Another 100 chemists on Twitter

After someone (Per-Ola Norrby, I think) pointed out that my original list of 100 chemists on Twitter is now down to 99 (there’s 100 in the blog post, but the Twitter list only has 99 members now that one of those listed seems to have left Twitter…), I thought I’d finally get around to doing another list…

Just to head some of you off at the pass, here’s a reminder of what I said last time:

1. This is not a list of the top 100 chemists on Twitter (or the 101-200th best chemtweeps). It’s pretty much random – it’s not based on follower count, h-index or anything else silly like that.

2. Not everyone on this list is necessarily a card-carrying chemist, but they are all people who, more often than not, have something to say on Twitter about chemistry in all its many guises.

3. As with any list, its content is biased by its creator (me in this case). Feel free to leave comments, including the names of your favourite chemtweeps that I have inevitably missed, and to criticize, analyze and deconstruct this list to your heart’s content. Also let me know if any links are wrong/broken.

4. I think I’ve limited this to real people (rather than journals or blogs), but there are lots of other great chemistry Twitter feeds you could follow (also noted in the first list). Don’t forget about Compound Interest too…

[UPDATE: Ah, the perils of lists; you feel bad when you realise who you left out. Other suggestions of people to follow on Twitter after I published this list (will be first on the 3rd list of 100, I promise…): Brian Wagner (@DrummerBoy2112), Olexandr Isayev (@olexandr), Mark Stradiotto (@MarkStradiotto), Warren Piers (@wpiers1), Ragogna Group (@RagognaGroup), Matteo Cavalleri (@physicsteo), John Milligan (@ArsChemia), Jason Dutton (@DuttonChemistry), John Coupland (@JohnNCoupland), John Tucker (@JohnTuckerPhD), Sean Ekins (@collabchem), Scott Reed (@ReadScottReed), John LaMattina (@John_LaMattina), Valerie A. Schmidt (@v_a_schmidt), L.-C. Campeau (@DrLCsquare), Matt Cliffe (@MJCliffe), Adrian Roitberg (@adrian_roitberg), Thorri Gunnlaugsson (@ThorriGunnlaugs), Bill Wuest (@wmwuest)]

The list below is in alphabetical order of Twitter @names and can be found as a list on Twitter here.

aspuru-guzikAlan Aspuru-Guzik (@A_Aspuru_Guzik)
Theoretical Chemist, Quantum Information Scientist, Professor

dingleAdrian Dingle (@adchempages)
Chemistry Educator, Writer & Author | Currently adapting @sam_kean’s Disappearing Spoon | AACT | SCBWI | NASW | ABSW | RSC | ACS | apchemistry | CHEM NOT #stem

mulhollandAdrian Mulholland (@AdrianMulholla1)
Professor of Chemistry, University of Bristol. Computational chemistry, enzyme catalysis, biomolecular simulation, HPC, antibiotic resistance. Views my own, not RTs

cooperAndy Cooper (@aicooper)
Mostly science related

stoddartAlison Stoddart (@ali_stoddart)
Chief Editor (@NatRevMater). Dividing time between materials science and malbec. Mostly malbec.

williamsonAlice Williamson (@all_isee)
Lecture @sydneychemistry @Sydney_uni and research for @O_S_M. Science Communicator. Host of Up and Atom on @fbiradio #top5under40 #openscience #malaria

a_hardyAmanda Hardy (@AmandaChemist)
Schools and Colleges Officer @RoyalSocBio @UKBC_SB. Science teacher, Chemist. Love: Biology, Chemistry, all STEM Outreach & hands-on science. Views my own!

miloAnat Milo (@anatmilo)
Physical Organic Chemist, Catalyst Design & Data Science Enthusiast, Assistant Professor, Ben Gurion University

slaterAnna Slater (@AnnaGSlater)
Royal Society-EPSRC Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow @livuni anachronistically existing before my time (1st Dec). Furiously happy, occasionally happily furious.

mcneilAnne McNeil (@AnneJMcNeil)
U. Michigan. I’m a mom, scientist, and educator who is most happy doing anything with my kids, outside, reading, or learning something new.

aprahamianIvan Aprahamian (@aprahamian)
Chemistry Professor at Dartmouth College

berginEnda Bergin (@BerginEnda)
Chemist and Senior Editor @NatureComms. All views my own. But they will mostly be about science, so don’t get too excited.

yavuzCafer T. Yavuz (@caferyavuz)
Assoc. Prof. of Chemistry @EEWS_KAIST capturing CO2 with @PorousPolymers. Board Member @Chem_CP. Assoc. Editor at @RSC_Adv. ⛳️🚀

goodmanCatherine Goodman (@cate_goodman)
Scientific Editor at JBC. Interested in biological chemistry, science communication, reading, singing, adventures and cats. Opinions my own.

cruddenCathleen Crudden (@cathleencrudden)
researcher, scientist, chemist, mother, daughter, swimmer, tree hugger

arnaudCelia Arnaud (@celiaarnaud)
A science writer with broad interests in science, arts, and culture.

jeffries_elMalika Jeffries-El (@Chem_Diva)
Chemist, World traveler, Steelers fan, Cyclone, Crossfitter and Diva

mouseChem Mouse (@ChemMouse)
Crazy British cat lady and chemistry prof. Loves music, food and family.

leChristine Le (@christine_m_le)
organic chemist, advocate for #womeninSTEM, teacher, foodie, @Forbes 2015 #30under30; tweets about life in the lab & occasional food pics, views my own

holmesJess Holmes (@come_in_burned)
I’m supramolecular! Chemist. PhD abd. Teaching fellow at Unimelb. Education enthusiast. I value science and compassion. Views my own.

stephensonCorey Stephenson (@crjsteph)
Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan

baumDana Baum (@dabaum77)
Chem prof doing fun stuff with DNA. Cat owner & pop culture/TV/social media junkie who enjoys running, cooking, & trips to Hawaii. My tweets are my own.

