Thursday, April 12, 2012

ACS Member E-Passport: not good enough

ACS Member E-Passport: not a good enough deal
Over at In the Pipeline, "Mrs. McGreevey"* is suggesting that chemists band together for group negotiations for health insurance, journal access and an online community for support on grantwriting, etc. I especially like the comments on journal access:
2. Group rates on access to journals and library services. 
This is something I do know a bit about. My M.S. is in library science, and I worked in the Chemistry Library in a large research institution for years during grad school. What if there were one centralized virtual library to which unaffiliated researchers across the country could log in for ejournal access? What if one place could buy and house the print media that start-ups would need to access every so often, and provide a librarian to look things up-- it's not like everyone needs their own print copy of the Canada & US Drug Development Industry & Outsourcing Guide 2012 at $150 a pop. (But if 350 people paid $1 a year for a $350/yr online subscription . . . ) 
Yes, some of you could go to university libraries and look these things up and print off articles to read at home, but some of you can't. You're probably violating some sort of terms of service agreement the library and publisher worked out anyway. It's not like anyone is likely to bust you unless you print out stacks and stacks of papers, but still. It's one more hassle for a small company to deal with, and everyone will have to re-invent the wheel and waste time and energy negotiating access on their own.
I think that's an excellent idea, as someone who enjoyed darn near universal access to everything during my academic/early industrial career and now suffers along without access to a lot of the chemical literature. I'm regularly making trips to the local university library (closed on Sunday?!?! Darn you!). Of course, those trips (and their success) depends on the library you're going to. My local public university library used to be superb -- now, not so much.

This brings us to ACS Member E-Passport, which offers the chemist the fabulous deal of 500 articles for $1000. From ACS Publications' perspective, this is a great deal -- they're offering you articles at $2 per, as opposed to the $35 that you might normally pay. From my perspective, no deal. For $1000 a year (a price, I might add, that I would be willing to think about**), I want demand would prefer universal access to everything.

If I pay $500 to this new organization and they offer me universal access to all the major publishing houses, I'd be all for it.

*What is that a reference to? The NJ governor's wife? 
**I should note that $1000 is a lot of money in anyone's book, even ACS industrial chemists (median B.S./M.S./Ph.D. industrial member salary: $72k, $86k, $115k. Note that it's independent or small company chemists that would be paying for these services on their own -- and they're the ones with the smaller salaries.)


  1. I agree, but I still think the ACS package is a sweet deal. I just had an Elsevier email this week announcing their packages: they range from $640 for a measly 20 article package to a budget busting $11500 for 500 articles. That last one is still $23 an article, compared to the pay-per-view of $39.95 - some savings, huh?

  2. Luckily, most of the people I know have no qualms whatsoever about sending me copies of papers they have access to.

  3. What about enrolling for a throwaway credit at a local community college to gain access through the state college library system. Much cheaper, and fairly legit.

    1. I actually like this idea, and have heard of people using it. I should figure out how to do this for my state.

  4. Hi CJ.

    The name "Mrs. McGreevy" comes from a Bloom County comic strip from back in 1985 or 1986. The Purple Spotted Snorklewacker (or whatever it was) pulled an overdue copy of Green Eggs and Ham from the back of Binkley's Anxiety Closet. Mrs. McG was the petite, gray-haired, axe-wielding librarian who spoke the classic line "119 weeks overdue, dear." This is the sort of thing librarians taped to their reference desks while you chemists were busily cutting out The Far Side cartoons to stick on your fume hoods. The wife of the governor of New Jersey never occurred to me (rather like how no one else would remember a throwaway joke from an almost thirty year old cartoon never occurred to me, but that's neither here nor there.)

    As far as forming an organization, so far this has been just me writing one email to Derek Lowe, throwing out questions and suggestions. I'm gratified that so many people are interested, and it is certainly worth looking into, but it is nowhere close to an organization with a membership list.

    1. Mrs. McG! Thanks for the comment. I used to read Bloom County, but I think I was too young to understand the jokes. (There was that very weird rap parody that I remember, and I also remember the weird Mortimer Mouse cartoons...)

      Please e-mail me with updates -- I'd be happy to throw as much attention your way as you'd like.

  5. On the other hand, did you know that in order for a university/college to feature an "ACS certified B.Sc. Chemistry Degree", that they MUST subscribe to SciFinder? Even though Reaxsys provides much better literature coverage than SciFinder.

  6. I appreciate the ACS for moving in the right direction on journal access for those of us who aren't at universities or big companies. I hope they stay with it. For example, I'd like to see them expand the number of titles an ACS member can subscribe to. It's currently five, and I'd subscribe to another five if I could.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20