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American Chemical Society

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The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the world's largest professional society for chemists. It was founded in 1876 at present day New York University and has approximately 154,000 members scattered across various disciplines in chemistry. [1]

It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The ACS holds national meetings twice a year that cover the complete field of chemistry, plus dozens of smaller conferences in specific fields. [2] Its publications division produces several scholarly journals including Environmental Science & Technology, which has a news section. [3] The ACS membership is organized into 189 geographical Local Sections and 33 Technical Divisions.

Funding

The primary source of income for ACS is the Chemical Abstracts Service and its publications.[4] Chemical & Engineering News is the society's weekly news magazine, with complimentary issues sent to all members.

High Salaries of American Chemical Society Executives

In 2004, ACS officials came under scrutiny for salaries that greatly exceed those of executives at other scientific societies and research universities.[5] The news section of Science revealed that ACS's executive director earned over $721,000 in 2002.[6] In response to the controversy, Executive Director, Madeleine Jacobs, pledged to lower executive compensation. A protest site called www.idontcare.com/acs has regularly posted the salaries of ACS executives which are listed in society's IRS form 990s. In 2005, ACS reported to the IRS that Madeleine Jacobs was paid $919,251. [7]

Corporate Influence on American Chemical Society Journalists

With its strong ties to industry and elected board filled with industry officials, corporate bias has come to light on at least two occasions at ACS. In 1995, the Columbia Journalism Review reported in its Darts and Laurels section that an executive with an oil company killed a story that was to appear in Chemical & Engineering News.

"Getting wind of the news that staff writer Wilbert Lepkowski's year-long investigation into the dismal history of Ashland Oil and its legal and environmental woes was just about ready to erupt, Ashland vice president John Brothers flew from company headquarters in Ashland, Kentucky, to Washington, D.C., where he and ACS executive director John Crumb had a little chat." The article continued, "Whatever was said, following that meeting the Ashland piece was sunk."[8]

In February 2006, Bill Carroll, also known as William F. Carroll, attacked the reporting of Paul D. Thacker, a journalist working at the American Chemical Society. Carroll is an executive with Occidental Chemical and is the past president of the American Chemical Society. Thacker had written stories on several front groups such as the Save Our Species Alliance and Project Protect. [9] Thacker also exposed attempts by the Weinberg Group to undermine the science on tobacco, pharmaceuticals and Teflon.[10]

In a letter, Thacker's editor attempted to defend his reporting which Carroll characterized as "anti-industry," "liberal," and "muckraking." [11] Thacker later wrote in the SEJournal that executives at the American Chemical Society receive bonuses based on the profitability of the society's publishing division. These bonuses are approved by the Committee on Executive Compensation which was chaired by Bill Carrol. [12]

The University of California reports that ACS does not provide financial transparency for its executive compensation.[13]

Thacker quit his job with the American Chemical Society and was subsequently fired. Vanity Fair Daily later reported that Thacker's work on the Weinberg Group was picked up by the Washington Post.[14]

ACS activities against open access

The American Chemical Society has been actively involved in fighting open access for science journals. In 2004, Editor Rudy Baum penned an editorial in Chemical & Engineering News against, what he called, "open access advocates." The editorial was titled "Socialized Science."[15]. "Their unspoken crusade is to socialize all aspects of science, putting the federal government in charge of funding science, communicating science, and maintaining the archive of scientific knowledge. If that sounds like a good idea to you, then NIH's open-access policy should suit you just fine."

In June 2005, Nobel Laureate Richard J. Roberts made a letter publicly available that announced he was withdrawing his membership in ACS because the Society "vehemently opposed the Open Access initiative."[16] Dr. Roberts wrote, "Frankly, the recent actions of the ACS are a disgrace to its image in the USA and around the world."

In January 2007, Nature reported that public relations operative, Eric Dezenhall, "spoke to employees from Elsevier, Wiley and the American Chemical Society at a meeting arranged last July [2006] by the Association of American Publishers." The publishers were seeking to counter economic threats from open-access journals and public databases.