singletonDan Singleton (@dasingleton)
Organic Chemistry Professor Texas A&M Dynamic Effects in Ordinary Reactions

tavassoliAli Tavassoli (@DrAliTavassoli)
Professor of Chemical Biology

hardyMaggie Hardy (@DrMaggieHardy)
Chemistry @IMBatUQ & @QAAFI, wife, mother. On the hunt for new ion channel chemistries in venoms. Evidence-based. #Equity #Scicomm #612CC There will be spiders.

fockerHartreeFocker (@edsherer)
Predictive sciences for Process & Analytical Chemistry at Merck; firefighter; Chair COMP Division of the ACS; MN alum

slettenEllen Sletten (@EllenSletten)
Assistant Professor, UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

kayEuan Kay (@euanrkay)
Lecturer in Chemistry @univofstandrews. Research interests include supramolecular chem, nanomaterials and molecular machines.

fauldsKaren Faulds (@FauldsKaren)
Professor of Chemistry at University of Strathclyde- Interested in spectroscopy, SERS for bioanalytical applications and all things nano!

forganRoss Forgan (@forganross)
A whisky drinking, coast-to-coast commuting old bore masquerading as a young chemistry academic at @GlasgowUni on a @royalsociety URF. MOFs and stuff.

fosseyJohn Fossey (@fosseyjohn)
Chemistry lecturer, father of three, items posted are in a personal capacity

arnoldFrances Arnold (@francesarnold)
Innovation by evolution

gagliardiLaura Gagliardi (@gagliardi8)
(No Twitter bio, but here’s a link to Gagliardi’s faculty page)

gassensmithJ. J. Gassensmith (@Gassensmith)
Chemist, professor, and technophile

daviesGemma-Louise Davies (@GemmaLouDavies)
IAS Global Research Fellow, Department of Chemistry

gomobelFernando (@gomobel)
Chemistry ⋅ Science Communication Currently at @chemistryworld, @aragonradio and @rutaciencia_tv Views are my own 😉

willockHelen Willcock (@helen_willcock)
Polymer chemist.

mitchellDebbie Gale Mitchell (@heydebigale)
Chemist, spectroscopist, mother, Assistant Teaching Professor of Chemistry at University of Denver. (Tweets are my own).

gaedeHolly Gaede (@hollygaede)
Vocation: Chemistry Professor Avocation: Football Fan

howittJulia Howitt (@howitt_julia)
Applying environmental and analytical chemistry from the alps to the ocean. Charles Sturt Uni. Opinions my own.

tonksIan Tonks (@ianatonks)
Assist Prof of Chem @ U Minnesota. Runner. Lover of Organometallics, safety, music, backpacking and long car rides.

batteasJames Batteas (@jamesbatteas)
Professor of Chemistry Texas A&M University – Research in Nanotechnology – Yep, it’s all about the small things… – All views expressed are my own.

jensenJan Jensen (@janhjensen)
Computational chemist at the University of Copenhagen

jelfsKim Jelfs (@JelfsCompChem)
Royal Society University Research Fellow in Computational Supramolecular Materials Chemistry at Imperial College London. Views own.

frankeJenna Franke (@jennafranke)
Chicago native ⌬ Enjoys pretty colors chemistry, singing, & the great outdoors ⌬ 3rd year chemical biology Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, Northwestern alum! ⌬

laaserJenny Laaser (@jennylaaser)
Asst Prof at Pitt Chemistry; former AAAS Mass Media Fellow. Chemistry, chemsafety, scicomm, and nerdery. Tweets my own.

shermanJes Sherman (@jes_sherman)
science. lasers. super kvlt metal. powerlifting. cats. nerd culture. invisible disability awareness. endless novelty seeking. transhumanism.

jorgensenWilliam L. Jorgensen (@JorgensenWL)
Professor of Chemistry – Yale University Editor of JCTC

desimoneJoseph DeSimone (@Joseph_DeSimone)
UNC-CH, NC State; Founder: @Carbon, BlueCurrent, Liquidia Technologies, Bioabsorbable Vascular Solutions, Micell Technologies La vita è bella

kalowJulia Kalow (@JuliaKalow)
reader, eater, chemist

nicolasJulien Nicolas (@julnicolas)
Director of Research @CNRS @u_psud @umr8612. Associate Editor @ChemMater, Adv. Board Member @PolymChem. Dad of 1. #Polymer #chemistry & #Nanomedicine.

kamatPrashant Kamat (@KamatlabND)
Prof. Kamat @ Researchers @NotreDame interested #photovoltaics #solar energy #nanomaterials #environmental #renewables and #publications & #peerreview process

gademannKarl Gademann (@KarlGademann)
Synthetiker and Organiker. Chemistry professor at the University of Zurich. Interested in how natural products influence our world and change how we live.

miricaKatherine Mirica (@KMirica)
Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Dartmouth College

gibsonMatt Gibson (@LabGibson)
@warwickchem @warwickmed Addressing healthcare challenges with biomaterials science. Infectious disease, tissue/cell storage, (glycoscience, ice and polymers)

ladybeakerAnna Ahveninen (@Lady_Beaker)
PhD student in inorganic chemistry at the University of Melbourne. Aspires to be a Real Scientist.

ohrstromLars Öhrström (@Larsohrstrom)
Chemist, Chem. Eng., Prof. of Inorg. Chem,, popular science author, IUPAC div II, åsikter and opinions sont les miens, På svenska, En français, In English

laerenLaura van Laeren (@lauravlaeren)
Chemistry PhD candidate at SU. Catholic. Always writing something. Sauvignon Blanc addict. Currently thesising, ranting may occur. (previously @laurajane0103)

gamonLuke Gamon (@lgamon)
Endeavour Postdoc Fellow at @Uni_Copenhagen | @SciFinder #FutureLeaders16 Alumni | Former chemistry PhD @unimelb/@Bio21Institute | SciComm, Biotech & Innovation

aronAron (@lonepair)
Virtual chemist / #おたく / Professor in Materials Design at @imperialcollege / #openscience

leinMatthias Lein (@m_onlein)
Either night or the Prussians will come. theoretical chemist, father, geek – possibly not in this order

stoermerMartin Stoermer (@MartinStoermer)
PhD in Organic Chemistry. Organic and Medicinal Chemist. May contain traces of football.

