Younger chemists in France are keen to develop their professional networks, initiate actions directed toward the public, organize scientific events, and share experiences outside their own universities or laboratories. As a testament to this, membership to the French Young Chemists Network (Réseau-Jeunes de la Société Chimique de France, RJ-SCF), a division of the French Chemical Society (SCF), has exploded in recent years: it currently represents almost half of the overall membership (45 %) of this venerable society founded in 1857.
As an addition to the European Young Chemist Network (EYCN), an International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN) is being planned to represent all younger chemists with a focus on Ph.D. students and early-career chemists.
We, the French Chemical Society (SCF), conducted a survey to evaluate the expectations of younger chemists in France (inside and outside SCF) regarding the upcoming International Younger Chemists Network. A survey was conducted online from November 24 to December 16, 2016, under the patronage of RJ-SCF. The survey was conducted in French and English. It was largely advertised to reach outside of the community of RJ-SCF members.
333 answers were received. Those surveyed were 25.7 years old on average (min. 18, max. 36) and 15 % were not French citizens. In total, 26 nationalities were represented. Most of them were Ph.D. students (40 %) or undergraduates (33 %); the rest were professionals in academia (20 %, which includes 9 % post-docs), education (1 %), or industry (6 %). 55 % of those surveyed were affiliated with SCF, but less than 30 % knew about EYCN, the European Younger Chemists Network.
The creation of a global network (IYCN) is attracting huge interest: 94 % of those surveyed think that the IYCN should be created (25 % say it is vital). They agree with the mission statement of IYCN (“Create a unified global network of young chemists to communicate, collaborate, educate, and mentor”) and think that these four goals are equally important: scores between 7.1 and 8.1 on a scale of one to ten (10 = very important, 1 = not important) were received for each goal. Some young chemists even suggested other goals, such as encouraging young entrepreneurs and startups, boosting creativity, empowering youth, gaining a voice in decision-making assemblies, promoting exchange and networking, connecting with renowned scientists and companies, having a positive impact on environmental challenges, help finding jobs and forming managers, and connecting with undervalued countries (e.g., in Africa).
As one could expect from such blossoming ambitions, 94 % declared they wanted to participate in the international network. They intend to do so primarily through their university or workplace and through exchanges with students and young chemists (>80 % approval). To a slightly lesser extent, participation through social networks, direct meetings, and by sharing a common newsletter would be appreciated (>70 % approval).
In the “general comments” section, many excellent ideas were proposed. For example, that IYCN should promote dialogue with society and improve opinions about chemistry. In addition, it should help younger chemists to transition to jobs (not just academia but also industry and teaching) on a global scale and help them collaborate and find funding on specific research themes across disciplines.
The young chemists also suggested practical tools to “make IYCN happen”, for example, a secure online platform that promotes contact between young chemists.
Altogether, we believe that the high level of enthusiasm, ambition, and commitment raised by IYCN in France amongst the younger chemists will likely be shared by our European neighbors; this should be taken as an incentive to provide IYCN with the most durable foundation possible. This way, today’s burst of fresh energy will turn into constructive momentum for years to come.
For 2017 and the upcoming event for IYCN in Brazil (presented at the IUPAC World chemistry congress and General Assembly), the French Young Chemists Network declares its commitment to:
(1) Promote and support in every appropriate way the creation of IYCN, through the involvement of its members and by stimulating the participation of other chemist networks in France and Europe,
(2) Promote the construction of IYCN as a legitimate non-governmental and non-profit association under the model and guidance of IUPAC, freely open to all countries and participants, and built in the spirit of humanism, with sharing of efforts, ideas, and means.
In the world of 2017, which began with continuing conflict and global divisions on environmental and political fronts, we will resolutely strive to build IYCN as a unifying initiative for all younger chemists, defending a common ideal of science.
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