Increasing diversity of U.S. scientists becomes focus of new partnership

SANTA CRUZ, CA – Two of the country’s preeminent scientific societies have agreed to collaborate on initiatives to advance underrepresented minorities in science, specifically in the field of chemistry.

SACNAS, a national society advancing Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in science, and the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, plan to use their combined strengths and resources to engage in public policy efforts, to promote opportunities in leadership training, professional development, career management, and educational resources, and to highlight the accomplishments of Hispanic and Native American chemists. These initiatives are vital in respect to their shared goal of cultivating a diverse community of highly-skilled chemistry professionals.

“By partnering with ACS, we are able to broaden minority participation in chemistry and other related fields while significantly increasing the opportunities available to the communities we serve,” says SACNAS President, J.D. Garcia, PhD. “Not only does this partnership mutually benefit both organizations, but ultimately we are addressing a larger need, which is to ensure the future economic development and wellbeing of our nation by building the size, capacity, and diversity of the scientific workforce.”

African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans are among the three ethnic groups whose representation across all scientific disciplines is a small fraction of their respective population size, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Many in the scientific community believe it is vital to engage and advance these underrepresented minority groups in order to identify talent needed to strengthen the country’s scientific workforce and remain globally competitive.

In a recent report issued by the National Science Foundation, of the 1,635 doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens in 2008 in the fields of chemistry and chemical engineering, only 93 were awarded to Hispanics and three to Native Americans. The same report shows these numbers represent similar ratios across all science and engineering (S&E) fields, with 5.7% Hispanic and 0.3% Native American representation of the 19,721 S&E doctorates awarded.

Fostering the success of young scientists, motivating them to attain advanced degrees, and providing increased to opportunities to resources which allow them to become leaders in their fields, are critical components of the SACNAS mission. With a 37-year history of developing innovative strategies and programming, SACNAS fills a unique role of being inclusive and multidisciplinary. These strategies have led to its national recognition as the premier organization promoting diversity in science careers.

“The partnership with ACS is very timely for SACNAS, and we are excited about the possibilities,” says Judit Camacho, SACNAS Executive Director. “Working in collaboration with other scientific societies and organizations allows us to align around common goals and visions, share best strategies and practices for attracting and retaining talent from diverse populations, and to make an even greater impact on the advancement of science.”

ACS President Joseph S. Francisco called the agreement a milestone for both organizations.

“We take this step,” Francisco said, “urged on by our shared belief that increasing the participation of underrepresented populations in the scientific community to a level that reflects their representation in the country’s population is a critical component in addressing the relatively stagnant U.S. scientific talent pool and sustaining U.S. competitiveness in a global economy. It is fortunate that our organizations share this vision.”