mceepMatthew (@MCeeP)
I’m a biochemist who spends his time blogging and cartooning @ErrantScience about my adventures in #PostDoc research. I also write a column for @LaboratoryNews

felletMelissae Fellet (@mfellet)
Freelance science writer interested in chemistry, materials science, science policy, engineering. Views my own.

franclMichelle Francl (@MichelleFrancl)
Chemist, writer, professor, mother, wife, blogger

davenportMatt Davenport (@MrMattDavenport)
Reporter & multimedia producer for @cenmag. Views are my own. Oxford commas courtesy of my employer’s style guide.

borduasNadine Borduas (@nadineborduas)
French Canadian postdoc with @krismcneill, studying the #atmoschem of clouds while #RealTimeChem-ing on the ski slopes with a soft spot for African elephants

brownNathan Brown (@nathanbroon)
#Scientist @ICR_London • #Scot • #Author • #Coder • #CompChem • #Chemist • #DataScience • #BigData • @Molomics • Fiancé is the Legoman • Tweets My Opinion

nevinsNeysa Nevins (@neysanev)
Computational chemist, GSK Fellow | I meditate walking between meetings.

gastonNicola Gaston (@nicgaston)
takes enormous delight in very small things | féministe ou la ferme | will always run for the bus | going for a Burton… | nolite te bastardes carborundorum

notmanNina Notman (@ninanotman)
Freelance science writer and editor specialising in chemistry

nothfTimothy (@NotHF)
Organic chemistry Ph.D. candidate who works on Au clusters.

winterJulia Winter (@OChemJulie)
Creating mobile technology for higher ed science. 20+ years in classroom. Have my own Julie/Julia thing going on. Founder @LearnAlchemie

farhaOmar Farha (@omarfarha5)
(No Twitter bio, but here’s a link to Farha’s faculty page)

matthewsPhilippa Matthews (@OrangePip86)
Scicomm and singing | @RoySocChem | @fairhavensinger | @sspiritsingers | Also I knit things | Views my own

spokoynyAlex Spokoyny (@organomimetic)
Chemist and whiskey aficionado.

paleyMiranda Paley (@paleymir)
Trained as a chemical biologist. Loving learning other areas of chem everyday as Managing Editor of @acscentsci. Views my own.

melchiorrePaolo Melchiorre (@Pamelck)
Husband to (@LornaPiazzi), Dad, Research Professor (@ICIQchem), Group Leader (@MelchiorreGroup) – Uses Light to Make Chiral Molecules / Tweets my Views

ballPhilip Ball (@philipcball)
This is me. On a good day. I write mostly about science.

thomasSarah Thomas (@PittaGirl)
Senior International Development Manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry, and world birder, especially pittas.

adamsDave Adams (@prof_djadams)
All views are my own!

elliotSJ Elliot (@Prof_SJE)
protein electrochemistry, redox enzymology, and science pedantry at a Hub University. Once an English major. (Once). Keep Calm & Carry Electrons

leighDave Leigh (@ProfDaveLeigh)
Royal Society Research Professor & Sir Samuel Hall Chair of Chemistry, University of Manchester, UK. european first, british second. molecules. machines. magic.

kennyPeter Kenny (@pwk2013)
Scientist, nomad, agnostic, heretic, slayer of soucouyants (and metrics), aspiring citizen of the world

sorensen-unruhRissa Sorensen-Unruh (@RissaChem)
Intro Chem, Gen Chem, & Organic Chem Prof. Chem Ed Researcher. Statistics PhD student. Human being in my own right. Lover of oxford commas. Tweets = Personal.

janszeSuzanne Jansze (@S_Jansze)
Love for chemistry/science/research, playing the saxophone, music in general and other interesting stuff.

reismanSarah Reisman (@sarah_reisman)
Professor of Chemistry, California Institute Technology

cadySarah Cady (@sarahdcady)
I love giant magnets.

skrabalakSara Skrabalak (@SaraSkrabalak)
Chemistry Professor at Indiana University – Bloomington. All views expressed are my own.

spainSeb Spain (@sebspain)
Lecturer in Polymer Chemistry @sheffielduni. Polymer chemist, guitarist. Opinions my own.

goldupSteve Goldup (@sgoldup)
I’m an Associate Professor and URF at the University of Southampton. All views my own.

silvermanScott K. Silverman (@sksilverman)
Chemistry prof at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. DNA catalysts. I try to compete as a 10k/5k runner, but others are faster. Penguins are great!

zingalesSarah Zingales (@SKZingales)
Chemist, Professor, Skeptic, Vegetarian, Ballerina, Gamer, Wine Snob, and Science Enthusiast #50BookPledge #RealTimeChem #WarEagle #GoBlue

camposLuis M. Campos (@soyluiscampos)
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Columbia University. Born in Mexico. American Citizen. Donald Trump is not my President.

bennettThomas D. Bennett (@ThomasDBennett)
Expatriate northern materials chemist in Cambridge. Views are my own, not yours.

thomasChristophe Thomas (@ThomasPolymer)
Professor, @ChimieParisTech, @CNRS, @psl_univ,,

easunTimothy Easun (@TimEasun)
Supramolecular photochemist, time-resolved spectroscopist, occasional twitterer. @ChemistryCU as a @royalsociety URF. MOFs etc.

viswanathanVenkat Viswanathan (@venkvis)
Asst. Professor @CarnegieMellon University, Advanced Batteries, Electrochemical Devices

patelVibhuti Patel (@VibhutiJPatel)
Science geek, BSc/PhD from @warwickuni, lover of all things arty-farty, hater of food waste. British by birth, Indian by heritage, European by feeling.

richardsVictoria Richards (@victoriajrich)
Inorganic and materials chemist. Senior Editor for @NatureComms. Views are my own.

