Insights from industry

How the RSC is Empowering the Future of the Chemical Sciences

insights from industryJessica Evans & Patrick DenenyIndustry Member Experience Lead & Industry Member Engagement ExecutiveRoyal Society of Chemistry

In an interview ahead of ChemUK 2024, AZoM talked with Jessica Evans, Industry Member Experience Lead, and Patrick Deneny, Industry Member Engagement Executive, from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), about their role in advancing the chemical sciences. 

Could you please provide a brief overview of the RSC, including its goals and role in the chemical science community?

The Royal Society of Chemistry is here to support chemical scientists at every stage of their careers. We connect individuals, companies, and communities with each other, as well as society as a whole, so they can do their best work and make discoveries and innovation happen.

We publish new research, develop, recognize, and celebrate professional capabilities, support teachers to inspire future generations of scientists, and speak up to influence the people making the decisions that affect us all.

How does the RSC utilize its influence and resources to propel advancements in chemical sciences forward, ensuring that these developments contribute positively to society?

Everything the RSC does is about helping chemical scientists to make the world a better place.

We publish tens of thousands of scientists' research articles every year in journals covering a wide range of chemistry-focused and interdisciplinary topics. An ever-increasing proportion of them are published "open access," free to read by anyone worldwide.

Our networks span the globe, including more than 56,000 RSC members, and bring like-minded scientists together by field of interest or locale. Thousands of delegates attend our scientific conferences and events each year.

We recognize and champion professional excellence in many ways, including prizes and grants, professional qualifications, career guidance, and continuous professional development (CPD).

We invest heavily in chemistry education, including support for teachers and technicians, training, and resources. We use our reputation and influence to advocate for chemistry in the public interest, advising and persuading governments on a wide range of policy issues, convening partners to solve shared problems, and bringing together a cohesive voice for chemistry.

Moving towards the RSC's educational mission, can you explain your strategies for promoting professional development and education within the chemical sciences, and how these efforts contribute to the field's evolution?

Chemistry education is fundamental not only to the future of the profession but also to support understanding of scientific issues and challenges in the population. Our mission is to empower communities to offer an excellent chemistry education to all, driving diversity and improving skills in the chemical sciences.

Central to our strategy is that everyone has access to an excellent chemistry education. That is not the case now, and we think it is important to signal such ambition.

To achieve this, our education system needs enough teachers with appropriate skills, knowledge, love of the subject, support from their colleagues and government, an achievable curriculum, and the ability to inspire learners and unlock potential paths for them into science.

Teachers and other educators are key to delivering this mission. Our role is to empower them with knowledge, resources, and connections, and through our policy work.

By empowering this group of teachers, who offer an excellent inclusive education to all learners and celebrate diversity in the chemical sciences, we will support the throughput of talent and skills into our future workforce.

Our work to support and empower teachers includes Teach Chemistry, our overarching service that supports over 5,000 schools in the UK and Ireland.

Our education website provides thousands of free resources and support to teachers. We also provide professional development courses, publish a bi-monthly magazine called Education in Chemistry, and provide career support to young people via our A Future in Chemistry website.

How the RSC is Empowering the Future of Chemical Sciences

Image Credit: Anusorn Nakdee/Shutterstock.com

Recognizing the critical role of diversity and inclusivity in fostering a thriving scientific community, what initiatives has the RSC implemented to promote these values among your members and the broader scientific community?

Our policies, evidence, and campaigns to promote inclusion and diversity in the chemical sciences are guided by valuable input from our members and the wider community. Their feedback and participation in our initiatives are crucial to our work to ensure that chemistry is open, accessible, and welcoming to everyone.

One example is Broadening Horizons in the Chemical Sciences, a three-year pilot program supporting students and graduates from minoritized racial and ethnic backgrounds as they pursue careers in chemistry.

This year, 131 young people are part of the program, up from the 78 who made up the first cohort. We have now recruited for our third intake to the program and are looking forward to the Taster Event in June, where participants will be introduced to our partner companies and the range of careers available in the chemical sciences.

