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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 28, 2010

ACS Survey - Or Something Else?

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Posted by Derek

A reader forwards an e-mail from Harris Interactive, a marketing research firm that says that it's running a survey on membership in the American Chemical Society. The reason he sent it along, though, is that it looks rather odd. The subject line of the message is three lines of gibberish, and it offers $150 for participation, which seems rather high for a survey company sending out random emails.

If this is something the ACS has commissioned, well, they're (a) probably spending too much money on it, and (b) should realize that the message is triggering the mental spam filters of its recipients. And if it's not the ACS, then who the heck is it? Any ideas?

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Chemical News


1. Anonymous on October 28, 2010 7:11 AM writes...

Maybe this is how the ACS gets 84% of their members to say they're very satisfied/satisfied with their services (at least according to Madeleine Jacobs' commentary "Listening To Our Members")

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2. partial agonist on October 28, 2010 7:16 AM writes...

This has to be a scam- there's no way the ACS would pay you $150 to complete a survey. Maybe you would get entered into a raffle to win a T-shirt or a squishy mole stress relief toy, but not $150.

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3. Moshe Yudkowsky on October 28, 2010 7:43 AM writes...

Lines of gibberish are usually there to confused anti-spam filters.

The link you click on -- check to make certain where it really leads. For example, does it go to a server in Bulgaria?

The headers: does the message originate with Harris or a compromised high-school machine in New Jersey?

I can take a quick look and dissect this for you.

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4. Eka-silicon on October 28, 2010 8:13 AM writes...

Well, considering the ACS has shown time and time again that they are too indifferent and/or too cheap to field any sort of professional survey, I can bet my last dollar it's a scam.

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5. JP on October 28, 2010 8:15 AM writes...

I got the email too. FYI, there is no link to follow, only an email address or phone number for the recipient to respond to in order to be screened first. Weird, yes...a scam, I'm not sure.

Here's the full subject and body of the email:

Harris Interactive Research Study on behalf of The American Chemical Society - $150 Honorarium


We are currently recruiting professionals on behalf of Harris Interactive, to participate in a research study regarding membership in The American Chemical Society. Please be assured that this is for research purposes only and is not related to sales activity in any way. All responses will be held in the strictest of confidence.

This paid online bulletin board will last for 25-35 minutes per day for 3 consecutive days and is scheduled to take place Monday November 1st thru Wednesday November 3rd. Compensation for this bulletin board is $150 which will be mailed to you upon completion of the study. The bulletin board style research is very similar to a focus group held online. You will be given a unique login and can access the bulletin board questions at anytime convenient for you on each of the 3 days.

If you would like to be considered for participation, please email Jim at or call Jim or Rebecca at 800-452-1820. We will need to have a brief conversation with you and ask some screening questions.

Thank you!

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6. dearieme on October 28, 2010 8:38 AM writes...

Which would you rather not deal with - ruthless exploiters of innocent dupes, or scammers?

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7. Anon on October 28, 2010 8:40 AM writes...

Madeleine Jacobs..grrr. Hearing her name reminds me of a talk she gave back when I was in graduate school. She spoke on how, since all of our jobs were being outsourced these days, the ACS was enthusiastically connecting with chemists in developing countries. After all, expanding memberships abroad = more dough for the ACS and her executive compensation!

I realize outsourcing isn't her fault. But man, coming from someone (being paid a heck of a lot more than my sorry Ph.D. butt is ever going to get) who supposedly represents my interests, it was a quite indelicate talk.

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8. newnickname on October 28, 2010 9:51 AM writes...

Madeline Jacobs ... grrr. Her C&EN editorial on chemists and culture: 'Whenever I travel on the members' dime (or dollars), I always set aside time to take in a local symphony or concert or visit the local museums ...' Most of us are probably told to take the red eye because the company won't pay for a hotel ... IF we can even get travel approved.

About the survey, they might ask for your SSN by claiming that they have to report the $150 gratuity. You can then see if you actually get the $150 or just the pain and suffering consequent to ID-theft.

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9. hmmm on October 28, 2010 10:51 AM writes...


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10. Fishy Fish on October 28, 2010 11:19 AM writes...

It has scam written all over. Heard of BigSpot survey?

The face-face survey is the only way that you can be sure you would get paid. I participated a survey back in early 90's in PD days, sponsored by a major instrument maker. We sat there for 1 hour (started at 5pm so it was "off-work" hour, hahaha . . .). It was quite boring. But at the end, we were handed a crisp $50 bill - diner served and some.

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11. wcw on October 28, 2010 11:38 AM writes...