Posted in Fun, Housekeeping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On the nature of chemistry publishing

I’ve just returned from #ACSPhilly (the 252nd ACS meeting in Philadelphia) where I got to meet some awesome chemtweeps, many for the first time. This was my first ACS meeting since March 2009 (the one in Salt Lake City) which, coincidentally, is the same month that I joined Twitter.

I was kindly invited to speak in the ‘Crafting chemical communication’ symposium organized by @DrRubidium and @jamesbatteas. A few people asked for a copy of my presentation and so I figured I would post it here. My usual title — ‘The nature of chemistry publishing’ — was not allowed by the ACS gods, but James came to the rescue and added the ‘On’ at the beginning. Apparently talks at ACS meetings cannot begin with ‘The’ — I imagine there is a very good reason for this*.

ACS Philly Comm Chem.001

(*I’m lying).

Posted in Journal stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Credit where credit is due

Let me just flag up to those of you who aren’t aware of my day job, I’m the Chief Editor of Nature Chemistry; best I put that at the top of this post considering the subject matter…

***See updates at the bottom of the post***

Many thanks to a reader of this blog for forwarding to me an email that they received from Angewandte Chemie thanking them for being one of their ‘outstanding referees’. I applaud such referee-recognition efforts; more journals should do this.

What caught my eye, however, is that the final paragraph of the e-mail mentions statistics related to Angewandte Chemie (and one other journal; can you guess which one?), backed up with 6 figures. First are a couple of graphs showing where submissions to Angewandte Chemie come from (for 2001-2015) and the geographical breakdown of referees (for 2008-2015). It appears that, in 2015, more submissions came from East Asia (somewhat unhelpfully not defined) than any other region and that more referee reports came from Germany than any other country. I don’t feel that I can reproduce the actual graphs here because I did not make them and nor have I sought permission to reproduce them (hey kids, we call this part of the blog post ‘foreshadowing’).

After discussing submissions and referees, the final paragraph goes on to discuss citation metrics in a somewhat contradictory fashion; I’m going to quote from the e-mail now and assume this won’t get me into any hot water (legal or otherwise):

“Too many scientists are obsessed with metrics these days. Figures 3-6 in the attachment demonstrate that Angewandte Chemie publishes indeed many highly cited papers (one only has to look at absolute numbers).”

Which is a bit weird, no? Hey everyone, too many people are obsessed with metrics these days, so here are MORE metrics for you to look at. Hmm.

Now, you know what, I am going to reproduce figures 3 and 4 from the e-mail that Angewandte Chemie sent to its outstanding referees. The reason that I feel on pretty firm ground doing this (despite Wiley’s history of going after bloggers who have reproduced figures from their journals) is that figures 3 and 4 are, with only minor modifications, mine. They first appeared on this blog in a post about citation distributions in chemistry journals.

Here’s figure 3 from the e-mail (top) and my original (bottom).


And here’s figure 4 from the e-mail (top) and my original (bottom).


Pretty similar huh? Same colours, same fonts… – well, that’s because they are clearly the original images from my blog post.

Did Angewandte Chemie ask my permission to reproduce these figures? No.

Did Angewandte Chemie acknowledge in the e-mail that they sent to their referees where these figures came from? I don’t think so (at least not as far as I can tell; perhaps the figures contain hyperlinks, but in the flat version forwarded to me, there is nothing that appears to attribute the figures to me).

What Angewandte Chemie have done, however, is to add logos for GDCh, Angewandte Chemie and Wiley-VCH to the bottom of each figure. Stay classy Angewandte, stay classy. You are now the Daily Mail of chemistry publishing. You couldn’t even be bothered to get the data yourself and re-plot it!

To be fair, they have invested a huge amount of time and effort to add a title and a footnote to each figure, but I’m not sure that means you can ignore where you got the actual figure from.

Now, I get the impression that Angewandte Chemie is unhappy with my citation-distribution blog post. ‘Why?’, I hear you ask. Well, we also get treated to figures 5 and 6. Figures 5 and 6 from the e-mail that they sent to their referees are not my figures, so I will not reproduce them here (take note, Angewandte). I will, however, describe them to you. Figure 5 basically puts the data from figures 3 and 4 onto a single graph, but retains the y-axis scale from figure 4. What this does of course, is put the Nature Chemistry data in the noise. This figure very clearly proves that Angewandte Chemie publishes more papers than Nature Chemistry; I’m pretty sure there are simpler ways to plot this, however.

Now, figure 6. Figure 6 takes the portion of figure 5 that looks at the citation range from 40-100+ citations (except, of course, they simply use the label ‘100’, not ‘100+’ like I did on my graphs… c’mon Angewandte, attention-to-detail folks!). Now, what this graph shows is that when you consider citations in 2014 to papers published in 2012 and 2013, Angewandte Chemie has many more that have accumulated 40-100+ citations than Nature Chemistry. This is not surprising. Angewandte Chemie publishes many very good papers and many highly cited papers. And considering that in 2012-2013 it published almost 20 times as many papers (reviews and research papers) as Nature Chemistry, of course it’s going to have more.

The purpose of my original blog post was, for the most part, to examine citation distributions – it was a follow-up to another blog post that looked in detail at what contributed to Nature Chemistry‘s 2014 impact factor. Sure, I can see how the post could come across as a citation pissing-contest, but the only specific comparisons I make in the text of the post are somewhat superficial and are between Angewandte Chemie and the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) and between Angewandte and Chemical Science. I explicitly pointed out that the y-axis is very different across the charts I plotted for 6 different journals. I did offer a way in which you could compare journals if you wished to, by considering the percentage of published items with a given number of citations. The only way to make any comparisons is to normalize for quantity (and even then it might not be all that meaningful).

