Robert J. Massie, 1949-2015

When Vin Scalfani asked for someone to write a tribute to Bob Massie, I said I could if no one else was able to. Maybe this “veteran” searcher (aka dinosaur) was not the best choice, but I did work with Bob throughout his career at CAS and knew him reasonably well. I spent several terms on the ACS Joint Board-Council Committee on CAS (CCAS), including a few during Bob’s administration.  In my career, I had interactions with at least four heads of CAS and he was the best. I typically worked for chemists and I wondered what it would be like working with a CAS head who was a career manager, but the experience was great. Over the decades, I also interacted with CAS and CAS staff both as a user of CAS-produced information and as a consultant a few times.

For obituaries of Robert J. Massie (known to many both in and outside of CAS as Bob) see those in C&EN ( http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/web/2015/06/Robert-Massie-Dies-66.html ) and the Columbus Dispatch (http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2015/06/11/chemical-abstracts-leader-a-civic-titan.html ). 

In addition, an announcement of Bob’s retirement in 2014 was also a tribute to him and his career at CAS (http://cen.acs.org/articles/91/i28/CAS-Head-Retire-2014.html). Bob received several awards for his work, including the International Patent Information Award for 2011 from PIUG, the Patent Information Users Group (http://cen.acs.org/articles/89/i25/Patent-Information-Award-Robert-Massie.html ), the 2003 Patterson Crane Award from the Columbus and Dayton Sections of the ACS (http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/81/i19/html/8119awards2.html), and the Miles Conrad Award (http://www.nfais.org/miles-conrad-lectures)

Throughout the years, CAS and CAS management, as a branch of the ACS, have been criticized both within and outside of ACS for being too revenue oriented for a scientific organization.  Although I was never involved in any management decisions; I was made aware of the fact that not-for-profit publishers were increasingly required to compete with for-profits.  In addition, ACS Governance set revenue goals for CAS publications which fell mainly on CAS and affected their pricing and marketing. Several tributes to Bob observed that CAS (and therefore ACS) was in trouble financially and in marketing when Bob took over in 1992.  His leadership is credited with turning CAS around and contributing to its current (and hopefully continuing) success. Improved relations with and operations of STN are cited (I can testify to that observation) as well as the release and development of SciFinder.

Bob’s activities were not confined to CAS. The Columbus Dispatch obituary is titled, “Chemical Abstracts leader was a civic titan.”  He served on several boards in the Columbus area ranging from the Columbus Symphony to hospitals and education.  A tribute to Bob on his retirement by the head of Battelle also cited his CAS and civic accomplishments (http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2014/03/31/chemical-abstracts-owes-much-to-massie.html).

Even as a CAS outsider, I found working with Bob to be a great experience.  His management skills were always apparent.  He was a good listener, entertained debates, and was able to summarize and provide consensus for the resulting decisions.  Although not a techie, he was quick to learn and was able to provide business management, but also retain the respect of all for the need to manage a scientific service organization in the proper and mutually productive manner.

My memories and impressions of Bob are similar to that of a Columbus board member cited in the Columbus Obituary, “He consistently made things better, and his quick wit and ornery twinkle made the journey all the more enjoyable.”  My best memory of Bob’s wit was when SciFinder was being developed.  Someone at CAS told me that the operating name for the project was Artemis, for the Goddess of the Hunt. They also said that when Bob saw the demo, he exclaimed, “This dog can hunt.”  The search was on for a product name.  I found that one legend named Laelaps as the hunting dog of Artemis so I submitted that as a product name.  By the next CCAS meeting SciFinder was rolled out and I asked Bob the origin of his endorsement.  With his characteristic twinkle and wit he said that he’d always been impressed with Sam Ervin’s typical pronouncement at the Watergate hearings, “This dog can hunt.”

I last saw Bob in 2012 at the ACS Meeting in Philadelphia.  We had planned to meet for lunch, but since I only have a “dumb” phone, that didn’t happen.  We did have a brief chat and promised to try to get together soon.  Due to my only occasional meeting attendance and Bob’s retirement and illness, that never happened.  I was also to have interviewed him last year on his retirement, but that regretfully never happened either.

From a fellow Bob, Bob Massie: thanks for the memories. You’ll be missed.

Robert E. (Bob) Buntrock
Buntrock Associates
Orono, ME