As usual, Th’ Gaussling’s most interesting observations of the ACS meeting are of a proprietary nature and will have to go with me to the grave. Our student and professorly friends can expound openly on what lights their fires. The lusty satisfaction of compelling oratory in the darkened halls of convention centers is part of the reward for the cardinals of the academy.  Members of the merchant class have to be satisfied with better dining.

People who are involved in personnel issues often speak of an employees “deliverables” as their work product. For those lucky enough to be in the academy, the work product includes teaching young minds, conducting research, and participating in the dissemination of the results in the form of papers and conferences.

For we chemists who did the deal with the devil in exchange for filthy lucre, our performance is rated somewhat differently.  Our performance metric only includes some understanding of science. Once it is possible to begin understanding a thing, the task of transforming a process or material property into an item of value begins. An industrial scientist’s deliverables includes many tasks that guide the company toward its goal of profitability and reward for the shareholders.

The part of the brain that sees a stick on the forest floor that resembles a tool is the same part of the brain that scans a molecule and sees latent functionality. The extraction of value from a composition or a process is a complex anthropological activity. Product development is anthropological because it involves the use of tools and organizational structure to provide products or services that are exchanged between groups.  

An industrial science group has to isolate value in some material property and contrive to bring some product or service into being.  But to get it to market, the science tribe has to cooperate with those with other skills. Organizations often resemble a confederation of tribes who cooperate with complex rituals and methods of exchange.