"This explains a lot"

Followers of Peter Suber’s blog know that he is one of the fairest, most objective, writers and thinkers on Open Access. He gives credit where it is due even for advances which he feels are largely suboptimal. I have corresponded with Peter but never met him. In two recent postings he uses words that speak very clearly about boundaries, especially the relation between financial reward and publishing.
I already blogged (Why Open Access really matters) on his This time a real threat to peer review and quality control where he says: “Some publishers worry out loud and groundlessly that OA will undermine peer review and quality control, but then work with pharma companies to undermine peer review and quality control themselves and profit handsomely from it.”
Now he reports a similar concern about the link of money and big business under the title:

This explains a lot (21:42 05/10/2007, Peter Suber, Open Access News)
He is reporting an article
Paul D. Thacker, Investigative reporting can produce a “higher obligation”, SEJournal, Summer 2007.
PeterS: Excerpt:

…[P]ublishing executives and senior editors at ACS get bonuses based on how well the publishing operation performs. These bonuses are approved through the committee on executive compensation….

and PeterS Comments

  • We’ve long known that the American Chemical Society (ACS) pays very high salaries to its executives, at least for a non-profit scientific society. For example, according to its 2005 tax returns, it paid Madeleine Jacobs $919,251 and Bob Massie $1,033,330. At the time, Jacobs was the the society’s CEO and Massie was president of its Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS).
  • We’ve also long known that the ACS strongly opposed government OA policies, from PubChem to the NIH policy and FRPAA. According to Nature, the ACS was one of only three publishers (with Wiley and Elsevier) to hear the Dezenhall proposal that recently evolved into PRISM.
  • Thacker’s full article is of interest for another reason: he explains why he was fired from his job as a reporter for one of the ACS journals –after a phone call to his editor from an industry executive who happens to chair the ACS committee on executive compensation.
  • The article includes a sidebar in which two ACS officers dispute parts of Thacker’s account. Excerpt: “Bill Carroll, former ACS president, wrote to say…that he chaired the compensation committee but it does not evaluate or award bonuses to editorial employees.”
  • If your professional society has opposed government OA policies, try to find out whether its executives get bonuses based on the revenues or profits of its publications. If they do, ask in a public meeting whether they believe this is a conflict of interest.

PMR: Read Paul Thacker’s article and make up your own mind. I am not an American, or a member of ACS (although I am grateful to the interest of and interaction with their middle management who have many time invited me to talk). I do know that the membership that I talk to felt that the discussion on Pubchem was stifled and this discontent appeared on public lists. An excerpt from PaulT’s account:

In February 2006, Bill Carroll, an executive with Occidental Chemical, called some of
the society’s publishing executives to complain about my reporting. The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit that is run by an elected board and Bill Carroll was the president.

PMR: Non-chemists may not realise that the ACS has a large industrial membership both individual and corporate.
PMR: For chemical readers, Paul talks about PFOA, (Perfluorooctanoic_acid) which gives me a chance

Perfluorooctanoic acid
IUPAC name pentadecafluorooctanoic acid
Other names perfluorooctanoic acid
CAS number 335-67-1
RTECS number RH0781000
Molecular formula C8HF15O2
Molar mass 414.07 g/mol
Appearance colorless liquid

to use the Wikipedia entry. There is a lot on the public controversy about PFOA. PaulT writes:
The article on the Weinberg Group, a product defense firm,grew out of a letter written by the Weinberg group to DuPont that I discovered in EPA’s docket on PFOA, a chemical used to make Teflon and other non-stick products. In this letter, the Weinberg Group detailed a campaign they hoped to organize for DuPont to protect them against lawsuits and federal regulations on PFOA. The Weinberg Group suggested creating studies to show that PFOA was not only harmless but actually beneficial and offered to find expert scientists that could help DuPont to prove this.

You’ll have to read Paul’s article to see the context. Because I am sitting at home I cannot access major chemical databases (which apart from Pubchem are all closed, pay-for-access). So you will have to do with what the Wikipedia volunteers come up with (and in case it came out wrong recently I am a passionate supporter of this activity):

WP: The durability of PFOA prevents it from breaking down once in the environment, leading to widespread buildup and bioaccumulation in food chains. Traces of PFOA-family chemicals can now be found in the blood of nearly all Americans and in the environment worldwide. Scientists do not yet know how the chemicals are transported or exactly how dangerous they are to humans, although concerns about these issues caused its major manufacturer, 3M, to announce in May 2000 that it would cease producing the chemical. DuPont, one of the largest users of PFOA, then built its own plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina to manufacture PFOA.
DuPont has used PFOA for over 50 years at its Washington Works plant near Belpre, Ohio. Area residents sued DuPont in 2001, claiming the chemical contaminated area drinking water. As part of the settlement, DuPont is paying for blood tests and health surveys of residents believed to be affected. Up to 60,000 people are expected to take part in the study, which will be reviewed by epidemiologists to determine if there are any long-term health effects.
In 2004, DuPont came under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allegedly covering up knowledge of possible health effects of PFOA exposure in a study of pregnant employees, including evidence of PFOA in umbilical cord blood.
The EPA pursued charges against DuPont for failure to report violations filed under the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. On December 13, 2005 DuPont announced a settlement with the EPA in which DuPont will pay US$10.25 million in fines and an additional US$6.25 million for two supplemental environmental projects without any admission of liability.

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