This blog post reflects the position that the ACS needs
to develop an on-going Subject area regarding the
Economics of our Enterprise, just like Chemistry and
the Law, the Environment, and Education.
Corporate representation in the scientific literature is also shrinking. In an analysis of publications authored by publicly traded US companies in the Web of Science database, we observed that the annual average number of papers published per company fell from around 25 in 1980 to less than 10 in 2010. The drop was visible across a wide range of industries and most pronounced among firms with established research programmes, for which the number of publications fell by as much as 65% between 1980 and 2006.’
Detailed information and discussion includes:
1. the decline of retained earnings
2. using algorithms to make decisions
3. intrusion of fake news, fake growth and bots to influence decisions
4. use of polls with uncertain questions and populations and decision criteria
5. professionals reduced to under 29-hours population
Herbert Simon is credited with recognizing that in a
data rich world what is critical is managing audience
attention. Combined with the attitude that audiences
prefer A I D A, the digital media promoters code…
The C&EN article on (+) and (-) sparteine, which had an
origin in “In the Pipeline,” talks about shortages of specific
chemicals. Interestingly, this unresolved shortage is a
business of chemistry concern and something, as the C&EN
article portrays, that can be of interest to many scientists for
In a blog we summarized three posts on Economics that are
critical to understand Rana Faroohar’s book Makers and
Takers. A fourth entry went into “black elephant”
events which are very unlikely negative events that everyone
can see but feel that they cannot do anything about.
We point out here a video narrated by Matt Damon,
“Inside Job” that is must see for everyone.
Finally GENomics contained a piece about evidence
that a bacterium known to originate gum disease also
triggers rheumatoid arthritis using Mass Spec.
SPECTROSCOPY DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY IN
SOURCE: Biblical Archeological Review Mar/Apr 2017
T. R. Hanneken, Digital Archeological’s New Frontier.
It is amazing to realize the rapid changes in career
management factors we face. Psychology, economics and
-inference are longer term factors for our careers.
Three top line topics have appeared this year:
1) Evolving trends in technical careers
2) Professional Behaviors that can help you
3) High Need for New Division in ACS– Economics
and Chemistry [Not only short periodic webinars that
are at 30,000 foot level and CEPA]
-Learning to Say “No”
-Listening Skills Activities of a Listener
-Trust Highest form of Motivation
Elements of Communication
-Ethics Legal elements
Reading a powerful work by Rana Foroohar, “Makers and
Takers,” that explains the strong undercurrent that drives
the visible trends we see in offshoring, in automation, in
uneven distribution of profits and benefits. It is what she
The Takers implement “FINANCIALIZATION” that push
outsourcing, not thinking about challenges to supply chain,
and promote flash trading and computer-generated algorithms
used in complex securities resulting in market crashes.
Besides decreases in lending (to support start ups and new ideas),
and increases in trading and debt securities (rising debt and
credit levels stoke financial instability; debt fueled finance
has become the saccharine substitute for growth), we observe
the mounting monopoly power of large financial institutions
that dominate allocation and are causing even the most successful
ventures to take on debt, reduce regulation and influence legal
Ten years ago R. Jones edited a series of factors
giving rise to the apparent trend involving the
globalization of chemical enterprise industries.
We have urged ACS in this blog to report and
follow the Economics in the Chemical
Enterprise as the older model (of globalization)
is less valid now as an important concept for
The global pace is speeding up. To meet the needs and
interests of members and institutional stakeholders the
Society needs to incorporate broader and deeper aspects
of economics in the technical and scientific aspects of
the chemical enterprise.
There is a section of Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s book
Second Machine Age that reviews the term “technological
unemployment.“ It is attributed to the use of human labor
not finding application in the emerging economy and finds
causes from inelastic demand (machines, robots and computers
replacing and not taking breaks in fault-tolerant activities),
people not adapting to skill needs and long term cost
reductions. Two recent articles speak to recent job loss
in the chemical enterprise and the perspective from a
different field, economics.
I cannot think of another situation where there is
big news of finding an unexpected source of a
needed chemical other than rare earth elements
in China.. This time it is helium.
Food science resources that might help us
manage chronic diseases seem to be rare. The
resources we see available are mostly proponents of
use or pharma companies for encouraging various
drug candidate use. Here is one on sweeteners that
should be shared widely.