The program provides one-to-one mentoring support with senior leaders in industry and site visits provided by partner companies, ranging from some of the most promising SMEs in our sector to the biggest companies in the world.

For both the Broadening Horizons program and our general mentoring scheme, all mentors are part of our membership community. This ensures that our members have the opportunity to support the next generation of scientists and contribute to improving diversity in the chemical sciences.

Public engagement and outreach are key components of the RSC's mission. How do you engage with the public to raise awareness of chemical sciences?

Our members and the wider community play a vital role in raising awareness, and we support them in a number of ways.

Our Outreach Fund is an effective and inclusive source of funding for projects that speak to underserved audiences, as well as traditional outreach activities for schools.

Our careers website, "A Future in Chemistry," is a fantastic resource for people at all education and career stages. It highlights the many and varied routes and career opportunities open to people interested in making the world a better place.

Our influential public campaigns on chemistry-related topics, such as PFAS pollution or lab accessibility, harness the combined expertise and passion of our community to reach policymakers and the media, making a visible impact for chemistry.

What challenges does the RSC encounter in science communication, especially when it comes to combating misinformation and engaging with a non-scientific audience, and what strategies do you employ to overcome them?

As chemists, we know that chemistry is everywhere, but that fact is sometimes a hindrance: most people do not think about chemistry's role in day-to-day life.

So rather than communicating about chemistry itself, we usually focus on its impacts—whether good or bad—and the role chemists play in society, whether that is designing new drugs and materials or remediating past chemical challenges.

Our community gives us access to the world's leading experts on a huge range of topics, and we work with them to synthesize the available evidence to make evidence-based, societally-aware decisions.

We are independent and trusted and can convene a wide range of individuals, companies, and organizations to gather the best evidence, consider a challenge from many viewpoints, and collectively advocate for the best interests of chemistry in society.

The RSC supports a diverse membership base spanning industry and academia. Could you discuss how the organization ensures these members have access to necessary resources and opportunities for collaboration and networking?

We are here to help our members grow, whatever path they take. This is reflected in our membership categories, which offer a range of benefits and professional development opportunities tailored to suit our members' diverse qualifications, career stages, and goals.

One example of this is RSC Pathfinder, our CPD tool, which allows members to record and discover activities that contribute to their learning and development.

Based on their membership profile and answers to questionnaires in RSC Pathfinder, members will receive tailored feedback and suggestions to help them develop knowledge and skills relevant to them.

This is really valuable to our members at all career stages, whether they are students looking to build skills and experience for their CV or chemical scientists working towards one of our professional awards, such as Registered Science Technician (RSciTech), Registered Scientist (RSci), or Chartered Chemist (CChem).

Alongside our CPD and careers support, we foster connections and collaborations based on our members’ location, common interests, and shared values through our member networks and volunteering opportunities.

Sustainability and green chemistry are paramount in today's world. What innovative approaches is the RSC taking to advance sustainable practices within the chemical sciences sector?

The RSC Sustainable Laboratories Report focused on how chemical scientists can conduct research in an environmentally sustainable way while maintaining the quality and impact of their outputs.

The report uncovered the steps chemists are already taking and shared the barriers and trade-offs faced in making sustainability-related changes.

A number of initiatives have been created as a direct response to the report, including awards for those taking the lead in this area, establishing global communities to share best practices, and our Sustainable Laboratories Grant to accelerate the chemical sciences community’s journey to environmentally sustainable research and innovation.

The RSC is hosting a session at CHEMUK this year. Could you provide more details about your participation, including the highlights and themes of the talks planned?

We are proud to be again joined by RSC President Professor Gill Reid, who will deliver a keynote speech on day 1 of the conference highlighting the RSC’s successes over the last 12 months and strategic goals for the coming year.

Directly following that speech will be our mini-conference program entitled ‘How do we build a positive science culture?’. The session complements our ongoing webinar series focused on the importance of fostering and enabling a culture in science that is open, empowering, and supportive of all individuals.