Anyway, I find it interesting that Angewandte Chemie compared itself to Nature Chemistry in its e-mail to its referees. I thought I would be helpful and do the comparison for them to JACS; the graphs are below. In terms of published items, the 2012-2013 counts are 4572 (Angewandte) and 5939 (JACS), so roughly similar – well, much more similar than Nature Chemistry and Angewandte for a start.

Here’s my version of figure 5 from Angewandte‘s e-mail to its referees (only with JACS data instead of Nature Chemistry):


And here’s my version of figure 6 from Angewandte‘s e-mail to its referees (only with JACS data instead of Nature Chemistry):


Well, look at that, JACS publishes more highly cited papers than Angewandte Chemie! They also publish more papers in total too. Read into that what you will.

So Angewandte, if you do fancy using these graphs in your next e-mail to your referees, don’t put your logo on them and do acknowledge where you got them from – but I do give you my permission to re-use them for that purpose.

With regard to your unauthorized and unattributed re-use of my figures in the e-mail that you have already sent, I kindly ask that you send a follow-up e-mail to everyone that received it noting where the images came from, including a link to the original blog post.

I don’t know if your use of my images in an e-mail that went to hundreds of people counts as ‘publishing’ them, but regardless, it seems only fair to give credit where credit is due – just like you are doing with your outstanding referees.

UPDATE 8:45 am, 15 March: @angew_chem have apologized on Twitter and have promised to follow up with the referees; I thank them for getting back to me so promptly and for doing what I asked.


UPDATE 3:45 pm, 15 March: I’ve had a very nice e-mail from Angewandte Chemie apologizing for their oversight and they also shared with me the draft of the follow-up e-mail that they intend to send to the referees and asked me for any comments I had concerning it. I take it back, they are not the Daily Mail of chemistry publishing after all.

UPDATE 3:35 pm, 17 March: As pointed out in the comments below, and also confirmed in e-mails from others, Angewandte has indeed followed up with the referees as they said they would. I thank them for doing this so quickly and without any fuss whatsoever.

Posted in Journal stuff, Metrics, Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

We need to talk about Twitter…

As part of Materials Week at the University of Warwick, I was asked to talk about social media and how it is used by scientists (and of course I threw in a bit about how journals use it too). Because it is what I know best, the majority of my talk focused on Twitter, with a side of Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube and blogging. And I figured that the best way to find out the reasons why scientists use Twitter was to ask them, and so…

The response was great (and was kindly Storified by @CrimsonAlkemist). I’m certainly not the first to throw this question out there on Twitter; I know others have done it before and people have also blogged about why they use Twitter too (for example, see this post by @Alexis_Verger). Please do point to other such posts in the comments as well – I imagine there are plenty of others out there.

Anyway, the presentation that I threw together can be found by clicking on the image below; it’s essentially a series of screenshots that I talked around. I think the talk needs refining somewhat, but this is a good place to start and I’ll hone it from here if I give it again in the future… if you wish to use any of the slides yourself, please feel free to do so.


Posted in Journal stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Imperfect impact

The problems with impact factors are well known – I could give you a long list of things to read that explain why, but just start with this blog post from Stephen Curry and go from there.

I have a slide that I use in my talks that sums up one particular problem – that the impact factor (IF) of any given journal tells you absolutely nothing about any given article in that journal. For example, the current IF of Organometallics is just over 4, whereas Nature‘s is more than 10 times that at just over 41. But does that mean that every Nature paper is 10 times ‘better’ than every Organometallics paper? (Answer: of course not! – and how on Earth would you measure ‘better’ anyway?). It also doesn’t guarantee that a particular Nature paper will have received more citations than any given Organometallics paper (after all, a wide distribution of citations make up an IF). Considering the perverse incentives in science, however, I wonder how many people would rather have on their CV an Organometallics paper that has received 50 citations in a year instead of a Nature paper that has garnered only 10 in the same period of time?

Anyway, I digress. The slide I have looks at things from a different point of view. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could take exactly the same paper and publish it at roughly the same time in a bunch of different journals? Take your fancy-metal-catalyzed-cross-coupling-based synthesis of tenurepleaseamycin and submit it to (and have it published in) Angewandte, JACS, Nature Chem, Science, JOC, Tet Lett and Doklady Chemistry and then sit back and see how the citations roll in. Of course, it’s the same paper – it’s not a better paper in one journal than another, so it will get cited roughly equally in all journals, right? Well, all you can really do is speculate, because if you did try to do exactly that you’d end up really annoying some chemistry-journal editors and you might not get the paper published anywhere (well, I can think of a few places that would probably still take it, but discretion is the better part of valour and all that).

Well, never fear! The experiment has been done. Although it wasn’t an experiment, it wasn’t done for the purpose of comparing citations in different journals and it’s happened more than once. It turns out that in medical publishing, editorials/white papers occasionally get published in more than one journal. So, say hello to ‘Clinical Trial Registration — Looking Back and Moving Ahead‘. A few years back, I looked at the citations this paper had received in a range of different journals and the IFs of those journals – the slide from my talk with all of the data on is shown below.


There’s a pretty good correlation between the number of citations that this identical paper received in each journal with the IFs of those journals. Of course, perhaps more people read the New England Journal of Medicine than the Medical Journal of Australia and so a wider audience will likely mean a wider potential-citation pool. Whatever the reasons (and it’s not all that difficult to come up with others), the slide shows how silly it is to assume that the IF of a journal has any bearing on how good any particular paper in that journal is. As I have said before, the only way to figure out if a paper is any good is to actually read the damn thing – the name (or IF) of the journal in which a paper is published should never act as a proxy for how awesome (or not) a paper is.

So, as well as pointing out one specific flaw in the IF, when showing this slide it does allow me to make a joke about how the correlation would be even better if it wasn’t for some (imaginary, I hasten to add) Croatian citation ring… I apologize if I have offended any Croatian doctors who happen to be reading this… but the joke usually gets a laugh.

