Monday, December 22, 2014

A typical ACS approach to #chemjobs

Also in this week's issue of C&EN, a farewell missive from Dr. William Carroll, the outgoing chairman of the ACS board of directors. The relevant sections: 
...Members always tell us that communicating scientific knowledge—through meetings, journals, and particularly C&EN—is most important to them. On the other hand, our ability to help with career maintenance and advancement has been working its way up the importance ladder. I think we’ve made good progress on both counts. 
We’re doing a better job of linking the three pillars of the American Chemical Society—Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), ACS Publications (Pubs), and the membership organization—into a cohesive member- and customer-facing unit. There are now basic benefits in Pubs and CAS that come with membership, including free article downloads and SciFinder tasks. There are opportunities for purchasing additional articles and subscriptions at low prices. For the retired, self-employed, or unemployed chemist this provides substantial value. 
We’re thinking more globally in all three units. Most of our revenue as a society comes from outside the U.S., and a growing number of authors and editors for our publications are based around the world. A substantial portion of the articles and patents that CAS indexes comes from other countries. And as people the world over become more familiar with our products, we can credibly make the case that membership is a benefit that draws them yet closer to the largest and most diverse scientific society in the world. 
Our Career Pathways Workshops do a great job of teaching members, and particularly students, what the world is like out there and how to break into it. I know these tools are useful because as an ACS Career Consultant, I’ve helped people launch themselves. There is nothing more gratifying than when one of your students gets a job. 
...Looking toward the future, alongside those achievements lie two important challenges: how to increase membership in countries where it is uncommon to belong to any membership organization, including a professional society, and how to keep recent graduates in the U.S. engaged with us as they move into and through their careers—especially if those careers are not in traditional chemistry jobs.
My comments:
  • No mention of the historically high unemployment rates for new graduates and current members during his tenure on the board. 
  • The implication that 25 free downloads or 25 free SciFinder searches is a "substantial value" is laughable on its face. It's helpful, but far from the generosity one would hope from a scientific society that seems to be able to be quite generous to its senior executives. 
  • What I find most depressing is the recognition from the Chairman of the Board of the American Chemical Society that students who graduate with degrees in chemistry won't be working in "traditional chemistry jobs." No attempt to struggle with this problem -- just a seeming shrug. He'll be gone, but we'll still be here. 
And again, someone at the top of the organization who worries about just getting more and more members and not caring about the organization's ability to connect with its current members and their actual quality of life (i.e. how chemistry helps them make a living.) Quantity, not quality -- that's what the American Chemical Society is focused on these days. Sigh. 


  1. RE: SciFinder or Pub Download

    Don't you know, "First hit's free?"

  2. And the ACS wonders why I don't buy there membership. I had it for a year as an undergrad. One year as a graduate student. Never as a post-doc. And with not being able to get a position, why would I spend money for their salary?

  3. Every day, my decision to cancel my ACS membership five years ago keeps looking better and better. The ACS has a parallel problem to the industry in general: more focused on growing enrollment numbers and the money it brings in and not at all concerned with what happens after that.

  4. I disagree about the 25 free articles. I find this to be a great benefit and along with C&EN the primary reason I pay my dues. I can get some ACS articles through work (we have some relevant subscriptions, otherwise we pay per article), but I can't do this willy-nilly - there has to be a business justification. There are often articles that catch my interest for other reasons, such as being written by my grad school or post-doctoral colleagues, that I enjoy the chance to read. Those 25 free articles are exactly how I do this.

    1. I actually think the 25 free articles are pretty great (thanks for the reminder, btw, to burn the rest of mine for the rest of the year.)

      But I think that 25 free searches is a miserly amount to offer to an unemployed chemist. How about 100? How about unlimited access during the period of your unemployment, so that you can stay up on the literature?

      Here's 25 whole searches. W000000t!

    2. You could burn through those searches in an afternoon

  5. We are thinking more globally . . . ACS
    most revenue is from outside the US . . . ACS

    American Citizens are an increasingly unimportant piece of the pie for this scam society. The world can have that piece of crap.

