October 29, 2007

Controversy at the American Chemical Society, Part II

Noted without comment, an email from a few days ago:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing you this email in allegiance with the original Insider at the American Chemical Society. The Chronicle of Higher Education confirmed last week that executive bonuses at the American Chemical Society are tied to the financial success of their publishing division. This money may be influencing opposition to Open Access publishing by ACS executives. The executive director pulls in almost $1 million annually.

To prevent Open Access:

  • ACS Editor Rudy Baum has written numerous opposing editorials in Chemical & Engineering News.
  • The Society has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for lobbyists.
  • ACS Publishing Executive, Brian Crawford, helped hire a suspect PR firm which created a covert organization called Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM).

Question: Is ACS being run in the interest of members or to fatten the wallets of its executives? Please reference the following time line with supporting sources.

[1] Sept 2004 - Rudy Baum writes an editorial in C&EN entitled "Socialized Science." Rudy argues, "Open access, in fact, equates with socialized science." Rudy does not mention that bonuses for ACS publishing executives are tied to publishing profits.

[2] June 2006 - Rudy Baum writes "Take A Stand," another C&EN editorial against "socialized science." He argues, "As a member of the ACS Publications Division executive team, I am very familiar with the tremendous effort, expense, and human resources that are poured into producing the finest chemistry journals and databases in the world." As support, Rudy cites the position of the scholarly division of the Assn. of American Publishers (AAP). Rudy does not disclose that the chairman of the AAP's scholarly division is Brian Crawford, a publishing executive at ACS.

[3] July 2006 - As Nature later reports, Several publishing executives with ACS, Wiley and Elsevier meet with PR operative, Eric Dezenhall, to discuss a plan to defeat open access. Dezenhall advises the executives to equate Open Access with a reduction in peer review quality.

[4] August 2006 - ACS publishing executive, Brian Crawford, writes a letter against Open Access to the Los Angeles Times. In the letter, he states, "Publishers will keep working to expand access to research while maintaining the integrity of peer review and copyright protection." Crawford identifies himself the "chair of the executive council of the professional and scholarly publishing division of the Assn. of American Publishers."

[5] January 2007 - Nature reports that several publishing companies (Elsevier, ACS, Wiley) have hired PR operative Eric Dezenhall to fight Open Access. In the past, Dezenhall represented several celebrities, as well as felons convicted in the Enron debacle.

[6] January 2007 - Scientific American reports that ACS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire lobbying firms to defeat Open Access. ACS' own internal lobbyists are also working against Open Access, but the exact expense cannot be determined from published records.

[7] Summer 2007 - Former ACS journalist, Paul D. Thacker, writes in the SEJournal that Rudy Baum and other ACS executives sought to discredit his reporting after his editor received complaints from ACS President, Bill Carroll. Thacker claims that Carroll chairs the ACS Committee on Executive Compensation which reviews the bonuses of the publishing executives such as Rudy Baum. Rudy Baum does not address the issue of compensation, but Carroll states that his Committee does not review editorial bonuses.

[8] September 2007 - The Assn of American Publishers launches a new group called Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM) coalition, an anti-open-access group. The group claims that Open Access will hurt peer review.

[9] Early October 2007 - ACS sends out a press release stating that several anonymous emails about executive pay and bonuses are filled with "erroneous and misleading claims." The press release notes that compensation for ACS executives is approved by the Committee on Executive Compensation, however, executive compensation is not "related to the Society's position on open access." The press release continues, "Our Society's position is also represented by the Association of American Publishers, a non-profit organization whose membership encompasses the major commercial and non-profit scholarly publishers, including ourselves."

[10] October 22, 2007 - As reported in The Scientist, Rudy Baum declines to state if his compensation is tied to publishing profits. Of an anonymous email claiming the contrary, he says, "When anonymous material comes into the office I throw it out right away."

[11] October 24, 2007 - ACS rebuts the anonymous email in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle interviews ACS Executive Director, Madeleine Jacobs, who "did confirm that senior executives and some managers in the publishing division have a 'small portion' of their overall incentive compensation 'based on meeting certain financial targets.' She did not agree that such incentive pay, however small, represented a conflict of interest in the group's opposition to open-access legislation and called such argument 'spurious.'"


  • January 2008 - Rudy Baum announces that he has accepted a fellowship at Columbia Journalism School. He will teach a summer course titled, "Ethics and Conflicts of Interest in Science Reporting."

  • September 2009 - Brian Crawford mysteriously leaves ACS to become president of the Association of American Publishers. Leaving ACS costs him a 20 percent reduction in pay.

  • March 20013 - The Harvard Crimson reports that the Faculty Senate is investigating several large donations made by Madeleine Jacobs to Harvard's Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Recently appointed as an adjunct lecturer, Ms. Jacobs tells the Crimson that she donated a "small portion" of her last year's income and few shares of stocks to the Center. She does not agree that these donations, however small, influenced the Center in selecting her as an adjunct lecturer and calls such argument "spurious."

Happy reading!
ACS Insider (we are legion!)


[1] "Socialized Science", by Rudy Baum

[2] "Take a Stand", by Rudy Baum

[3] "PR's Pit Bull Takes on Open Access" Nature, January 2007.

[4] "Expand access, protect research" Letter to Los Angeles Times, Brian Crawford.

[5] "PR's Pit Bull Takes on Open Access" Nature, January 2007.

[6] "Open Access to Science Under Attack: High Profile Flacks" Sci Am., January 2007.

[7] SEJournal, Summer 2007.

[8] PRISM website

[9] Letter posted at Pharyngula Blog

[10] "Unrest in the ACS" The Scientist, October 22, 2007.

[11] "Chemical Society Rebuts Anonymous Accusations" Chron. of Higher Ed, October 23, 2007.

*** For future revelations, please follow the American Chemical Society Wiki:

OK, a couple of comments:

One, this is my last posting of an anonymous email on this subject.

Two, Peter Suber has also posted about this new email.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a member of the American Chemical Society who regulary reads the editorials written by Rudy Baum, I am so glad that I stumbled across this site. I am a little worried that the ACS is too close to industry and not sufficiently independent.

This article in Vanity Fair on Rudy Baum and the Weinberg Group is very eye opening.