In an email leaked to Nature, Dezenhall suggested that the publishers "focus on simple messages, such as 'Public access equals government censorship.' He hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review, and 'paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles.'" Nature added that "Brian Crawford, a senior vice-president at the American Chemical Society and a member of the AAP executive chair, says that Dezenhall's suggestions have been refined and that the publishers have not to his knowledge sought to work with the Competitive Enterprise Institute."[17]

Scientific American reported that ACS had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against open-acess. "In fact, the ACS paid lobbying firm Hicks Partners LLC at least $100,000 in 2005 to try to persuade congressional members, the NIH, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that a 'PubChem Project' would be a bad idea, according to public lobbying disclosures, and paid an additional $180,000 to the Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates to promote the 'use of [a] commercial database.' It also reportedly spent a chunk of its 2005 $280,000 internal lobbying budget as well as part of its $270,000 lobbying budget last year to push the issue, according to disclosure documents. The ACS publishes more than 30 journals covering all aspects of chemistry, and the organization did not return phone calls for comment."[18]

After stories appeared in the press, Brian Crawford wrote a statement on behalf of the American Association of Publishers. "Regrettably, the news reports above were somehow stimulated by reporters gaining access to internal emails and background information...."[19] Crawford is head of ACS publications.[2]

Crawford later defended hiring Dezenhall in an editorial: "In essence, the premise of a January 24, 2007 article in Nature was that [publishers] should be admonished for seeking advice and assistance from a media consulting firm known for its effectiveness in working with high-profile clients on controversial issues," he wrote. "Peer-reviewed science and medicine should be free of any government intervention or funding agency bias, and we will fulfill our responsibility to communicate that point of view, because doing so is in the best interest of science and society."[20]

The American Chemical apparently took Dezenhall up on his offer, according to New Scientist, which reported that publishers had established a front group called Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine (PRISM).[3] "Dezenhall's strategy includes linking open access with government censorship and junk science – ideas that to me seem quite bizarre and misleading," wrote the reporter. [21] New Scientist acquired a copy of Dezenhall's strategy document for creating PRISM and released it on their Website.[22]

Contact Details

American Chemical Society
1155 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
USA
Phone (800) 227-5558 (US) or (202) 872-4600 (Worldwide)
Website: www.acs.org

Sources

  1. "About ACS," American Chemical Society website, accessed September 2009.
  2. "ACS Meetings, Conferences & Expositions", accessed October 2007.
  3. "Environmental Science & Technology", accessed October 2007.
  4. "ACS and the University of California - Facts and Figures
  5. "Chemical Society Draws Fire for Leader's High Pay" Chronicle of Higher Education, September 3, 2004.
  6. "Judicious spender", Science, Vol. 305. no. 5689, September 3, 2004, p. 1399.
  7. "ACS/CAS Salaries for 1992-2005", I Dont Care.com, accessed October 2007.
  8. Columbia Journalism Review, May 1995 / June 1995, DARTS & LAURELS; Vol. XXXIV, No. 1; Pg. 24
  9. Hidden ties: Big environmental changes backed by big industry", Environmental Science & Technology, March 8, 2006.
  10. Paul D. Thacker "The Weinberg proposal", Environmental Science & Technology, February 22, 2006.
  11. Alan Newman, Memo to Robert Bovenschulte, Brian Crawford, March 22, 2006. Pdf)
  12. Paul D. Thacker, Investigative reporting can produce a "higher obligation", SEJournal, Summer 2007, pp 4 & 24. (Pdf)
  13. University of California, Office of Scholarly Communication "The Role of Scholarly Societies"
  14. David Roberts, "Uncovering the Weinberg Group", Vanity Fair Daily, April 28, 2008.
  15. Rudy Baum "Socialized Science" Chemical & Engineering News, September 20, 2004, Volume 82, Number 38 p. 7.
  16. Richard J. Roberts [1] Letter addressed to Dr. Namaroff of the ACS, June 1, 2005.
  17. Jim Giles, "PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access: Journal publishers lock horns with free-information movement", Nature, Volume 445 No 347, January 25, 2007.
  18. David Biello "Open Access to Science Under Attack: Advocates of open access to scientific research may find themselves under fire from high-profile public relations flaks and high-powered lobbying groups.", Scientific American, January 26, 2007.
  19. Brian Crawford "LETTER FROM PSP EXECUTIVE COUNCIL CHAIRMAN BRIAN D. CRAWFORD" January 26, 2007.
  20. Brian Crawford, "Chairman's Corner", Professional Scholarly Publishing Bulletin, Volume 7, No. 1, Spring 2007.
  21. Jim Giles, "Publishers prepare for war over open access", New Scientist, September 20, 2007.
  22. "Proposed Coalition Strategies and Tactics", undated. (Pdf file)