SOURCES: J. Bessen HBR 2016, “Computers Don’t
Kill Jobs but increase Inequality“
The Economist, 6-25-2016 “Special Report:
Dolan, Detroit Free Press, “Dow to cut
700 Jobs in Central Michigan“
Despite simple explanations that computers are growing
jobs due to new applications and broader usage, the
story is not as clear as Bessen writes. You cannot
predict what you should learn and additionally, academics
are generally a technology generation behind actual
usage. The Economist special section covers briefly
what is known and gives more up to date detail that
many fields are continuously evolving with new AI
methods ie ‘deep learning software available on open
Dow recently announced job losses in the chemical
enterprise that will have ripple effects as they “rationalize
their labor force needs”. Sure there are business priorities
globalization will play a role as information can be shared
instantaneously and worked on anywhere in the world.
so you can see technical experts with advanced expertise
surviving, but there is much uncertainty for those seeking
full time, longer term employment.
The Economist series places one leg on each side of the
fence (pro and con), but you should look for areas of
opportunity (what robots and computers cannot do).
The longer term ripple effect of Dow-DuPont acquisition
and spin-offs are a visible example that the chemical
enterprise is not immune from this despite what popular
literature tries to sell.
HELIUM FIND IN AFRICA
SOURCE: NYTimes feed “Huge Helium Source found in Africa“
I was somewhat aware of the shortage of helium used
in many advanced technologies from Nick Leadbeater.
Working with Helium One, a Norwegian exploration firm
Oxford geologists uncovered a gas field rich in helium.
It is material released from rocks due to volcanic heat
in adjacent rocks. The finding is of large commercial
value and may lead to testing other similar formations
There are important implications for industry.
TEMPTING SWEETS MAY NOT BE ALL THAT GOOD
SOURCE: S Ernst, Amer. Laboratory, “Sweet Tooth”
June/July 2016 p. 6-7.
Ernst’s article on Sweet tooth captured my interest.
and led me to look at Sugarscience.org. There are
a number of metabolic tendencies that may the result
of food formulations that attract customers to purchase
and ingest what may not be best for them. The website
seems to be a terrific repository of reviewed information
not biased by organizations that profit from its content.
Have you ever thought about what it will take for you and
each one of us to reach the American Dream of the pursuit
of happiness, fulfilled life and liberty (equality, rights and
justice under law)?
So much is heavily weighted on how the privileged have
advantages. The fact remains that outside of that, luck and
skill play roles for ourselves and our careers.
We have talked about practicing and putting in the time and
energy to master skills where in the end
success = potential * serendipity [LUCK]
We have mentioned Jim Collins’s concept of Return on
Luck, in other words, when good fortune happens what you
do with it. He also strategizes on how you plan for and
Building on these is a nice piece by Bob Frank in NYTimes
Are you successful, where he cites
+ Mona Lisa became famous after an Italian maintenance
employee at the Louvre stole it and it was recaptured LUCK
+ Statistical correlation between Economics professors
where manuscript authorship is in alphabetical order giving
lead authors faster recognition LUCK
+ Your country of origin and even your month of birth
can correlate in the past with different success measure
To me M Mauboussin’s piece gave me a moment to pause,
as he asked three questions in relation to the relative
importance of luck and skill-
1- can you accurately predict an outcome and from a set of
starting conditions /influences? If so, is it easy to implement or
easy- SKILL dominates; challenge- LUCK may.
2- what is the frequency of ‘reversion to the mean’ outcomes?
low- SKILL high- LUCK or external influences
3- can forecasters predict outcomes consistently?
yes- SKILL no- LUCK, or bad question or phrasing
Being able to look at any outcome and appreciate the
contributions of others, nonetheless will influence
attitudes and future opportunities in striking ways.
Look at every chance to express your appreciation
for that will be an influence.
LUCK = preparation + attitude + opportunity + action 1 comment
How can you bring new ideas to an organization? When
first mentioned, members will say–that’s crazy! We’ve
done it before or it has been tried and look what happened….
Three possible revolutionary (and helpful) ideas are
offered here. One has been mentioned before, free dissemination
of high quality chemical information. Free the science!
There is a large hew and cry about increasing employment
opportunities for people in the chemical enterprise–
technicians, engineers, biochemists, and many sub-disciplines.
Are we asking the blind where to look and how to find trends,
opportunities, and ideas? We should have a whole division
entitled, Chemistry and the Economy which uses Economists
tools of data analysis and superforcasting!
Can we predict the outcome of experiments? Yes when we are
lucky… that is why we do experiments. A group from LANL,
I heard from a member of my network, uses informatics based
adaptive design to define new materials.
