Effect Measure

Stonewalling at the ACS

Two weeks ago we reported getting an anonymous email from within the fetid bowels of the American Chemical Society. We weren’t the only ones. Apparently it was also sent to college librarians, ACS administrators and a science writing listserv. Now it is making its way onto more conventional media (more conventional than this blog, anyway; but you heard it here first, by two weeks):

It said that the ACS is growing more corporate in structure and described how it manages the 36 chemical journals under its purview. Among other criticisms, the anonymous Emailer wrote that the bonuses given to ACS executives are tied to the profits of the publishing division, and such bonuses explain why the society has had such a strong stance against open-access publishing.

The anonymous author responded to requests from The Scientist for more information about his or her identity only with “I just have to remain anonymous.” He or she did not provide any confirmable evidence that bonuses to executives in the society were linked to profits in the publishing division.

The Email is believable, Christopher Reed, distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, and outspoken critic of the ACS, told The Scientist in an Email. “Staff are intimidated about speaking out, they must do so anonymously. The profit motive has distracted ACS management from its constitutional purpose.”

The Email called into question the high salaries and bonuses paid to ACS CEO Madeleine Jacobs, Chemical & Engineering News editor-in-chief Rudy Baum, and president of the ACS publishing division Brian Crawford, stating that the bonuses are directly proportional to the profits of the publishing division. Crawford is also the chairman of the Association of American Publishers, who, in August, launched the controversial Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM) coalition, an anti-open-access group. (The Scientist)

According to tax data obtained by The Scientist, the top publications officials make salaries of some $750,000, described by the Society as “competitive” for the publishing field. Hey, I publish. I even publish in journals owned by companies who are the competition for ACS journals. I don’t get a penny. Of course all I did was think and write. I didn’t perform “executive functions.” Just sayin’.

The allegations may have been believable to an ACS critic (Reed) but that didn’t prevent the ACS from denying them. Their response, though, is somewhat lacking in details. I understate.

A statement sent to The Scientist from Judith Benham, chair of the ACS board of directors, said: “The anonymous author makes erroneous and misleading claims about the compensation of these employees and alleges that the compensation is somehow related to the Society’s position on open access [see also here, here, here].”


[Chemical & Engineering News editor-in-chief Rudy] Baum declined to say whether his bonuses were linked to publishing profits, but only that the anonymous letter had more incorrect information in it than correct information. “When anonymous material comes into the office I throw it out right away,” he told The Scientist.

That, I believe, is called stonewalling.


  1. #1 Dylan
    October 23, 2007

    Stop whining, Revere. When you can match the scintillating, and lasciviously carnal, osculating nature of the acronym “PRISM,” with anything nearly as clever (beats the shit out of “radar”), and tendentious, then maybe your publishers will consider forking over a few bucks.


    But it doubt it.

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