Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Glenn Ruskin clarifies his statement

This morning, I send the following e-mail to Glenn Ruskin, director of the ACS Office of Public Affairs:
Dear Mr. Ruskin: 
I saw your recent comments in The Chronicle of Higher Education. I am writing to express my disappointment with your statement about blogs and other forms of electronic communication. I have also written on it in my blog, Chemjobber.  
I sincerely hope that you were somehow misquoted. If not, I hope that I can convince you that your generalizations about the incivility of blogs were incorrect.  
Best wishes,  
Chemjobber 
P.S. I am an ACS member; if so desired, I can prove it. 
This afternoon, I received this reply:
Dear Chemjobber:

Good afternoon, and thank you for reaching out to me on this matter.

It was not my intention, nor the intention of ACS, to denigrate blogs or users/contributors of blogs.   My comment was directed toward the blog that was the subject of the Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) story.  Unfortunately, CHE did not use the totality of my comment as I think it would have been clear that I was speaking specifically to the blog that was the point of the story.  Here is the totality of my statement (bolded section was omitted by CHE):

"We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance and common courtesy are not practiced and observed.  As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution. Therefore, we will not be offering any response  to this blog posting or the conversation that has ensued."

I respect and appreciate responsible bloggers, those that thoughtfully engage on those blogs as well as those that utilize listservs.  No insult was intended, and apologies to those that interpreted the comment that way.  These outlets provide important avenues to further dialogue and collaboration and are valuable assets in the ever evolving digital age.

The individual responsible for the above cited blog certainly has the right to her opinion, but that does not excuse rude behavior or her use of profanity and vulgarity in addressing ACS or its employees. While not evident in the most recent postings, I won’t repeat what she has posted in the past.  But I think you would agree that vulgarity and profanity postings do not lead themselves to meaningful, productive and civil discourse, thus our decision not to engage any further with her on this topic.

I hope that helps clarify this matter and I thank you for reaching out to me to share your concern.

Glenn
I find this to be an interesting response (and assertion!), but there we have it.

9 comments:

  1. That's after I reminded him that I am a proponent of direct communication.

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  2. He said: "We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance and common courtesy are not practiced and observed."

    It was read as: "We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs: where logic, balance and common courtesy are not practiced and observed."

    He meant: "We find little constructive dialogue can be had when logic, balance and common courtesy are not practiced and observed, such as on this blog and other listservs."

    ??

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  3. I would also note that he continues to denigrate me as a blogger, using as his evidence of my incivility and vulgarity screenshots of casual internet conversation in non-professional spaces. I guess that negates everything I say in professional spaces, huh? Nothing like using a classic derailing tactic to distract from a discussion you don't want to have...

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  4. It strikes me that an organization trying to sell online journals might have an interest in taking criticism seriously, whether or not those criticisms are delivered with the polite wording and tone of deference the organization prefers.

    Because honestly, if science librarians (who are working with hugely slashed budgets for acquisitions these days) are frustrated, that frustration will occasionally bubble to the surface as they explain the hard choices they need to make. And, if an organization like ACS is going to opt out of even listening to the frustrated science librarians, rather than working with them to figure out how to make their journals a sensible way to spend part of that shrinking budget, there are going to be a whole lot fewer ACS journals in college and university libraries.

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    Replies
    1. Although the ACS journals are a wealth of knowledge, I don't find it problematic that fewer universities will be buying subscriptions. It's a crooked business model in the first place and bringing financial detriment to it will help facilitate movement to open access (or at least reasonably priced access). There will undoubtedly be some growing pains, but I believe these are necessary to end this nonsense that the ACS has been propagating.

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    2. Verily, the college and university librarians, and the students and faculty they serve, will work it out, necessity being the mother of invention and all that.

      The question becomes whether ACS (and its delicate public affairs reps) will put themselves out of being part of the solution -- and whether slightly-better-funded academic libraries, seeing that the world (and science) does not end without ACS journals in the collections of those other schools, follow suit in cutting loose ACS titles.

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  5. I received the exact same letter (well, it was addressed to Dr. Spevacek...), so he obviously did not address anything specific I had in my letter.

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  6. I'm not sure how I missed this whole thing, but I read through the the librarian's blog post and there didn't seem to be anything particularly vulgar in the post content or the ensuing comments. Realistically, I've only seen one chemistry blog that I didn't particularly care for that was excessively vulgar and generally counterproductive. (I can't remember which one, but there was a post linked here at one point some months back).

    Dissent is not counter to "logic, balance, and common courtesy". The "blogosphere" is simply another outlet for people to discuss their lives. In this case, it seems that the SUNY-Potsdam library wasn't having any success in the "direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing", and opted for another venue for decent customer service. Utilizing social media as an avenue for customer service is a new field, and there are some companies that are doing it completely right. The ACS should study these cases and apply appropriately.

    To me, this sounds as if Mr. Ruskin is stating, "we don't negotiate with terrorists", rather than using this as an opportunity to clarify and connect with the customer in a meaningful way (in person or by phone would be best). These are the death throes of an industry in trouble. With open literature initiatives taking hold (see particle physics), and free access publishing of government funded work starting to be discussed, the next 10-20 years will likely see a major transformation of scientific publishing. The ACS is ill prepared for the next phase in its life, and I think they realize it.

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  7. I think readers would have interpreted the ACS comments the same way if we'd included that last sentence verbatim--a sentence that I paraphrased right before the quoted section, BTW. Here's the entire paragraph from my CHE story:

    "A spokesman for the American Chemical Society said that the group would not offer a response to Ms. Rogers's blog post or the conversation that's sprung up around it. 'We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance, and common courtesy are not practiced and observed,' Glenn S. Ruskin, the group's director of public affairs, said in an e-mail message. 'As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution.'"

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