Effect Measure

Trouble at the American Chemical Society

We’ve written before about the disgraceful behavior of the American Chemical Society regarding its attempts to scuttle Open Access publishing in taxpayer supported science (see also here and here). To recap, taxpayers have paid for research once through research grants, usually from the National Institutes of Health if it is health related research. Upon submission to a scientific journal published by a big for profit publisher or scholarly society (like the ACS) the author is asked to sign over the copyright to the journal, who then can charge again, through subscription or licensing fees. For a society like ACS, whose journals have hefty subscription fees, this is a major source of income. So they’ve hired scurrilous public relations and lobbyist firms to make us pay twice. Their participation in the infamous PRISM affair is par for the course. A number of academic publishers have protested that outrage and some have withdrawn from that project of the American Association of Publishers. Good. That’s progress.

Now there are grumblings from within ACS itself. Here is some from a newsletter I received yesterday from something called ACS Insider ( don’t know if this is a publication, a person or a group, but the sentiments and content seem genuine):

I’ve been an ACS employee for many, many years, but I’ve grown concerned with the direction of the organization. I’m sending this email to alert you that ACS has grown increasingly corporate in its structure and focus. Management is much more concerned with getting bonuses and growing their salaries rather than doing what is best for membership. For instance, Madeleine Jacobs now pulling in almost $1 million in salary and bonuses. That’s almost 3X what Alan Leshner makes over at AAAS, and almost double what Drew Gilpin Faust makes to lead Harvard.


What really concerns me is a move by ACS management to undermine the open-access movement. Rudy Baum has been leading the fight with several humorous editorials — one in which he referred to open-access in the pages of C&EN as “socialized science.” ACS has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in membership money to hire a company to lobby against open-access.

What troubles me the most is when ACS management decided to hire Dezenhall Resources to fight open-access. Nature got hold of some internal ACS emails written by Brian Crawford that discussed how Dezenhall could help us undermine open-access. Dezenhall later created a group called Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM), which has this silly argument that open-access means “no more peer-review.”

If you’re wondering why ACS is fighting this, it’s because people like Rudy Baum, Brian Crawford and other ACS managers receive bonuses based on how much money the publishing division generates. Hurt the publishing revenue; you hurt their bonuses.

The ACS publication Chemical and Engineering News is excellent, although I don’t get a chance to read it that often. So I was shocked to read they have published editorials calling the Open Access movement “socialized science.” Right wing and special interests have done a lot of this kind of red baiting in the US. My own profession called Medicare “socialized medicine” in the sixties, although they subsequently got rich off of the third party payer boom it started. Now the ACS is hopping into bed with the Republicans and too many Democrats to red bait Open Access. Their principle is simple: socialize the expenses but keep the profits private.

If you are an ACS member and want the supporting documents, my anonymous emailer included this website. I used to belong to the ACS but it got too expensive for me so I let my membership lapse.

Too bad. Now I can’t quit.


  1. #1 Thom
    October 12, 2007

    Yes, the American Chemical Society has been pretty horrible in handling this issue. Now that we know about the bonuses their executives get, you can understand why they are fighting open access.

    However, I don’t know if it’s fair to call PRISM the creation of the American Association of Publishers (AAP). After all, Brian Crawford at the American Chemical Society is Chairman of the Executive Council at the AAP. At the same time, Crawford is head of publishing at ACS. So what’s the difference between ACS and AAP? It’s the same people.

    What really disgusting is that when Nature reported that ACS had consulted with Dezenhall to create PRISM, Crawford defended the move by writing that “the news reports…were somehow stimulated by reporters gaining access to internal emails and background information….”

    In other words, “You caught me and I don’t like it.”

  2. #2 bar
    October 12, 2007

    This and the RIAA and Bill Gates’ Windows OS and what is happening to our genetic heritage (people have to pay to research in genetics because someone holds a patent on a gene sequence) are all part of the same problem. Copyright and Patent law.

    We are all under attack. Everyone knows that most of the people (aka parasites) profiting from these industries are not contributing one iota to our (I need a word that means “world cultural advancement”, perhaps there is a good German or Yiddish word:)

    One possible resolution is that somebody (perhaps the blokes at Google?) should come up with a variable online “pay per use/view” charging system for music, patents, publications, software, whatever. The marketplace would then determine value. And patents should be limited to novelties, not discoveries.

    As an extension of the thought thread, those parasites exist because they lobby, and that right (to lobby) seems to be a structural fault in our representative democratic process.

  3. #3 Gerard Harbison, FCD
    October 12, 2007

    The only disagreement from me is to the proposition that the ACS has somehow gotten worse. The ACS has always been more of a corporate lobbying group than a scientific society. Remember, in the 1920’s, the ACS lobbied against the Chemical Warfare treaty, on the grounds that gas was a more humane and modern way to wage war.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    October 13, 2007

    So I was shocked to read they have published editorials calling the Open Access movement “socialized science.”

    This is just what Dezenhall advised PRISM to do.

    The Coalition faces the daunting task of trying to win support for an issue in which publishers are not sympathetic — continuing to charge fees for access to scientific journals. It’s hard to fight an adversary that manages to be both elusive and in possession of a better message: Free information. […] Communicate directly on some issues, but seek the support of third-party support on others (e.g., dangers of censorship, threats to free enterprise) […] Develop simple messages (e.g., Public access equals government censorship; Scientific journals preserve the quality/pedigree of science; government seeking to nationalize science and be a publisher) for use by Coalition members

    Emphasis added. My favorite part of his memo was the paragraph titled “Enlist Think Tank Support”.

    Seek studies, white papers and public commentary from think tanks that may quantify the risks, the societal price tag of public access. Groups that may be considered include the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings, Cato, Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Consumers League.

    Gee, I never would have thought of them!

  5. #5 Monado, FCD
    October 16, 2007

    And what’s wrong with socialized science, I might ask? Who but the government will pay to get bromopyruvic acid through human trials so we can start curing advanced liver cancers with it? It can’t be patented, so no drug company will pay the millions for no profit. Cancers of the solid organs such as pancreas and liver sneak up on people; they’re usually advanced when they’re discovered and mean a swift demise – usually within a few months. It’s wonderfully effective on mice.

  6. #6 Thom
    October 17, 2007

    Probably the only thing to do is to have several ACS members demand that the executives explain their processes for awarding bonuses. When ACS doesn’t respond to that line of inquiry, then that answers the question.

    Why don’t you email them, Revere? Then post their response.

  7. #7 douchebag
    October 24, 2007

    all i hear is “whine whine whine”

  8. #8 travesti
    March 6, 2008

    Why don’t you email them, Revere? Then post their response.

  9. #9 transseksuel
    March 6, 2008

    When ACS doesn’t respond to that line of inquiry, then that answers the question.