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Some ProMED editors and moderators initiate a work stoppage over lack of pay and confidence in ISID management - August 3, 2023

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  • Some ProMED editors and moderators initiate a work stoppage over lack of pay and confidence in ISID management - August 3, 2023

    Apparently ProMED, a charity, has been paying their editors and moderators. For how long? I have no idea. We do not pay anyone - medical doctors, professionals, handicapped, seniors, computer experts, "regular" people....

    ProMED still claiming to be the first to "alert the world" about the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone knows it was us. Here on FluTrackers. ProMED just looks stupid by continuing to claim that. They do not even attempt to share credit. They take it all. Here is an unrefuted time stamp to show the time we posted at 11:35 pm on December 30, 2019 link - 25 minutes earlier than when ProMED claims to have posted - conveniently entered on their site at one minute to midnight on December 30.

    Marjorie Pollack, a ProMED editor, gave an interview where she said -
    “I said to myself, until proven otherwise, this is SARS revisited.” link If that was the case then why did they make only 8 posts in the 1st week? In that same time period we had made 133 posts. link

    Having said the above - I 100% support sites that offer RELIABLE and free disease detection information to the public. I think the segment of society who are fully employed in well paying professional jobs - like medical doctors - should DONATE their extra time to such efforts. We have proven it can be done and we have been online for 17 years.

    Our YEARLY budget is about $2,500. Among other firsts, we were the first to detect and investigate :

    H1N1 swine flu pandemic link
    H7N9 avian flu outbreak link
    Ebola 2014 West Africa outbreak link
    SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 pandemic link


    ProMED, an early warning system on disease outbreaks, appears near collapse

    By Helen Branswell Aug. 3, 2023

    The early warning disease network that alerted the world to the original SARS outbreak and the start of the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be in peril.

    A number of the senior moderators of ProMED-mail, a program operated by the International Society for Infectious Diseases, posted a letter of protest early Thursday, challenging a recently revealed plan to charge for subscriptions to the service. The group of 21 moderators, who announced they were suspending work for ProMED, expressed a lack of confidence in the ISID’s administrative operations, suggesting ProMED needs to find a new home.

    “For most of us, creating ProMED’s content is a labor of love. However, we cannot be expected to continue working on good will alone,” the moderators wrote.​


    “Each of the coronaviruses of the 21st century were first reported on by ProMED,” said Larry Madoff, who served as editor of the program from 2002 to 2021. In spring 2021, Madoff said he was “forced out” by the organization’s CEO, Linda MacKinnon, and Alison Holmes, then president of the ISID executive committee. A professor of infectious diseases at the University of Massachusetts, Madoff refers to himself as editor emeritus of ProMED, a title bestowed upon him by the moderators with whom he worked.


    The ISID’s 2021 990 form — a tax filing required of not-for-profit organizations — revealed the organization lost over $1 million that year. While in 2020 ProMED had taken in nearly $3 million in contributions and grants, in 2021 that figure dropped to about $1.3 million.


  • #2
    I don't know how they say they were not able to capitalize on the pandemic when they received about 4.3 million dollars in 2020/2021 alone. That seems like a lot of capitalizing to me. (see above link)

    Posted on ProMED and then removed yesterday - from JB on twitter:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	promedworksuspension1.png Views:	1 Size:	383.4 KB ID:	977636


    • #3
      If any moderator, contributor, editor at ProMED would like to contribute here please contact us at our email:

      We are 100% confidential and no one will know that you contacted us. Only I have access to the email account.

      Also - we allow anonymous participation. Only two people have access to our control panel.

      Or - if you have any hot leads, you can always send them to our email. Indicate whether you would like a hat tip in your real name or anonymous.

      Or - All of you can decide to stick together - buy a vbulletin software package, buy a domain name, hire a server company and continue without ISID. If you forego pay then it is inexpensive and easy.

      Hopefully all of you will still participate on the global stage in some manner.

      All the best wishes to you.


      • #4
        Long-running ProMED email service for alerting world to disease outbreaks is in trouble

        Money woes and a staff strike threaten dispatches valued by researchers and public health experts

        4 AUG 2023 4:45 PM BYSARA REARDON

        In a statement, ISID CEO Linda MacKinnon said ProMED would continue to operate “in a limited capacity” while ISID worked with the letter’s signatories. “We also know that we could have communicated changes more clearly to the community and apologize for any confusion and distress caused,” she added.
        ISID’s delay in paying the staff is also an issue. “I think people don’t realize how much work goes into these reports,” says Martin Hugh-Jones, a veterinary ProMED moderator who covers anthrax. The moderators and editors read dozens of emails per day, confirm reports in various languages, and use their expertise as physicians, veterinarians, and scientists to evaluate the outbreaks and government responses.

