Insight story

And breathe.

Closing issues of Nature Chemistry can sometimes be a bit frantic – and the just-published September issue was a little more of a challenge than usual. In addition to the usual types of content (research articles, reviews, research highlights, news & views pieces, and so on), this one contains a collection of Commentary articles that look at broader issues in chemistry beyond the science itself (I’ve written that last phrase so many times in the last few months… and I’m getting a bit sick of it to be honest).

The seeds of this special issue were sown well over a year ago in a meeting with my then boss (he’s climbed higher up the ladder since then). He asked what Nature Chemistry was going to do to mark the International Year of Chemistry. And the best answer I could come up with was something along the lines of, ‘erm… nothing… yet…’. After some discussion we decided it was an opportunity to do something special, so off I went to the rest of the team to try and figure out exactly what that would be.

There was really no point in doing more of what we do already. We routinely publish some pretty interesting research papers and review articles (or at least we think they’re interesting), and just upping the volume and slapping an IYC logo on some of them didn’t seem particularly satisfying. So, we decided that we’d get people to write opinion pieces on issues not directly related to science itself, but on broader issues related to the chemistry community, such as gender, education, communication, careers, sustainability, the developing world, and the future of pharma (OK, that last one is pretty close to the science, but cut us some slack!).

I just listed seven topics and you will see that we ended up with seven commentaries. We did actually commission eight articles, but one of them fell through. The less said about that, the better. Most, if not all, of the Commentaries were commissioned before the calendar flipped over into 2011 and first drafts started arriving in spring 2011. Over the summer, articles were edited and iterations were passed back and forth between the authors and the editorial team.

As our deadlines loomed (an August 23rd go-live date meant a press day – the day we finalise everything and send it off to the presses – of August 9th) we had to tidy up all the loose ends, such as making sure we had permissions to use all the images we wanted to and that we had the right credit information for them. These are the details that can make an editor’s head spin. Nevertheless, after a lot of hard work from our authors, from the editorial team, and last-but-not-least from our production team (art editor, copy editor, production editor, and web-production editor), these articles made it onto the printed page and onto the web. And this was in addition to the rest of the September issue that we had to put together as usual!

If you’re interested in chemistry and its future, I would recommend (but I am a bit biased I guess) going and reading these Commentaries – they are free until the end of September 2011. Matt has already blogged about his Commentary – all about communicating chemistry – and Michelle has also written a post about hers. And for the story behind the amazing mosaic cover of the September issue, head on over to the blog post I put up at the Sceptical Chymist.

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