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ICIS Chemical Business Americas Replaces Chemical Market Reporter - ICIS Disregards Its Educational Customers

.: I.: I don't know where to begin this time. I'm trying hard to contain my anger. Last week I reported that ICIS brought down the Chemical Market Reporter site, virtually at the same time I was teaching a class of 155 chemical engineering students on, among other things, how to search CMR to find current chemical prices, a major component of one of their assignments. What I didn't realize was that ICIS had brought down the CMR site, and was redesigning it to become ICIS Chemical Business Americas. After learning about this the day after my instruction, the professor and I scrambled to get an explanation to all 155 students; we sent them a note advising that the new site would be up today (Monday 11 Sept 2006). I had hopes that the new site would at the very least return access to the full list of chemical prices. This did not happen.

Instead, in yet another example of a trade publisher's apparent disregard of its educational subscribers (which would include thousands of students studying to become engineers and needing access to these prices for their design courses), ICIS no longer is reporting most of the prices it previously reported on a weekly basis, with the following explanation:

These are chemical price indications based on pricing information obtained from market participants. Posted prices are updated on a periodic basis and do not necessarily represent levels at which transactions may have actually occurred, nor do they represent bid or ask prices. Price ranges, indicated by the two columns, may represent quotations from different participants, as well as differences in quantity, quality and location. Although prices are reported as accurately as possible, they do not carry any guarantees. The prices are intended as a guide for ICIS Chemical Business Americas readers and not to be used as a basis for negotiations between producers and customers.

The volume of prices has been narrowed significantly to those which can be updated on a regular basis. If you have any questions, please contact Editor Joseph Chang at 212-791-4224 or joseph.chang@icis.com , or CSC at 888-525-3255 or csc@icis.com .

This means that prices will only be posted if they change – a price doesn’t change for two years, it won’t get posted until then. My guess is at least 75% of the previously reported chemical prices are gone. If I had any doubts that ICIS did not consult with anyone in engineering education before these changes were confirmed, those doubts have been washed away with the deleted chemical prices.

I checked the Chemical Prices P-S for the week of 28 August - 3 Sept 2006, and counted 209 prices. For the period of 11-17 September 2006, Chemical Prices for the letters P, Q, R, and S total 36 prices, or an 82.% decrease in the typical number of prices previously reported in this alphabetic range.

What is it about trade publishers and their apparent disregard for their educational customers? I know, it's all about the almighty dollar, but good grief - what part of "we’re teaching your future customers” doesn’t resonate in the commercial world?

It doesn't matter that I have a bit of egg on my face from having taught 155 chemical engineering students how to search a site that no longer existed while I was actually teaching them. But there's a larger rub that really angers me.

As documented earlier, ICIS removed the chemical prices from the print edition of CMR in April 2005, moved the prices online, and decided to charge something in the vicinity of US$10,000 to access the prices online. After I and others raised hell about that option, Brian Gray reported that he had negotiated with CMR to allow educational institutions access to the most recent twelve months of chemical prices online, at US$415 - something for which we had paid in our print subscriptions in the first place! Later it was confirmed that unlimited access would cost us US$715! So for any of us in universities, colleges, etc., to provide access to the archived weekly chemical prices, we needed to ante up another few hundred dollars for a service that we had received as part of existing subscriptions for decades. Did I mention that these chemical prices are at times critical to an undergraduate chemical engineering student's education?

Now, said unlimited access gives us much less from Sept 2006 onwards. As such, college and university libraries supporting programs in chemical engineering and the chemical industry will need to decide whether or not to continue to pay an inflated subscription price for access to an online product, once extremely critical to undergraduate chemical engineers' education, or to cancel and look for the same information elsewhere.

Perhaps the writing is on the wall, and I'm too dumb to process it: for commercial and trade publishers, maybe future customers don't count until they actually exist.

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