Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Apodaca Challenge: What would I do with the ACS?

Rich Apodaca (the open-source cheminformatics guy) is a long-time reader and commenter on the blog, and he had a really good challenge for me (and for all of us):
I'm curious - you've seen the chemistry jobs situation from a vantage point few chemists have. What should ACS be doing to help its membership? 
Assume ACS is now in the mood to try something bold to address the #chemjobs situation - something it's never done before. Something that could change the rules of the game. Maybe even something with a significant element of financial/existential/credibility risk. 
What would it be?
I am not confident enough in my abilities as a policy wonk that I can offer concrete recommendations about what to do. But since you asked, here are a few ideas that I have:
  • Triple or quadruple funding to the ACS Department of Member Insights and Research so they can: 
    • Do the ChemCensus every year. Increase participation (advertising, paying people?, getting away from self-reporting) so that we get MUCH better information as to what's happening to ACS members. 
    • Expand the scope of the survey to attempt to reach all chemists, not just ACS members. 
    • Do longitudinal tracking of a cohort of chemists, so that we figure out what is happening to chemists over the course of their very long careers. 
    • Talk to member employers to ask them "What are you looking for?" and to drill down
  • Make sure that academics and employers have a much better picture of the hiring market
    • Have ACS representatives (members, ACS employees, whatever) show up at key conferences to give lectures on what the job market looks like. Do this ONLY after the above studies are complete (2-3 years), so that people actually have solid, reliable data. 
  • Offer more benefits to ACS members. Right now, what do you get? A deal on life insurance, C&EN (worth the cost, IMHO) and access to C&EN Jobs. Thaaaat's about it. 
    • Layoff insurance?: For larger companies, there's typically a severance package. That's not the case for smaller companies. Is there a case for ACS-subsidized unemployment insurance that goes past the federal 99-week limit? 
    • Shouldn't there be a list of long-term unemployed ACS members, who somehow get special care? 
  • Last, and craziest: How about a Rooney Rule for the long-term unemployed? For the uninitiated, the Rooney Rule is a rule instituted in the NFL that requires minority coaching candidates to be interviewed (not necessarily hired) for head coaching and other senior general manager type positions. Why not ask employers to consider/talk to/phone interview one long-term (longer than 6 months) unemployed chemist per opening? 
    • Better yet -- why not require recruiters at ACS National Meetings to interview at least one long-term unemployed member? (You could pay them to do it -- give them a break on having a booth, or lower the membership fees for their employees, or something.) 
Those are some pretty half-baked thoughts. The only one that I really, really, really believe in is the first one. If you're in a hole and you want to climb out of it, you have to find out how deep you are. 

Readers, you guys are so much better at me at this stuff. Please, if you had crazy ideas -- what would you do with the ACS? 

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