the next 10 years. Ultimately, it often will be difficult to identify a project’s disciplinary origin. Strength in basic chemistry, however, still will be essential to advances in all of molecular science, and chemists will need to be carefully trained in the science and able to communicate with other related disciplines.

  • Globalization. A greater fraction of chemical manufacturing will take place in Asia, but investment returns from the global enterprise will flow back to the United States. As the standard of living increases in Asia, labor costs will rise and salaries will rise most rapidly for the best and the brightest scientists. This will decrease, but not eliminate, the pressure for U.S. companies to shift activities offshore.

  • Energy and Raw Materials. By 2015, at least one new nuclear power facility will be built in the United States; China will have a significant investment in nuclear energy, which will create more jobs for chemists and other scientists.

  • Research and Innovation. By 2015, barring new emergencies, the research portfolio will include a return to more long-term research. Funding will remain the major challenge for research and development. Chemistry is unlikely to abandon the single-investigator model, but multidisciplinarity and the expense of research will drive many individual investigators toward collaborative work at centers where they can obtain access to expensive yet essential infrastructure.

  • Education and Institutional Structure. By 2015, university faculties will be more representative of the U.S. population in terms of gender and ethnicity. Graduate-student enrollment will lead to greater use of undergraduate teaching assistants and peer-led teaching. In some cases the number and duration of lower-level laboratory classes may be reduced.

  • Workforce. There will be increased representation at all levels for women and minorities — on both technical and managerial tracks. Chemists will still work primarily in industry, although perhaps in smaller companies and in a wider variety of careers rather than just in the field of chemistry.

  • Government Research Funding. Investment in science, technology and education will need to compete with spending on national security and social programs. To maintain strong support for science, chemists must show the value that science and educated practitioners can provide and demonstrate that federal research dollars are a strong economic investment.

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The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.


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