DISSEMINATE KNOWLEDGE FREELY
Many are not aware but over a hundred years ago a group of
scientists separated from the ACS and formed their own
society since their needs were not met. At this time the
critical needs of the world are not met by large commercial
interests and privatized, high cost journals. There is a
critical need to radically change how good information is
shared. A model for this has been published and is being
implemented. The incremental, “nibble at the apple” approach
that is not affordable outside large institutions should change.
NEW DIVISION: ECONOMICS AND CHEMISTRY
Chemists are not economists. Economists are not chemists.
Why are we asking chemists to assess the economy and
report on how the chemical enterprise evolves and what
will be viable career fields in the future. You can not look
at the past to predict the future. Things change fast.
We need, as a society, a new division dedicated to asking
economics questions about STEM fields.
The ACS, NESACS and other sections and divisions have
no influence over creating jobs in the private or the
public sector. There is a crying need for the ACS to
define a new and important role, outside of the chemical
realm that asks the questions we are not able to develop
answers or even superforecasts. Please let’s develop a
LANL INNOVATIVE DEVELOPMENT
Many have learned that hunches tested by trial and error
have yielded new materials for practical materials. Think
of for example lithium battery cathode material. The
LANL group has developed a partial factorial designed
experiment approach that is quicker and more efficient.
This brings in innovations in statistical design much
needed in designing materials of the future.
This blog remarked about transformative planning recently.
Many of the comments to an article that reported on the
impacts of the drop in oil prices on near term hiring and
university students in petroleum engineering professions.
What do you do?
Enrollment in petroleum engineering was reported to more
than tripled in university programs in five years. So, this
impacts many more who have recently graduated or are in the
middle of their studies.
Many of us who started out in one career path or line of
work have have adapted our skills to emerging or evolving
areas by applying our basic knowledge to new problems, over
and over again.
In fact, many current postings will all but certainly be
transformed by automation, robotics, lasers, nanomaterials
and life cycle analysis. New technology or technical
solutions do not direct loss of jobs, but transition us
more to jobs that employ reorganized routines to accomplish
our goals. James Bessen has recently written that
professionals, students and teachers need to recognize this.
So, in one case, economics of the petroleum feedstock
industry and in another “technology” seems to be changing
the face and prospects of gainful employment.
It urges us to be more prepared for disruptive forces and
ask better questions when we enter fields or interview for
positions. As we see many of us being employed by
organizations for shorter spans and hiring practices
leading more to project based or consulting or temporary
employment, the pointers Al Sklover raises about things
we can ask and negotiate when working as a consultant
become more meaningful.
In this week’s class we will do a procedure I
learned from a “Free Exchange” commentary
in the Economist. I will be seeking input from
everyone. To keep the meeting timely and not
dominated by one or another, by having everyone
note one idea of their own first. Then call on
less vocal members in the second round first.
Then reverse the order after letting groups
discuss and discover new items via their interaction.
The article and associated comments is “Meeting up”
and takes ideas from several disciplines and
points of view
A second link describes the current system
Google Labs uses to get results in shorter time with
less total investment.
A third link advises us how to avoid making serious
mistakes in our finances.
WAYS OF MAKING MEETINGS MORE EFFECTIVE
SOURCE: ‘Free Exchange’ The Economist “Meeting
Up” 4-4-15, p.72
Many observations of the waste of time organizational
meetings can be be biased leading to bad outcomes and
wasted resources. The article cites Gole and Quinn’s
work on votes by judges at debating tournaments to
assess processes that that would both be effective and
be harmful to achieving better outcomes.
GOOGLE PROJECT MANAGEMENT
SOURCE; A. Barr, WSJ 4-1-15 “Google Labs puts a
Time Limit on Innovations“
The article details some project management and
research trends and recent changes worth looking
at for how high tech forms are experiment to find
better ways to innovate as they become larger and
INSURANCE COVERAGES, INDIVIDUAL
STOCK OWNERSHIP AND CATASTROPHIC
SOURCE: J. Clements, WSJ 4-4-15, p. B8
“Are you overlooking big threats to your finances“
1. Misjudging risks; consequences of early death
on your family; Disabilities from unexpected
2. Concentrating investments and holdings
3. Avoiding worst case scenario assessment
and creating action plans
A colleague/collaborator and I were conversing about
mentoring and mentoring programs. She was telling me
about the struggles when discussing what is important,
who should be targeted and what would a successful program
She brought up the finding that different parts of an organization,
like marketing, finance, medical affairs (medical device mfg),
and R&D views mentoring differently.
