Monday, January 25, 2016

C&EN readers respond to DowDuPont

In the letters to the editor, many comments about Dow/DuPont. Here are a few of them: 
...The third critical decision that, in my opinion, cost us dearly was the decision to sell our key polymers and fibers businesses, enormous cash generators (as the purchaser Koch Industries is now experiencing), before we had developed the cash generation strength elsewhere. 
Perhaps, I am just an old man bemoaning a changing world, but there is no doubt that DuPont and its research organizations will no longer have the power and influence within the broader chemistry community that they once did. I believe this will significantly reduce opportunities for chemistry and chemical engineering professionals, reduce the science and technology capability of our nation, and diminish the world in general. 
I had a wonderful career with DuPont and will be forever grateful for the experience of working with many wonderful chemists, engineers, and mentors. Despite my misgivings on the company’s current course, I, with all my heart, wish DowDuPont well and hope for the best for my many friends and associates as the merger proceeds. 
Lou Glasgow
West Chester, Pa. 
I am a retired industrial analytical chemist. I am old enough to know that “savings and synergies” are code words meaning baloney. Any savings in the Dow Chemical-DuPont merger (C&EN, Dec. 21, 2015, page 7) will come by reduction in older employees in the form of some type of retirement incentives. The executives, from both companies, who retire will get massive golden parachutes. The wise guys who came up with the whole scheme will get massive bonuses to pay for their yachts as they sail off into the sunset laughing all the way. 
Frank C. DiLego,
via C&EN’s website 
As a former Dow Chemical employee, I watched and experienced the lack of understanding of scientific management slowly erode the infrastructure that had built Dow into a wonderful and strong company. Penny-wise, pound-foolish, short-term strategies to bolster stock prices and company margins resulted in poorly equipped laboratories and depleted ranks of scientific staff that didn’t have the critical mass to achieve innovation. 
The glorious, storied companies of Dow and DuPont have been plundered mercilessly and will now wither and die, resulting in a trio of companies no better fit to survive in the long run than the current shells. Shame on C&EN for celebrating one of the saddest events in industrial chemical history. 
Jeffrey M. Marra,
via C&EN’s website 
DuPont’s chief science and technology officer, Doug Muzyka, uses meaningless jargon to cover the demise of R&D at his company (C&EN, Jan. 11, page 5). But we need to recognize that the days of corporate research laboratories are over. 
When I was in graduate school, most large corporations had substantial R&D labs that did high-quality science, but shuttering DuPont Central Research & Development puts one more nail in the coffin of corporate R&D. Now even the Department of Energy’s national laboratories merely have the patina of science rather than real, in-depth science. What good is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education if there are no decent jobs at the end? 
Jeffrey Hylden,
via C&EN’s website
I like the cut of Jeffrey Hylden's jib. Best wishes to the current and former employees of Dow, DuPont and DowDuPont, and to all of us.

P.S. Does anyone know what the fate of Dow/DuPont pensions will be? Are those moneys held separately? What is the health of the pension fund?


  1. Even though my entire career was in academia at well respected universities, my research focus and basic ethic was always on industrial chemistry applications. The gutting of long respected chemical instrument manufacturers and premier industrial research facilities (beginning in the early 1980s with Union Carbide followed by many others) culminating in the demise of DuPont and Dow, has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I consulted with some truly great world class industrial laboratories that no longer exist in spite of generating patents that made their stockholders and senior executives very wealthy. How should I assess my role in various corporate chemical success stories after their organizations were chop-shopped and left on the curb?

    1. Maybe you should have been chatting with smaller companies. They have great people too.

  2. "What good is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education if there are no decent jobs at the end?"

    Training in STEM has inherent goods (it probably brings society good, the study likely brings individuals good, and the general knowledge is helpful for people in society to approach problems and ask appropriate questions), so what it is capable of bringing (and its study, divorced from what it can do) is still worthy even if there are fewer jobs for the people who learn it. I think that perhaps a better question would be "What is the good of advocating that people pursue careers in STEM (*often dishonestly, claiming both a shortage of people who have that training and a surplus of well-paying jobs for those that do, when neither exist, IMO*) if there are no decent jobs at the end?" I sort of assume that's what was meant, and is a question that hasn't gotten an honest answer (other than "We want cheap labor, and we have lots of money and power, and we can lie to you with impunity.")

    1. I have raised exactly this question with the ACS (un)employment task force.

  3. I spent almost 14 years at Dupont early in my career.

    I hope someone knows about the pensions... I am expecting a small one from Dupont I planed to start collecting in 5 years. While small, it will be very important to help supplement Social Security....

  4. As far as I know, the pension plan is healthy and funded. During the December merger announcement the CFO responded to a similar question and he added that it was almost 'fully funded.' When a pension plan is 100% funded, it can be sold to cut costs, (since Dupont phased out pensions ~2005), to an insurance company which would administer it as an annuity for pensioners. I'm not sure if that would affect amount of benefits.

  5. Maybe they were great companies a long time ago, but aren't so great today. There is a strong paradox in the way people talk about Dupont. On one hand, it's the Harvard of industry. On the other, the leaders are such idiots. To quote Obiwan Kenobi - "who's the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who follows him?" Maybe you people shouldn't be worshiping Dupont and realize that all things change. Contrary to what commentators would have you believe, there is brain activity outside of Dupont.