        And Hugh-Jones, who is retired, says that although stipends are modest—he only makes about $7000 per year working at least 4 hours per day—some moderators depend on that income. ISID said in its statement that payment timing has always fluctuated and that the society had accommodated requests from moderators who asked to be paid sooner.
        Leo Liu, an infectious disease physician and one of ProMED’s “top mods” who signed the letter, says he is not against a subscription model—at least not one that has tiered pricing that would let members in lower income countries afford ProMED. But ISID went about it in a clumsy way, he says. “They don’t have resources, didn’t do even the most basic market research,” he says. The ideal outcome, he says, would be for ISID to partner with a university or foundation with money and infrastructure to support the listserv, with ISID potentially retaining the ProMED archive.



        Statement on the Future of ProMED

        August 04, 2023

        We recognize that members of the ProMED community are concerned about the continuation of the platform and want to reassure them that we hear their concerns. We know how many … Continue reading "Statement on the Future of ProMED"
        "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
        -Nelson Mandela


        • #5
          Ok, so let's do the math.

          As per Mr. Hugh-Jones the participants make about 7k USD per year as a stipend. Multiply this by the 21 signatories to the letter in post #2 and the total = $147,000. Add something reasonable for server support (we pay less than 1k per year but let's assume ProMED is getting ripped off...) maybe a generous 5k? At one point I understood that Boston's Children's Hospital was carrying the server capacity for ProMED at no cost....but whatever...... Add some ISID admin salaries.....another $150,000 estimated $300,000 - MAYBE.

          So what happened to the 4.3 million donated in 2020 and 2021? (link in post #1) That is a lot of money. Even if the above estimate is wildly off....still...what happened to, literally, millions of dollars?

          And as to the work of finding and vetting emerging disease situations - is a matter of expertise. An experienced person can find and determine fairly quickly if there is any there, there. Digging out the details, finding more links - yes, takes time. Again - a matter of experience. Most of our participants can tell you where all the major outbreaks in the world have started, spread, resolved for the last 17 years. So when they find an unusual report they know instinctively whether it could be true or not - and they act on this knowledge.

          I am really sorry that ProMED is having this serious problem. A lot of good work was done there in the past. But let's be honest - most governments have internal groups who are monitoring for disease threats. If ProMED goes away - it is not the end of these efforts. In addition, WOAH has really stepped up their game in the last 5 years to the point where I would categorize their reports as timely and excellent. Plus, there is the WHO with all of their global contacts. Maybe people do not know but they have a relationship with leading researchers and practicing medical professionals in every country. They get random hints and tips 24/7 from the ground.

          No entity in the world is depending on ProMED to let them know what is happening. This is probably why ProMED can not secure a funding committment. There are extensive government and private efforts to find and quantify disease situations and threats: all governments, FluTrackers, Georgetown University, University of Minnesota (CIDRAP) , University of Nebraska, WOAH, WHO (and all their partners i.e.PAHO, AFRO, etc. ), to name only a few.

          I hope ProMED can get it together to continue but it is not the end of global disease detection efforts if they do not.
          Last edited by sharon sanders; August 5, 2023, 03:28 PM. Reason: typo


          • #6
            • 31 August 2023
            Strike at outbreak-alert service ProMED to end — but tensions remain

            Most of the striking ProMED staff members are prepared to return to work, although many still have concerns.


            According to a letter seen by Nature that was sent on 30 August to administrators at the International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID), which operates ProMED, the striking staff members will resume their usual work scouring through tips and local news outlets for evidence of disease outbreaks and providing expert commentary on 11 September.

            But the staff members say that their return is contingent on ISID working in good faith with them to address the issues that sparked the walkout, such as increased transparency and communication within the organization, and developing partnerships with outside organizations to assist with the programme’s financial problems.


            Liu says that it was frustrating to be asked to return while still awaiting payment for work completed months ago. Asked about the e-mail, MacKinnon said it was an “internal HR matter” that would be “inappropriate to comment on”.



            • #7
              This is a never ending saga....apparently........

              Group behind ProMED fires three top moderators amid strike

              By Helen Branswell Sept. 7, 2023

              The organization that runs the infectious diseases surveillance system ProMED terminated at least three of the program’s top moderators on Thursday. The three were leaders of a strike that began in early August — one that is scheduled to end on Monday.

              Longtime moderators Marjorie Pollack and Maria Jacobs, along with associate editor Leo Liu, received notification from ISID CEO Linda MacKinnon that their consulting agreements with the International Society for Infectious Diseases were being terminated.

              Other moderators who took part in the strike reportedly received emails from MacKinnon informing them that some moderators would not be returning after the events of the past month.