Some parts think of the role as helping new members come up
to speed with the culture because turn over is high. Another
part of the company has very low turnover, flat organizational
structure and intense detailed work. (You almost have to have
a retirement party to induce a change.)
Thus, mentoring in specific companies can assume a company
cultural bias to meet the needs at a particular point in time or
departments that it serves.
So the roles of teacher, coach, mentor and sponsor can be
adjusted. Mentoring graduate students in technical fields
needs to adjust to each field in the same view. The skill sets
can be used to meet different goals since in each field of
research, development, marketing, management, product
development and manufacturing uses the technical elements
with different goals. The emphasis is morphed to meet the needs.
She also share an interesting link to the different roles.
KAHNEMAN: IMPROVING DECISION MAKING
This brought to mind a recent book by John Lanchester
who spoke about how Kahneman influenced the interview
process in selecting military candidates (without going into
He did experiments on selection processes where
critical skills and abilities were defined, questions were
prepared by knowledgeable stakeholders for a pool of
[JOHN LANCHESTER How to speak money: What the
money people say—and what it really
means, Norton & Company,
New York 2014]
He then had a random portion of the group take objective
measure tests before interviewing.
Better selections were made when the intuition of
interviewers were supplemented by independent testing
So, in various places this additional testing is being done.
Lanchester also presented remarkable meanings of
business terms which technical people might find useful.
failing upwards: someone who screws up and is promoted
to a bigger job just as the first result collapses
fiscal and monetary: fiscal means dealing with taxes and
spending, controlled by government; monetary means
dealing with interest rates, controlled by the central bank.
“a haircut:“ in investment bonds, people who have lent money
are not going to get all of their money back.
“hollowing out:” process by which jobs disappear from the
economy while appearances remain the same.
At its peak, Kodak employed 140,000 and valued at $28B.
Instagram was sold to Facebook for $1B in 2012 and employed
“hype cycle:” process involving new inventions, technology
or product design arrives with much fanfare and is found not
to live up to its claims.
McJobs: low status, low-pay, low-security, low-prospect
jobs like at a franchise as McDonalds.
Types of unemployment: frictional, structural and cyclical
frictional: people move, voluntarily choose to change
structural: loss of jobs due to technological change or
obsolescence (chemical photography)
cyclical: loss of jobs due to boom and bust cycles of
the economical system
Recent graduates and post-docs seem to be better prepared for
industrial positions now if they have either been in a co-op
program or been involved in internships. We point to a broader
article on the practice of internships and highlight useful
ideas (namely proceed with caution for unpaid positions and
have a very good idea why you want the experience and what
you will do with the experience.).
While I still recommend value in creating a master
resume or CV to capture all of your experiences, credentials,
projects, avocations, and areas of work interest, specifically
targeted with keywords ready for scanning documents are
what a leading resume coach recommends.
One of the better recent articles describing retirement
planning is pointed out. It points out some considerations
that might influence organization, planning and spending
INTERNSHIP ROUTE TO EMPLOYMENT
SOURCE: The Economist, 9-6-14, p. 61
“Generation i” (small i)
From one point of view this article reviews the history
of interns and experiences of mostly “unpaid internships”
which seem to be a last choice option. The “comments”
section offers a rebuttal that the article misses paid
internships in technical positions lasting 2-6 months.
Paid internships in the best of cases (25%) offers
an in-person experience that is outside of the academic
arena and is an investment in you.
UPDATED PERSPECTIVE ON RESUMES
SOURCE: Career Hub, Jean Cummings
“The Kind of resume that works now“
Jean really emphasizes the need to study the job
description carefully and pick out the job titles
and keywords unique to the position. Then
incorporate them into your cover letter and your
resume in context. ATS software is the rule such
that once it is scanned and sorted reviewers spend
5-6 seconds reading an easy to read, specific,
and targeted resume.
