September 25, 2006

ICIS Chemical Business Americas - Update

I am glad to see Randy Reichardt at the University of Alberta got a little further with a response towards why the publication (Chemical Market Reporter) was drastically changed with no feedback or warning to academia. I only received a standard response from several people at ICIS that basically already told me the obvious - "we are only covering about 100 prices and focusing more on news". I made it clear to ICIS that the strength, and what made them unique to academic libraries, was that they covered such a large amount of chemical prices. The current price coverage was much weaker than they were promoting and probably of minimal value for engineering students. Chemical industry news had many publications and organizations that focused in this realm and they were leaving a niche market (chemical prices) that academia relied heavily on CMR for.

Randy Reichardt received another response from Penny Wilson, ICIS Global Editorial Director, that reaffirmed a commitment to students. I hope this statement is not just an attempt to keep current subscribers. Their past efforts have not shown that students were considered much in their decisions, or they did not truely understand their subscibers or future subscriber needs. I am hoping it is the later, and they just did not understand how much academia needed chemical prices before they dropped the prices from the print CMR, rigged together a clunky online access with no IP recognition, and finally slashed hundreds of prices from their inventory.


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gravatarPosted by Penny Wilson
Posted on October 4, 2006 05:34 AM

I think ICIS Chemical Business Americas (formerly CMR) has shown great responsibility towards revamping its prices list. The fact of the matter is - and few appear to wholly embrace this - is that the full price list previously posted under CMR was radically out of date and wholly reliant on company source information only. This, as a source for students, can hardly be described as a good or responsible teaching tool. ICIS pricing is a 24-hour online subscriber service giving up-to-the-minute prices that are properly researched. Thus, the scaled down prices you now see online under ICIS Chemical Business Americas are much closer to the true picture than students were ever getting before. While it be nice to release all of latest ICIS prices to students on a 24-hour basis, we are a commercial business and such massive investment would have to pay for itself. Any student studying the business of chemicals would grasp this fact immediately. However, we are reviewing our services to the educational market and would appreciate any feedback to help us overcome these commercial difficulties. Such feedback would be far more constructive than levelling criticism at a successful business. As students move out of education and into the real world of business they will fast realise the value of proprietory information - plus the huge costs, resources and time required to provide it. As posted in my previous correspondence to Randy, students remain firmly on our radar screen. This is hardly a statement designed to hold onto current subscribers. Future subscribers are the ones we are interested in! I have stated we are trying to develop a much more meaningful service for students and I hope, that WITH help of the education arena, we can achieve this in spades. This will, of course, take time, as any meaningful service should.

gravatarPosted by Brian Gray
Posted on October 4, 2006 08:48 AM

I have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and regularly work with students and professors on researching prices and/or market information. As a source for students it was very adequate in its current state, as students had access to very few alternatives. The previous list, even if outdated was ACCEPTED by professors, as long as students cited their sources and dates, as it allowed students to fall into the right price range. Even if the prices were not 24-hour accurate, they allowed students to get an idea were the prices might fall and use these price estimates to work on their design projects. CMR was a buzz word among professors and students.

Students are turned away when contacting suppliers or companies directly. Pricing services that offer the most current prices are overkill for academic situations that only need estimates. I have received word now that some professors are just telling students to use prices from old CMR prices lists or are giving them basic estimates to use in the calculations.

I have offered much feedback on my blog and directly to several people at ICIS. I was maybe the first academic institution to propose and subscribe to the new online CMR, and worked closely with ICIS to work out the details. I also helped promote the new access on my blog and various listservs, when I was working with Connie Magner, Assistant Manager - Subscription Sales ICIS Publications. I have been in communication with several people at ICIS about my concerns, as the changes were occurring. It is too bad that you have received so much feedback from academia that you feel it is criticism.

I proposed several ideas and questions to Joseph Chang, Editor of ICIS Chemical Business Americas, and received minimal response each time. He kept giving the standard response that look at "all this news and 100 prices". He would offer no other names of people I should discuss this with or any hope that in the future changes would help academia.

I told Joseph Chang that the strength of CMR in academia was the extensive chemical prices. By focusing heavily on news, you are entering a realm that is already well addressed in academic subscriptions by titles that have no chance of being canceled. Academic libraries have little money to go around, and duplicate sources of information are often thinned out. A better solution for academia would have been to keep a historical price list with dates of last update. We work closely with estimates in most situations for design classes. I also suggested to him that the 100 prices of focus (many waxes and oils) are probably of very little use for most academic design situations. When I asked him what can I can do or what ICIS could do to help fill this void, he went back to promoting the focus on news and 100 current prices.

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