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Chemistry journal citation distributions

Over at my day job, I recently looked at the distribution of citations that 2012 and 2013 Nature Chemistry papers (Articles, Reviews and Perspectives) received in 2014 – essentially the citations that are used to calculate the 2014 impact factor of the journal. I would recommend having a read of that post before ploughing through this one. I’ve now done the analysis for five other general chemistry journals, just to see how they all stack up. In each case, the data is from Web of Science (All Databases) and is refined by document types ‘Article’ and ‘Review’. In the Sceptical Chymist post I also did the calculation for Nature Chemistry after removing the Review articles from the data, but haven’t done that here.

So, here is what Nature Chemistry looks like:


And here’s JACS, Angewandte Chemie (the International Edition), Chemical Science, Chem Comm and Chem Eur J (note that because of the wildly different volume of content across the 6 journals, the scale on the y-axis changes quite significantly – as does the smoothness of the distribution; also, for the Chem Comm and Chem Eur J, I have included magnified sections of the later portions of the distributions):






One way that you can compare journals that publish vastly different numbers of papers is to look at the percentage of published items that have more than a given number of citations. For example, each journal has 100% of papers with 0 or more citations, but what does the percentage drop to when you consider papers with 1 or more citations? If 5% of a journal’s papers have 0 citations in 2014, then the second point plotted on the graph would appear at 95% (i.e., 95% of papers would have one or more citation). If you do this analysis for the 6 journals above, this is what you find:

n or more cites all

If you stack these graphs on top of one another, you can then compare (for the most part) across the 6 journals:

n or more cites overlap

It’s interesting to note that JACS compares favourably to Angewandte, even though Angewandte publishes far more review-type articles, and also note how Chemical Science is not all that far behind Angewandte when you do this sort of analysis.

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Back to the future (of chemistry publishing)

So, here’s my obligatory Back-to-the-Future Day post and, because it is me doing this, it’s obviously about chemistry publishing. I figured I’d compare one issue of a journal published in 1985, with an issue published in 2015. Because the last time I looked at chemistry publications over a particular period of time I chose JACS, I thought I’d do Angewandte Chemie (the English edition) this time so that my friends over at Wiley don’t feel all left out. So, I looked at the October issue from 1985 (yes folks, there was only one issue of Angewandte each month in those prehistoric times) and compared it with the October 26th issue from 2015 (which is 5 days from now – and that seems appropriate considering the time-travel inspired nature of this post).

I just looked at the ‘Communications’ section of the issue in each case (that’s 27 papers from the 1985 issue and 51 papers from the 2015 issue) and this is what I found from these – admittedly tiny – samples:

1. Papers now have more authors on them than 30 years ago. The average (mean) for a paper in the 1985 issue was 3.07 authors, whereas it is more than double that in the 2015 issue at 6.37 authors per paper (the medians are 3 and 6, respectively).

2. Papers are now longer than they were 30 years ago. The average page extent for a paper in the 1985 issue was 2.15 pages, whereas it is now more than double that in the 2015 issue at 4.86 pages per paper (that’s just based on page ranges; not full printed pages in the journal). For comparison, the medians are 2 and 5, respectively.

***UPDATE – see comment below from @fluorogrol and my replies***

3. The geographical spread of corresponding authors is much greater now than it was 30 years ago. In 1985, German authors dominated Angewandte Chemie, but that’s not true anymore it seems – just look at the charts below.

Breakdown of geographical location of corresponding authors in Angewandte Chemie.

Breakdown of geographical location of corresponding authors in Angewandte Chemie.

As I mentioned above, these are really small samples so do take the analysis with a pinch of salt. That said, @fxcoudert has looked at these trends in more depth in the past and I highly recommend that you go and check out these two blog posts here and here.

I don’t know if this counts as #OldTimeChem or #FutureTimeChem (or perhaps a bit of both), but anyway, this is my little bit for #RealTimeChem week 2015!

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All your base are belong to JACS

This is a follow-up post to yesterday’s that looked at word clouds made up from the titles of JACS papers from the last 115 years.

Jake Yeston commented on Twitter about the lack of catalysis-based words in the clouds. This is something that also caught my eye and I’ve now had a chance to dig a little deeper into this.

The way the word clouds work (the ones you can make using Wordle at any rate) is by counting exact copies of the same word and then scaling the size of the word in the cloud in proportion to the number of times it appears in the input text. So, if you look closely at the word clouds from yesterday’s post, you will see ‘reaction’ and ‘reactions’ both appearing in the same word cloud. Similarly, acid and acids, complex and complexes, study and studies, and so on. Wordle also does not separate hyphenated words, so you will see things like ‘gas-phase’ and ‘electron-transfer’.

What does this mean for catalysis? Well, I started looking through the titles for the 2010-2014 data and found all of the following words (and there are probably other variants that I missed):

anticatalysis, autocatalysis, autocatalytic, biocatalysts, biocatalytic, catalase, catalysis, catalyst, catalytic, catalytically, catalyze, catalyzed, catalyzes, catalyzing, cocatalysis, cocatalytic, cocatalyzed, electrocatalysis, electrocatalyst, electrocatalysts, electrocatalytic, electrocatalyze, multicatalytic, nanocatalysts, organocatalysts, organocatalytic, photocatalysis, photocatalyst, photocatalysts, photocatalytic, precatalyst

This means that catalysis is being spread quite thin and not being lumped together as a single entry in the word clouds. But it gets worse. In the 2010-2014 cloud, if you look carefully you can find ‘palladium-catalyzed’… and remember what I said above about Wordle not separating hyphenated words? Not only is ‘palladium-catalyzed’ counted separately from ‘palladium’ and ‘catalyzed’, but also separately from things like ‘Pd-catalyzed’ too. And obviously you get lots of different ‘X-catalyzed’ terms, such as ‘gold-catalyzed’, ‘Rh-catalyzed’, ‘copper-catalyzed’, and so on. There’s an awful lot of catalysis going on, it just isn’t adequately captured in the word clouds. On the other hand, consider the word ‘synthesis’ — sure, it might lose some of its count to ‘synthetic’, but that’s about it; there aren’t anywhere near as many derivatives of ‘synthesis’ as there are of ‘catalysis’.