SOURCE: R. Kapadia, Barrons, 9-22-14, p. 23
Point by point discussion first discussing myths
- spending in retirement is fluid, not constant
- within 10 years of retirement, half are single,
especially lower educated
- the impact of children/minors is substantial
Then, covering Important steps which include:
- regularly updated budgeting, manage your cash
flow and plan state and federal taxes
- have fewer fixed expenses; pay things off
- behavioral economics applies– in down
years, spend less
- very good advice on tax diversification
Added notes on Long term care
- it will happen
- industry is changing , select broadest definition
of care givers, begin reimbursements after
calendar days (not service days)
- pay attention to elimination period
It was inspiring hearing words describing the IEEE
outstanding educator award presentation of Professor
Jamal Dean. Professor Dean is now at McMaster
University in Hamilton, ON and remarked:
(A. Kumar, Interface, Fall, 2014, 42-3)
“Be prepared for the unexpected. It may be upon you
before you know it. So adapt and use your knowledge
and skills to create novel and workable solutions. And
do not be afraid of controversial areas of research,
even if there is opposition from mainstream ‘experts’”…
Why mention Jamal Dean? He works to solve big
problems with significant impact in cross-disciplinary
An example of this is the use of unexpected elements
in semiconductor manufacturing. You know well Moore’s
Law about the prediction of exponential improvements
in digital electronic devices. Did you know hafnium,
ruthenium, tantalum (ok, I knew about this), zirconium
(this, too) and cobalt are all used in discrete elements
of chips to make true the ‘Moore prediction.’ Why?
The article by Michael McCoy (p. 16) states, “because
There is a lot of chemistry, physics, engineering and
economics that will continue to play a role. Consider,
for example, Moore’s second law of semiconductor
manufacturing, known as Rock’s Law. Technical people
should be curious about this “intersection”…
Susan Ainsworth reported in an earlier CEN issue about
what pharmaceutical firm representatives look for in
BS: higher level organic, physical organic, and theoretical
organic chemistry with advance laboratory work
in which synthetic routes are designed, enzymatic
reactions are characterized or there is exposure to
challenging research experience gives a leg up.
PhD: challenging research projects in solving or
gaining understanding of complex problems, say
signal transduction, protein structure, multistep
All should be able to demonstrate communication
skills to be able to go up to a board or with pen and
paper field questions or propose solutions to problems.
Of course, be able to deliver an elevator speech.
What stood out was a segment on “being situationally
aware” outside of classroom or formal structure
situations. It is more behavioral than textbook.
Combining things in different ways can be an example
of what is sought in candidates. This is demonstrated
by for example photoswitchable antibiotics which were
recently reported in Ang. Chem. doi:10.1002/
ange.201310019 and in Photonics showcase.
This entry is about mentoring.
While no one has all the answers. No human can realize all the
history, interactions and subtleties around human situations. Yet,
there can be real benefit if we develop mentoring relationships.
In fact, there is a site that displays a number of well-known
people and the individuals who were their mentors.
Not only are recent graduates and post-docs “in the hunt” for
their next position, people in positions are asking how should
I position myself for being available for being considered for
my next position.
What should I do? they all ask their mentors. Consider:
Ideas (what is going on in parallel fields),
information (how do I express myself and get feedback),
interviews (what are the emerging trends for making ourselves
INTERNATIONAL SURVEY OF CAREER PATHS - SPIE
SPIE reported a telling snapshot of its membership’s typical
workweek, job satisfaction, mobility, how they define success
What was telling about this article is the international nature of
the survey and the added cultural dimension overlaid on the photonics
industry. The remarkable feature that this adds is offering a study
in a parallel field to the chemical enterprise that may hint at
similarities and differences that are not “teased out” from
TAKE TIME TO MEET WITH MENTORS; TAKE TIME TO
UPDATE THEM; OFFER TO HELP
Despite all the advances in technology, in person, face-to-face
meetings sets the “gold standard” for communication. It is enhanced
by technological follow-ups. In the last week, I have interacted with
dozens of people. Each of the interactions were spurred by
making connections with individuals in face-to-face encounters.
This is a masterful “wise skill” to develop.
Ask for feedback, learn new insights, find out what is important to
ECONOMIST UPDATES PROFESSIONAL ONLINE NETWORKS
Did you know that recruiters are Linkedin’s main revenue stream?
Led by its “talent solutions” segment it pinpoints, as long as we
include the pertinent details in our profile, and keep it up, formal
academic background, experience breadth and depth, broad skill
strengths, affiliations in organizations and participation in some
groups. (If you have not gotten feedback on your profile, ask
your mentor for feedback where you wish your career’s future
In the same issue Linkedin’s competitors in France and China
(viadeo) and Germany (xing) are delineated in economics terms.
These are becoming the new exchanges for screening interviews.
Thus, having relevant up-to-date profiles using keywords that
recruiters seek is paramount.