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Making the Most of the ACS National Meeting

Stephen B. Alayon is the Head of the Library and Data Banking Services Section, Aquaculture Department, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), as well as the President-Elect (2019-2020), of the International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC). He received a travel grant from ACS Publications to attend the Fall 2019 ACS Meeting and Exposition in San Diego.

As they say, “If water is life, then so is Chemistry.” The theme “Chemistry & Water”  for the Fall 2019 ACS National Meeting & Exposition is very timely. Currently, I am working as the Head of the Library and Data Banking Services Section of the Aquaculture Department, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC/AQD), located in Iloilo, Philippines. SEAFDEC/AQD is committed to sustainable development and the responsible stewardship of aquaculture resources through science-based research and the promotion of appropriate technologies and information relevant to the Southeast Asian region. Currently, our Laboratory Facilities for Advanced Aquaculture Technologies (LFAAT), with its analytical services, feed technology, and diagnostic services laboratories, is applying for ISO certification.

The Library aims to provide information services needed by our scientists, chemists, microbiologists, engineers and other laboratory staff. In addition, SEAFDEC/AQD has conducted studies on the use of chemicals in aquaculture, chemotherapeutants, probiotics, antimicrobials, trace-chemical analysis, pesticide, and antibiotic residue, nutrition studies, amino acids, proteins, off-flavors, seafood toxins, chromatography, and chemical methods of fish disease prevention and control. Walk-in students and researchers from nearby universities often look for reference materials on topics such as drugs from marine sources, and pharmacology here at SEAFDEC/AQD. We aim to strengthen our library collections for our researchers and scientists, and hopefully include ACS Publications, which have a reputation as the most trusted, most cited, and most read.

Being selected as the recipient of the ACS Travel Grant for Librarians and Library School Students to attend the Fall 2019 ACS National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego is a great honor and privilege. I learned that this is the first time it was offered for the Asia-Pacific region. Meeting the team of editors, contributors, exhibitors, and scientists is a great learning opportunity for me to interact and network with them and to understand their work and research. The ACS National Meeting was the largest conference I have attended after IFLA. It is a huge gathering of chemists, engineers, scientists, vendors, employers, teachers, and students. Numerous session topics and workshops with various themes and topics were organized. The conference was also very welcoming to potential members and newcomers, even to undergraduate students. I especially liked the idea of encouraging the attendance of undergraduate students. Early exposure to these types of conferences about chemistry and research is beneficial to young scientists.

It is interesting to note that scientists and students are conducting research on drinking water contamination, chemical spills, plastic in aquatic environments, wastewater-based contamination, harmful algal blooms, and aerosols, among others. Some are also interested in very important or mainstream topics such as plastic pollution, schistosomiasis, candidiasis, anthrax, ebola, HIV, etc. The researchers presented topics that could be of interest to our scientists at SEAFDEC. Examples are the 1) Rapid paper tests for detection of pathogenic Vibriosis in aquaculture; 2) Determination of drugs and pesticides in catfish feed for contaminant traceback; 3) protein extraction from catfish by-products; 4) innate immunity of fish, among others. It is interesting to note that intellectual property and copyright are strictly observed and respected at the conference. To remember all these, one had to scribble notes the traditional way, have a conversation with the presenter, or wait for the papers to get published.

At the Student Poster Competition and SciMix, the librarian in me browsed the poster boards and imagined how to organize the posters topics based on a library classification system. I observed that chemistry people best present their ideas and discourse at night. It was my first experience to attend a night session. I didn’t know that one could be productive at conferences even at night. Posters, ideas, insights, and discussions were mixed with beer. Chemistry indeed!

I also took the time to roam around the EXPO. I went to the ACS store and bought some souvenir shirts for my chemist friends. There I realized that I could spell out my name using the elements sulfur, tellurium, phosphorus, helium, and nitrogen. I also tried spelling it out using the elements in large cubes by the Royal Society of Chemistry. As a librarian, I wandered around the exhibit and searched for books and journals. I got as much as a 50% discount on books, which I brought home to the Philippines. Most of these print books are not readily available in local vendors or too expensive when it reaches the country. I also met Filipino Chemists who were doing their masters and Ph.D.s in South Korea and the U.S., who gave oral and poster presentations. I also passed by the Career Navigator Live. I found it useful for those looking for prospective employers. Amazingly, scheduled interviews happened right at the venue.

The National Meeting offered not only oral and poster presentations but also included workshops. I attended the Pre-ACS Workshop hosted by ACS CINF and sponsored by ACS Publications, which was called “Reproducible Data Analysis and Publishing in Chemistry with ‘R.'” The librarian’s role in scholarly communication has included data management and research reproducibility services. Some universities and research institutions now have items such as data librarians and reproducibility librarians. The workshop is timely for us librarians, who aim to work hand-in-hand with researchers. The goal is to increase our knowledge and equip ourselves with the necessary skills in assisting our researchers and in making research reproducible. Thanks to Ye Li, Steve Wathen, and Donna Wrublewski, who were excellent mentors and facilitators, especially to those with no previous knowledge of ‘R.’

I experienced the unique “organizational culture” of ACS. I observed that ACS Chemical Information (CINF) Division is comprised of committed and dedicated members and was happy to note that they recognized the significant roles of Librarians and Information Specialists in the fields of research and Chemistry. There were interesting topics under the CINF- data visualization, big data, information databases, application of extended reality (XR), informatics, text-mining, among others. I met some of the members of the Executive Committee of CINF, who were all very welcoming. I felt at ease, knowing there were many librarians around. Michael and Andrew, of ACS publications, guided and helped us, especially our travel arrangements. Experiences and challenges of our libraries were exchanged with fellow recipients Nevena, Jessica, and Alexa. It was in ACS that I felt prouder to be a librarian. The association value librarians and information professionals. The CINF also is composed of diverse members. I can see the dynamic interaction between data science, informatics, library and information science, and chemistry. I am hoping in the future that ACS brings chemistry and science librarianship, publishing, and ACS closer to the Filipino and Southeast Asian librarians.

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