To get a sense of how much catalysis (in any and all of its guises) has been published in JACS down the years, I went back to the lists of titles and then searched for ‘catal’ as a fragment. For comparison, I did the same for ‘synth’ and what I found is plotted below.


In the 2000s, ‘catal’ words were almost level with ‘synth’ words, and by the end of the current decade, it looks very much like they will be in the lead. Is this the decline of synthesis?

Now, as I pointed out in yesterday’s post, it seems as though chemists really have something for acid and acids. Those words dominate the clouds in the early-to-mid part of the 20th century. On Twitter, Cafer Yavuz suggested that ‘base’ and ‘basic’ might be excluded as part of the set of common words, but I don’t think that is the case. Wanting to get a sense of acid vs base, I repeated the ‘catal’/’synth’ analysis for these words. The results are plotted below:


The analysis is not perfect, partly because ‘base’ and ‘basic’ can have different meanings (more so than acid and acidic), and ‘base’ is also a fragment of ‘based’ which might be adding to its total. Nevertheless, something interesting appears to be happening. When it comes to acids and bases, it seems that the balance of power (in JACS at least) is shifting — where acids once ruled supreme, bases took the crown in the 2000s and seem to be consolidating their position in the current decade.

If you have any questions about the analysis (or other things you want me to look for in the titles), just leave a comment or drop me a line on Twitter. Similarly, if you want the raw data, drop me a line by e-mail, I’m happy to share.

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115 years of JACS titles

When Nature Chemistry celebrated its 5th anniversary last year, we put together a word cloud (using Wordle) featuring the 150 words that appeared most often in the titles of the papers we had published up to that point. That was a collection of just under 600 papers, but a clear winner did emerge — ‘synthesis’ was the word used in titles more than any other (excluding some common words such as ‘from’, ‘by’, ‘to’, ‘with’, ‘and’, ‘so’, ‘on’…). It seems that a large part of chemistry is still very much about making things, and that reminds me of one of my favourite chemistry quotes:

‘la chimie crée son objet’ (chemistry creates its object) — Marcellin Berthelot, 1860.

The Nature Chemistry title-word cloud was not based on a particularly large data set, however, and is also from a very recent period. I wondered if the titles of chemistry papers have changed much over time, and so I decided to look to a journal with a lot more history. I wanted it to be a general chemistry journal to ensure there was no intrinsic bias towards words associated with a particular sub-field within chemistry and so I turned to the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

The date range I chose is somewhat arbitrary, but round numbers have a certain appeal and so I started at 1900 and worked my way up to 2014, the most recent complete year of JACS papers. This amounted to a little over 168,000 article titles and just shy of 2,000,000 words in total. I may well do more analysis in time, but first of all I decided to break down the data into decades (including a half-decade of 2010-2014 to cover the most recent papers) and look at the most popular 150 words for titles in each given period (excluding the same common words as we did when analysing the titles of Nature Chemistry papers).

Note that the size of each word corresponds to the number of times it appears in titles in that period — the larger it is, the more it is used. I have not combined words with the same root and nor have I combined singular and plural versions of the same word. I have made everything lowercase for the sake of simplicity though (otherwise ‘Synthesis’ appears as a separate entry to ‘synthesis’). Also, the number of papers published varies a lot between decades, so comparing the sizes of words between different clouds is meaningless.

This is what I found:



So, chemists at the start of the 20th century (yes, I know the century started on January 1st, 1901, but just go with it) were a determined bunch who liked to study milk, oil, wheat, sugar and urine — perhaps not all at the same time. Also, note the presence of a decent-sized ‘sulphur’. Yes, sulphur, with a ‘ph’. And remember, this is JACS, with all its American-ness. There’s not a hint of a ‘sulf’ to be found in JACS titles in this decade!



Still a healthy dose of determination, but also a lot of acid. And now ‘sulphur’ has become ‘sulfur’ — in fact, there are 143 ‘sulf’-based words and only 17 ‘sulph’ ones in titles from this decade.



Acid still looms large, but a lot of derivatives and compounds now too. Note that there is a lot more preparation than there is synthesis.



Seriously, what is it with chemists and acid? Compounds and derivatives remain popular and it seems as though synthesis is catching up a little with preparation.



The age of synthesis is upon us. And note the appearance of the word ‘spectra’ too. Also, ‘esters’, what’s going on there?



Synthesis remains dominant, but words such as ‘kinetics’ and ‘mechanism’ are growing larger, suggesting that there is an increasing drive to understand reactions as well. And ‘stereochemistry’ rears its head in the cloud for the first time.



Synthesis is not quite as prominent in the 1960s, but still a popular word in the titles of JACS papers. A new (and quite prominent) entry is ‘resonance’, along with ‘magnetic’, and note that both ‘nuclear’ and ‘proton’ are there too, reflecting the growing use of NMR as a technique to characterize chemical compounds. Another notable entry: ‘carbonium’ (the old name for carbocations), which was an active area of research at this time.



Chemists’ fascination with acid finally seems to be wearing off somewhat. And ‘complexes’ is now much more prominent. I suspect that this is a result of host–guest chemistry really taking off in the 1970s and the word ‘complex’ being associated with many more things than just traditional metal-coordination compounds.



There’s a fairly sizeable entry for ‘total’, and the vast majority of time it is used in the context of ‘total synthesis’ — and ‘synthesis’ itself dominates once more. Also note that the popularity of the word ‘via’ is increasing and both ‘novel’ and ‘new’ are well used (‘new’ seems to be a fairly constant presence in titles throughout the decades).



There’s still an awful lot of synthesis going on.



Nanotubes and nanoparticles make an appearance in the top 150 for the first time — nano comes of age? Other notable first-time entries (although small) are ‘supramolecular’, ‘self-assembly’ and ‘quantum’; I’m a little surprised it took so long.



