October 1, 2023

Community voices concerns over American Chemical Society… – Chemistry World

An organisational restructure at Chemical and Engineering News (C& EN) has prompted members of the chemistry community to raise issues about the publication’s future editorial independence.

A stack of magazines

C& EN is a weekly current affairs magazine that has been published by the American Chemical Society (ACS) for almost 100 years. But an apparent realignment of reporting priorities, alongside the particular dismissals last week of two of its most senior editors, has led several advisory and content board users to voice concerns about the publication’s future direction. The latest changes have followed an internal restructure in 2021 that saw the magazine moved from the ACS’s publishing division into its communications department.

In a good open letter to ACS members, 12 current plus former board members expressed concern over ‘detrimental changes’ to C& EN ’s operations, including the removal of safeguards that were in place to protect the publication’s independence.

The letter’s authors note that several associated with the magazine’s journalists possess won national awards for the quality of their reporting. ‘Along with the people at C& EN , the bedrock of this quality is editorial independence, ’ they write. ‘Based upon the current changes made to C& EN by the leadership of the particular ACS, that editorial independence has been revoked. ’

One of the board members’ main concerns is that the magazine’s reporting on the most important scientific news stories could be weakened by a shift in focus towards coverage of ACS events.

‘Over the last few days, the particular Advisory Board’s concern for the magazine’s content independence has deepened. It appears that ACS Information (awards, governance, happenings, etc . ) will take priority more than news from your chemical enterprise, ’ they wrote.

‘When we got word as an advisory board in 2021 that will C& EN was moving from publications to the communications division, it set off a lot of red flags, ’ says inorganic chemist Matt Hartings , who helped organise the open letter. ‘As an advisory board, we are particularly aware associated with the need for self-reliance – if you’re doing reporting, your reporting needs to be trusted from the people you’re reporting with regard to. And you don’t want to be reporting for the same person that does [public relations] for that society. So , there’s all sorts of conflicts of interest. ’

In a guest editorial published by C& EN , the ACS’s vice president of communications Susan Morrissey, who is also C& SOBRE ’s publisher, wrote that the particular organisational modifications would ‘better position C& EN regarding the future, allowing it to strengthen its focus on its role as the official organ of the American Chemical substance Society simply by providing information to the members regarding society business, programs, and activities’.

‘The changes will enhance C& EN ’s scope of coverage, reduce organizational redundancies, plus improve operating efficiencies. This change, however , will not reduce the concentrate on our coverage associated with science and related information, which remains at the particular heart of C& EN , ’ she added.

However, Hartings is not really fully convinced by these reassurances: ‘If you’re going to do more protection of ACS news, plus you’re furthermore going to continue your regular news reporting, but you are firing people and getting rid associated with reporters, and moving some units into different groups within the ACS – those things don’t add up. ’

Responding to questions from  Chemistry World,   ACS chief executive Thomas Connelly  said: ‘ACS is fully committed in order to C& SOBRE and to maintaining and protecting its editorial independence. The recent reorganization does not impact C& EN ’s ability to do world-class science journalism, which remains in the heart of the publication. C& SOBRE has posted its standards and practices , which usually include how editorial independence is maintained. The info included there remains accurate.  

‘The change within C& EN positions it to better serve its dual role of providing up-to-the minute, balanced journalism that professionals within the chemistry enterprise need, and details about ACS activities plus efforts to its people. C& SOBRE will carry on to fulfill its mission of gathering and delivering news and stories intended for professionals in the chemistry business from academia, industry, plus beyond that they cannot find anywhere else. ’

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