              Linked in the above article is a tax return for ISID for the tax year 2021:

              Since 2013, the IRS has released data culled from millions of nonprofit tax filings. Use this database to find organizations and see details like their executive compensation, revenue and expenses, as well as download tax filings going back as far as 2001.


              • #8
                EDITORIAL| VOLUME 4, ISSUE 9, E657, SEPTEMBER 2023

                “Global disease detection—free to all.” Or not.

                The Lancet Microbe
                Open Access Published: September, 2023DOI:

                On July 14, the International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID), the organisation that runs the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), announced fundamental changes to the programme: interruption of Twitter and RSS feeds, posts searchable only for the previous month, financing via a paid subscription model, and enforcement of the programme's terms of service. The announcement was received with dismay by the infectious disease community, including several ProMED moderators and editors unaware of these decisions.

                Since its inception in 1994, ProMED has become a key source of outbreak information, used globally by health policy decision makers, governmental agencies, health professionals, researchers, news agencies, and the general public. Its track-record includes having been the first platform to alert the world of the incipient SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2 epidemics, among others.

                The success of ProMED as an emerging infectious disease surveillance programme is underpinned by the operational features and guiding principles that were established with remarkable foresight by its founders and have endured until now. However, the recently announced changes to ProMED's business and data-sharing models are at odds with most of these very principles, which included transparency, event-based surveillance, outbreak information-sharing unconstrained by political or organisational ties, availability to all free of charge, and a focus on One Health.

                The decision to abandon the open access model, attributed to financial unsustainability of the programme, is perhaps the most concerning. The value of rapid data and information sharing in the context of an epidemic has never been as apparent as during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which epidemiological and genomic surveillance data were collected, publicly shared, and used to inform public health strategies at unprecedented speed. So, at a time in which the scientific community, funders, and science publishers move towards increased open access, a switch to a paid subscription model seems somewhat out of touch.

                Also, one of ProMED's original aims was to offer a global service that would enhance reporting in locations where information exchange is constrained—an aim that could become elusive, when users at these locations might be the most likely to be hindered by a paywall.

                Furthermore, ProMED relies on informal sources of outbreak intelligence, which include voluntary communications from experts on the ground. Such communications are often preliminary and vague, and they generally prompt a call for additional information, but they can represent very early warnings of emerging infectious diseases before official agencies release formal reports. Whether existing subscribers will remain available to openly share potentially useful information on emerging pathogens with ProMED when subscription fees are applied remains to be seen.

                An even more fundamental issue caused by ISID's announcement, is the reaction it triggered in ProMED staff. On Aug 3, several editors and moderators, who are responsible for the curation of ProMED's entries, announced in a letter (initially posted on ProMED but subsequently removed) that they were suspending their work for ProMED, leaving the platform to operate in a limited capacity. In their letter, the signatories outline the conditions ISID would need to fulfil for them to resume their posts, which include the establishment of a sustainable business model to meet fiscal and infrastructure needs via partnerships with other organisations, increased transparency and involvement in decisions, and administrative and editorial independence of ProMED.

                Under the current circumstances, the future of ProMED is uncertain, but an interruption of its service—temporary or permanent—would be a great loss for global health surveillance. Given how central to national and international agendas pathogen emergence surveillance and pandemic preparedness have become, it seems unlikely that funds are not available to support the operational needs of ProMED, and perhaps even to finance the vision of ISID CEO Linda MacKinnon for the programme to become “the nexus for modeling, forecasting, and predictive analytics that will not only help to identify a potential pandemic event, but predict it before it even starts”. Our hope is that the ongoing impasse will prompt funders to come forth and enable ProMED to resume (and potentially expand) its activities in accordance with its original guiding principles of transparency and openness.

                "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
                -Nelson Mandela


                • #9

                  The above Lancet editorial appears to be another cheerleading event for ProMed, who has always had legacy media support.

                  ProMed screwed up. Plain and simple.

                  What did they do with all the money except become overhead heavy and contributor lite? With these kinds of problems who is going to invest ( I mean donate) now?

                  If I was in charge there are 100 things I would change.

                  But no changes will matter unless the entire database is open, fully searchable, and free to the public.

                  It is a travesty to charge for this information. The ProMed staff and contributors are wealthy as compared to the global populations. What is wrong with you people?

                  Get out of your fancy condo, and on your own time and dime - get the work done. I am really disappointed. All of you can afford to help out global health FOR FREE. I have looked at your list of moderators - all professionals.

                  Now - instead of being remembered for your contributions, you will be remembered for limiting services & charging for information DURING A PANDEMIC..

                  ...and during the worst global animal, high pathogenic, avian flu outbreak in documented history.

                  I hope you can live with that.

                  Sad. Really sad.