Synthesis remains at the top, but look at the topics creeping into the top 150. ‘Metal–organic’ and ‘framework’ heralds the growing popularity of MOFs and it’s easy to miss, but there is also a little innocuous ‘graphene’ creeping into the picture at the bottom. ‘C–H’ is growing in size too, which is usually found in titles in the context of C–H activation. And finally, chemists’ love of ‘via’ is sealed!

To summarize, here are the top-ten words for each period:


(EDIT added June 3rd: I forgot to mention when I first posted this that for the top-ten lists I did combine simple singular and plural versions of the same word, so ‘reaction’ is actually ‘reaction’ and ‘reactions’ combined. Same goes for study/studies, complex/complexes, acid/acids and some of the others. What I did not do, however, is go beyond that and combine words that share the same root, so ‘synthesis’ and ‘synthetic’ have not been counted together and nor have ‘molecule’ and ‘molecular’, for example.)

Just to give you a sense of scale, if you don’t exclude the really common words, the top-20 words for the last full decade (2000-2009) are shown below (and remember that the words are scaled relative to the number of times they appear – the larger the word, the more times they appear in JACS titles).


So, the most common word in JACS titles is probably ‘of’ or, more meaningfully, ‘synthesis’.

(EDIT added June 3rd: there’s now a follow-up post, with some cautionary notes about word clouds and how they can miss some concepts…)

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The ups and downs of cyclohexane

Cyclohexane is undoubtedly an iconic molecule. Many of us learned to draw it (with varying degrees of proficiency) very early on in our organic chemistry classes as we were introduced to chairs, boats, half-chairs, twist-boats, cis, trans, A-values, conformation and, of course, axial and equatorial. Cyclohexane has six equatorial C–H bonds around the circumference of the ring and six axial C–H bonds, three pointing up and three pointing down.

It wasn't always axial (red) and equatorial (blue), you know...

A cyclohexane chair – it wasn’t always axial (red) and equatorial (blue), you know…

It turns out that it wasn’t always ‘axial’ and ‘equatorial’ though… and I only discovered this last week when I came across a 1953 letter-to-the-editor in Nature (Nomenclature of cyclohexane bonds) from Barton, Hassel, Pitzer & Prelog.

The letter notes (shown below) that the labels first suggested for the different C–H bonds on the cyclohexane ring were ɛ (epsilon) for what we now call axial, and χ (chi) for what we refer to as equatorial these days:


The citation (the subscript ‘2’ in the excerpt above) is to a paper by Odd Hassel published in 1943 in something called Tidsskr. Kjemi, Bergv. Met. which turns out to be the Norwegian journal Tidsskrift For Kjemi Bergvesen og Metallurgi (I’m sure that’s cleared it up for you…). Even if my Norwegian was up to scratch (it isn’t), I thought it would be somewhat tricky to track down a copy of this article to find out the reasoning behind the choice of those particular descriptors.

Fortunately, the article was later translated into English and published in Topics in Stereochemistry in 1971, along with an article by Derek Barton that had originally been published in 1950 in the journal Experientia.

Hassel’s paper — The cyclohexane problem — explains the origin of the descriptors as follows:


For those of you paying attention, you may have noticed a problem. Whereas the Nature paper refers to ɛ and χ, the original Hassel paper refers to ɛ and κ (kappa). And based on the Greek origins of the descriptors, it is clear that it should be κ and not χ. Go back and look at the excerpt from the Nature paper above — even squinting a bit, it would need to be a very charitable interpretation to say that the symbol in question is κ and not χ. It seems that something went awry in the publication process (a couple of book chapters also confirm that the original descriptors were ɛ and κ).

One of these book chapters also pointed me in the direction of a 1954 Science paper, which shared the same authors (Barton, Hassel, Pitzer and Prelog) — and the same title — as the earlier 1953 Nature paper. On closer inspection, the letter in Science is, with one important exception, exactly the same as the one that appeared in Nature. See if you can spot the difference in this excerpt from the Science paper:


So, Science got it right; a kappa (κ) and not a chi (χ) for the equatorial bonds. Perhaps more remarkable, however, is that both Science and Nature published the *same* letter (the Nature letter was published on Dec 12, 1953 and the one in Science on Jan 1, 1954) — I wonder whether the editors knew of the dual publication…? Anyway, what was the ultimate purpose of this letter, this letter that was deemed so important that it should be published in both Science and Nature? Well, it was essentially just a proposal of new nomenclature for the different C–H bonds in cyclohexane.

After noting that the epsilon/kappa descriptors were difficult to remember, the authors pointed out that alternative nomenclature had been suggested by Beckett, Pitzer and Spitzer in a 1947 JACS paper. Basing their terms on geography rather than Greek, they had suggested the now-familiar ‘equatorial’ (e) for the C–H bonds around the equator of the ring and ‘polar’ (p) for the C–H bonds pointing either north or south away from the mean plane of the ring.

As highlighted in the Barton/Hassel/Pitzer/Prelog letter, however, the word ‘polar’ has another — very different — meaning in chemistry, and in an effort to prevent any confusion, they suggested that instead of polar, a better term would be ‘axial’. In another twist, the proposal to use ‘axial’ was actually made by Christopher Ingold who, despite this contribution, is only acknowledged in the Nature/Science letter (see below), rather than sharing in the authorship.

concluding para

Considering that ‘equatorial’ was already suggested in the earlier Beckett, Pitzer and Spitzer JACS paper and ‘axial’ is Ingold’s idea, the role of Barton, Hassel and Prelog appears to be one of making an authoritative plea (with Pitzer) to the community for a new standard to be adopted, rather than defining the new nomenclature themselves.

UPDATE 11/05/2015 – here’s an interesting post about Hermann Sachse and his attempts to get his ideas about the conformation of cyclohexane across to the wider chemistry community towards the end of the 19th century.

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