This will be an opportunity for a number of our industry partners to outline their experiences working within the chemical sciences and share what they feel are the building blocks of a science culture that promotes inclusiveness for all.

What makes it essential for the RSC to be part of conferences like CHEMUK, and how does this involvement benefit the broader chemical science community?

The chemical industries span many sectors, and industry-based chemists comprise a large proportion of our membership and wider communities.

As the RSC’s Industry Membership Team, we engage and collaborate with chemists in industry to ensure our resources and support are well-suited to their needs, as well as those of the next generation of chemical scientists.

Events like CHEMUK—with its diverse audience of RSC members and non-members across the chemical industries—provide a great opportunity to do this.

Whether it is at our stand, in the networking area, or at our members’ reception, in previous years, we have had many interesting and useful conversations over the two days.

With CHEMUK 2024 set to be bigger than ever, and with a fantastic group of our industry members and partners joining us for our mini-conference program, we are really looking forward to this year’s event.

We encourage all delegates to visit our stand and chat with us to learn more about how we can support them.

For those inspired by the RSC's work, what are the best ways for individuals or organizations to get involved or contribute to your initiatives?

Becoming a member is the best way to benefit from the RSC's wealth of support, resources, and connections.

Our members are actively involved in shaping our work through our committees and thought leadership programs and can collaborate with peers through our geographical and interest-based networks.

We would encourage anyone interested to look at our website's membership section (rsc.li/membership). We would be very happy to answer any questions in person at CHEMUK.

Are there any recent developments or upcoming projects at the RSC that you are particularly excited about and would like to share with our audience?

Whether focusing on environmental sustainability, inclusion, and diversity, research, and innovation, or education, all activities across the RSC are driven by our purpose: to help the chemical science community make the world a better place.

Our recently launched vision for science culture outlines an open, inclusive, and enabling environment that comprises good scientific practice, support for well-being and development, and maximum participation in science and innovation.

Underpinning our vision is the role of recognition in incentivizing individuals, teams, and organizations to contribute to this culture. Through our expanded prize portfolio for 2024, we recognize the diverse careers and contributions that deliver high-quality science, including those of technicians, apprentices, and collaborative teams.

In July 2023, we launched our roadmap to sustainable polymers in liquid formulations (PLFs), which are found in millions of everyday products, from the soap in our bathrooms to the paint on our walls.

The report is the culmination of years of work, during which we teamed up with leaders from ten major chemical-producing, product-making, and waste management companies to form the Sustainable PLFs Task Force and devise a comprehensive plan.

The task force has set a mission for the global industry to develop biodegradable PLFs and advance circular economy infrastructure for these chemicals by 2030. This will set a course for the transition of the $125 billion sector to sustainability by 2040.

Through our Change Makers program, we are supporting deep-tech chemistry ventures—start-ups whose business models are based on significant scientific advances or high-tech innovation.

Whether there are challenges in scaling technology, lack of access to laboratory facilities, or support is needed to encourage truly inclusive chemistry entrepreneurship, we are taking a holistic and long-term view.

About Jessica EvansAbout Jessica Evans

Having trained as a chemist and following three years working within a laboratory setting, Jessica joined the membership department at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Her role as Industry Member Experience Lead involves partnering with and supporting companies of all sizes and varieties to help them achieve a framework for continuing professional development, setting a pathway to the RSC professional recognition awards, and aiding their recruitment and retention of talented chemical scientists.

About Patrick DenenyAbout Patrick Deneny

After six years as a synthetic organic chemist conducting research in industry and academia, Patrick joined the Royal Society of Chemistry membership team in 2023.

In his role as Industry Member Engagement Executive, he supports both companies and individuals in the chemical sciences by developing and promoting a variety of resources for the RSC’s industry-based members and partners.

Where can readers find more information?

https://www.rsc.org/

https://www.rsc.org/membership-and-community/

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

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