  6. "Tone deaf" would be an improvement.... sheeesh. It's just absurd that the single biggest issue for all non-academic ACS members is relegated to a footnote, if mentioned at all.

  7. I got tired of contributing to Madeleine Jacobs's million-dollar annual compensation without getting anything in return. That's when I cancelled.

  8. The ACS is an advocate for increased research funding and funding for STEM education . The ACS is publisher who directly benefits from increased funding via subscription rates. ACS subscription rates (and those of other major publishers) are beyond outrageous and border on criminal. (If I were a lawyer I might have a better take on whether my use of the word criminal there would be simply hyperbolic or literal.) SciFinder rates are marginally better. There's a severe conflict of interest in this. Now let's mix in the way the ACS is a complete and abject failure on the issue of employment.
    Does anyone else believe that the three arms of the ACS should be forcibly broken up into three FULLY INDEPENDENT organizations? I think there's a very good case for it. I gave up my membership in 2008 and I won't reinstate it until the ACS in its current form no longer exists.

  9. ACS is basically a propaganda arm for the chemical industry, not chemistry the profession, to give the industry its historical legitimacy and political weight, nothing more. It is not a union or a guild so it is not obligated to 'fight' for its working members. If anything, ACS (and other professional societies like it) actually makes forming an union harder because it diffuses many labor issues via fiat within the profession since many people, especially the new graduates, trust ACS as an union when it is the exact opposite.

    1. While I see what you are saying, i would like to post this bit directly from the ACS website regarding its mission:

      -This vision ─ developed and adopted by the ACS Board of Directors after broad consultation with the membership ─ fully complements the ACS Mission statement, which is “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.” Together, these two statements represent our ultimate reason for being and provide a strategic framework for our efforts. -

      So, with that kind of wishy washy mission, what can it's members really expect from the ACS?
      I certainly do not see the ACS really being committed to advancing the practitioners of chemistry for the benefit of earth.

      I would argue that all the ACS really is interested in is publishing (money) and CAS (money); the rest of its activities are simply a side show.

      I would argue the ACC is really the propaganda arm of industry.

      All my opinions of course.

  10. Long-time ACS member. Much longer than I care to be, truth to be told.

    But I get my term-life insurance thru the ACS program. And being a cancer survivor, albeit 10 yrs out, it is not easy to qualify for affordable coverage elsewhere.

    Otherwise I wold have ditched ACS many moons ago.

  11. Being a long time ACE member I vividly recall when a Sr. in college, soon to graduate as a chemistry major, I received an invitation to the ACS, never knowing who had made the recommendation....the professor whose lab I was working, my advisor or the department itself. However it was done, I can recall my having felt a sense of accomplishment by being accepted into a special place, along with an amount of excitement as to what the future might hold in approaching grad school. Over the years, however, I became increasing disappointed with both the organization and C&E News, as both seemed no longer able to capture the changing world of life as a chemist outside of academia. It's time for the focus be more honest about the state of current and future chemistry employment, help with finding alternative careers, and find a better balance between the numbers being trained as graduate chemists and the job opportunities.

  12. I am a long-time ACS member too. I have subscribed to OLET, JOC and JACS. And ACS just allows me to access 250 papers per journal and year. That's ridicolous! The 25 additional downloads and free searches are ridicolous too!
    For 250 additional downloads, I would have to pay 500 USD! I think, that is invented by mentally disabled people, as this is MORE expensive than the membership including three journal subscriptions (which equals 750 downloads)...

    1. Eons ago I subscribed to printed editions of JACS and JOC. This meant that I could to read every paper in every issue and I could go back to a paper even after my subscription ended.
      With the 250 paper limit in the electronic subscription I run out of papers to read some time in early fall. Additionally, after my subscription expires I can't access papers I already paid for.
      I can't recall whether I voted for RIP Steve Jobs for the ACS Presidency or for ACS Journals to join iTunes. This "progress" = racket.


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