C&EN In The Blogosphere
May03

C&EN In The Blogosphere

C&EN and the Editor's Page have been the subject of some interesting blogging of late. Instead of responding on the blogs themselves, I want to use a couple of Editor's Pages to comment on the substance of blogs and the comments they elicited. C&EN recently held a meeting of its editorial advisory board. Advisory board members are listed on the masthead on this page. The proceedings of the meetings are off the record so that board members can speak freely on topics relating to the chemistry enterprise and the performance of the magazine in meeting its mission. That said, advisory board members know that we use the ideas expressed at the meeting to inform our reporting and commentary. This was the first advisory board meeting for Derek Lowe, a pharmaceutical chemist who created the influential blog "In the Pipeline" in 2002. Before coming to the meeting, Lowe posted an entry in which he stated that he was attending the advisory board meeting and asked, "What do you think [C&EN] does well, and what do you think it does poorly?" At the meeting, Lowe told C&EN's staff that he thought he would get eight to 10 responses. As of April 27, there are 114. The comments range from "C&EN is servile to industry management frauds. Its cheerful tone makes me puke" to "I love the mix [C&EN] has now of academic, government, and industry reporting. They also do a great job of balancing boosterism appropriate for a trade journal with the recognition that the spin of the chemical industry is often neither scientifically valid nor honest." More of the comments tended in their tenor toward the former comment rather than the latter comment I have quoted. Many of the critical comments focused on the career prospects for chemists. "Why such an enthusiastic tone about a profession that is basically going down the tubes as a lifelong career?" wrote one commenter. "It could be due to edicts from upon high at ACS, it could simply be enthusiastic young reporters who have no idea about chemistry and probably no perspective of trends over decades with respect to chemistry as a career." I can assure you that the tone of C&EN's reporting is not a result of edicts from anyone; C&EN's editorial independence is codified in the society's governing documents. It is due to genuine enthusiasm for chemistry among C&EN's staff, young and old. We interact with and report on many chemists in academe and industry who retain a similar deep enthusiasm for our science and believe in its continuing potential to benefit humanity. I understand that consolidation and changing dynamics in the...

Read More
What's In Your Company's Wallet?
Feb05

What's In Your Company's Wallet?

In my insights column this week, I write about how the economic crisis has brought laser-like attention to the issue of cash flow from executives and managers. These are the folks who usually spend their time discussing “growth strategies.” Have you noticed that the bigwigs at your firm have taken a break from quoting Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in favor of Benjamin Franklin’s penny-pinching bromides? What this means to you is that you should take the time learn about your company’s cash position. Remember, over the long-term, positive cash flow is the key to staying in business. If you know how to spend less than you get, you have the philosopher's stone. -Ben Franklin Let’s look more closely at our example company, Albemarle, to learn where cash flow comes from. Just like consumers who worry their income may decline in the future, companies in the chemical industry are looking to increase the money they have in the bank. In its fourth quarter earnings statement, Albemarle reported that it has $253.3 million in cash and cash-like equivalents. This figure is $46.1 million more than it had on September 30 (the end of the third quarter). The only way to really look deeper into cash figures is to review what is called the Consolidated Statements of Cash Flow. (There is an abbreviated version in Albemarle’s fourth quarter report). The full statement can be found in quarterly (10-Q) corporate financial filings and in annual reports. The most recent statement from Albemarle is its third quarter 2008 10-Q filing. You can search these filings on the SEC website through its EDGAR system. There is usually also a link from any corporation’s investor relations webpage. It’s important to understand that net income does not mean “cash in hand.” That is why the consolidated statement of cash flows only starts with net income from the period (in this case, the first three quarters of 2008). To figure out how much cold, hard cash the company has, it adds back all expenses that did not require cash, and subtracts all non-operating expenses that were paid out in cash. It also adds in money the company receives as loans. For example, Albemarle’s operating activities provided $149.6 million in cash, but the firm also received $285.3 million from borrowings. In other examples, Albemarle contributed $9 million of cash out of its net income into its pension fund, and it gained over $6 million in cash when it received payment for land that was sold. The statement tallies up all these happenings, and shows that Albemarle increased its cash holdings, thanks to its positive cash flow, by...

Read More