This sounds 100% legit to me. $150 for three successive focus-group sessions of a tiny, hard-to-reach population like ACS members is *incredibly little money* for participation. Dollars to donuts says calling the 800 number will reach the phone house with whom ACS contracted, and that if you participate you'll get paid.

But I would never do it. Say this were a survey of my professional organization (we're about 2/3rds the size of ACS, so smaller but quite comparable). This costs me at least three hours, for which my employer pays me more, quite a bit more if you allocate benefits and vacation. On top of that, it isn't three spare hours, it's almost certainly a specific hour at the sime time each day on three successive days, probably during working hours.

I think my price to do this is probably in the $500 range, and while paid well in the grand scheme I am not particularly senior or well-compensated in my field.

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12. goldilocks on October 28, 2010 11:43 AM writes...

Unrelated, but it made me think of the ACS salary survey: the future-jobs-o-matic.

I plugged in "professional", then "chemistry", and for job options there is only one choice: chemist. Projected job growth 3% over the next 10 years.

" Growth in your field will be microscopic.
Jobs for chemists are expected to grow more slowly than average and competition is expected to be tight. If you're in the chemical manufacturing industry, you're going to want to pay close attention. Pharmaceutical companies and biotech firms will have the most openings for chemists."

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13. ty on October 28, 2010 11:59 AM writes...

$150 to participate in a focus group is a reasonable and normal honorarium for such a specific demographic (chemical professionals). Market research data that could be generated from such a study is usually worth ~$100k (ballpark) to the group commissioning the study.

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14. Denise Creech, ACS Membership and Scientific Advancement on October 28, 2010 3:37 PM writes...

I am posting this comment to help answer questions about the research study being conducted by the Harris Interactive Research on behalf of the ACS.

The opportunity to participate in this 3 day online focus group was offered to 500 ACS members who are industrial chemists under 41 years of age. The focus group will be limited to the first 50 qualified respondents. Those who agree to participate in the focus group need to commit time on 3 consecutive days to answer open ended questions about the benefits of ACS membership. The questions are designed to better understand the value of ACS membership to senior level chemists and to inform future program development. Data collection on member opinion is virtually a ongoing project by ACS that allows the Society to offer the programs, products and services most valued by our members.

It is customary in the research industry to pay participants who qualify to participate in focus groups. The market rate for a 3 day focus group of senior level participants is significantly more than the $150 being offered by Harris International Research.

In closing I would like to assure you that neither ACS nor Harris International has requested SSN information.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me directly at

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15. partial agonist on October 28, 2010 4:06 PM writes...

This now makes sense because it is not a "survey" in the way we normally take it to mean, it is an much more involved level of info gathering over 3 days, so that degree of compensation for a limited number of participants (50) seems perfectly reasonable.

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16. anchor on October 28, 2010 7:13 PM writes...

#9...How about Nigeria? The dudes from this country are big "pro", when it comes to internet scam and other dubious deals. Just a thought...

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17. Sili on October 29, 2010 3:46 PM writes...

Re 14.

I love how much clout dr Lowe has in the world of chemistry by now.

I understand if he prefers his independence, but nonetheless, I wouldn't mind if he accepted ads or moved to a blogging collective that does. It seems only fair that he gets a little remunerated for his hard work, that benefits us, his readers, so much.

Alternatively, he could let the revenue go directly to charity - something Iranian for instance.

Another means of repayment could be for him to encourage us to donate to the Donors Choose project which tries to help disenfranchised, underfunded schools provide acceptable teaching materials to their students (yes, I'm very close to making a political rant about taxation here). A quick, unsophisticated search throws up 233 current projects mentioning "chemistry".

It is of course not my place to plug such projects here, and if it is inappropriate, I apologise.

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18. drug_hunter on October 30, 2010 5:48 PM writes...

So now I get it: they want to interview young but senior industrial chemists who are pretty clueless about what their time is worth and use the data to decide what they should change at ACS.

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19. Joe on October 30, 2010 7:59 PM writes...

The ACS stealth interviews are meant to collect vital data on the weaknesses of its US members.

The entire game-plan of the ACS has turned vicious. By destroying and debilitating US citizens it hopes to establish a new breed of rank and file foreigners to huddle at the feet of the all powerful CEOs and Faculty.

They desire not simple sycophancy but out-right slavery!

If you talk to the ACS you conspire and consort with your mortal enemy! An enemy which grows stronger from your ignorance of it's true identity.

Down with the ACS!

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20. silicon scientist on November 3, 2010 12:43 PM writes...

Wow. $150. That's enough to pay for a year's membership AND buy a cup of coffee!

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