A call for Action - ACS Journal Prices

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Clifford Rossiter, SUNY Potsdam
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A call for Action - ACS Journal Prices

Dear Fellow Chemist,

I am writing to inform you of an article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled, As Chemistry Journals' Prices Rise, a Librarian Just Says No. The article discussed the trials SUNY Potsdam has in obtaining reasonable rates for ACS Journal Subscriptions. A conflict of interest exists between college ACS accreditation and ACS journal subscription. As we all know, access to the literature is essential for continues growth in our chosen careers and for ACS accreditation of our departments. As chemists, it is our blood, sweat, and tears which goes into performing the research, writing the papers, and reviewing articles. I myself have reviewed books, articles, and grants for the ACS without compensation. However, my institution is now unable to subscribe to ACS Journals due to costs and the powers that be at the ACS do not want a continuing dialogue about subscription rates. Most of us are ACS members.  Its time members take control. This is our organization, we perform the research, write the papers, review the articles. All of this, the academic community does without charge. In return, the ACS should provide the journals at an affordable rate. ACS and academia have a symbiotic relationship, they need to be reminded of this. Please forward this information to mount continued pressure on the society to serve its membership better.

Sincerely,

Dr. Clifford Rossiter

http://chronicle.com/article/As-Chemistry-Journals-Prices/134650/

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Adam R. Johnson, Harvey Mudd College
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maybe we need a "facebook" "like" button on our site.  <<Like>>

Kyle, DePaul University
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I've seen a lot of talk about this on the chemistry blogs (e.g. Chembark, Chemjobber). I think its definitely something that needs to be discussed in the chemistry community.

Nancy Scott Burke Williams, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College
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I'll add my voice to this, wholeheartedly. While the ACS is not the worst offender *cough*Elsevier*cough*, the ACS is *our* society. When the journal system becomes a cash cow to the ACS, something has gone horribly wrong. 

Clifford Rossiter, SUNY Potsdam
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Dear Fellow Vipers,

The issue of ACS journal pricing and SUNY Potsdam has caused a flurry of activity in the academic world. Discussions have included articles in The Scientist, Confessions of a Science Librarian, ChemBark, CENBlog Behind the WoodshedTimes Higher EducationInside HigherEd and Library Journal

As this forum is sponsered by the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry and the ACS is currently having National Elections, I would be curious to hear Dr. Thomas J. Barton and Dr. Luis A Echegoyen's opinion on the matter of journal pricing and what, if any, reforms they would propose to help address the cost of journal publications. Specifically, comments should be made available on a public forum. This posting will be forwarded to the candidates for comment.

Sincerely,

Cliff

Adam R. Johnson, Harvey Mudd College
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here you go again:  <<Like>>

If you get a reply, please post back here...

Clifford Rossiter, SUNY Potsdam
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Dear Fellow Vipers,

Dr. Barton provided a timely response to my inquiry. He referred me to the following post ChemBark post (Bold added by Rossiter for emphasis) :

 

What is your stance regarding the fees that ACS publications charges companies and universities to access journals?

I don’t have the data to take a reasoned stance on this at this time.  I’ll have to get it, however, as I have had a couple of interesting emails about this in the past few days, which have caused me to have some potential concerns.  It is hardly unreasonable for users to be concerned about the costs of necessary materials, and ACS needs to be sensitive to the real fiscal constraints in the budgets of their members/subscribers.  Using profits resulting from ACS publications to fund other parts of the operations, considered to be of significant value, up to a point seems reasonable to me.  I can see no reason not to inform membership of the details, specifics and magnitudes, and then try to get feedback via the local sections.  Once again it is a simple matter of openness.  If you are not proud to tell people what you are doing with the money, you need to rethink what you are doing with the money.  Actually I imagine that ACS has an admirable story to tell here.  As I said, I don’t have enough information to provide a detailed answer at this time, and that is largely because such information is difficult to obtain.  There clearly is considerable concern about pricing out there (e.g. www.attemptingelegance.com and www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/12/02/acs ) but “tiered pricing”, “value-based pricing” and confidential negotiations with individual institutions have made it difficult to see a clearly defined pricing picture.  One group truly stands out as having serious problems and that is small liberal-arts colleges with quite small chemistry departments, who have to pay what to them are very large sums of money to subscribe to the number of credible chemistry journals required for ACS accreditation.  With the fiscal situations of these institutions being often dire, it has become difficult if not impossible for them to comply.  I strongly believe that we need to work on a solution to this problem.  I also believe that there must be solutions, as our reason for existence is to serve our members.

A question I have, and have not yet found an answer, is has there been an accounting of the actual costs of publication now versus the pre”technology-revolutionized” costs.  Surely the costs have been lowered by electronic publishing, and one might have expected that to be reflected in subscription costs.  Maybe it has been, or perhaps the loss of revenue from individual subscriptions has more than offset any savings.  I don’t know, and I’m sure many members would like to see a C&EN article addressing this situation.

I appreciate Dr Barton's quick response. I would like to submit follow-up questions in regard to the ChemBark blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Cliff