In the run up to Christmas members of AK Glorius are asked to present their favourite paper of the year. Of the eighteen people presenting, nine have selected so far, and as you might expect Science papers feature quite heavily; and strangely enough, most papers selected were published in the last 2-3 months! Once the list is complete I’ll post all the papers here, and probably give my moderately informed opinion as to which I think worthy of the list, or otherwise.
What would be interesting in the meantime, is your (i.e. you internet people) Paper of the Year. Nominations in the comments or via #chemPOY13 would be great, and then we can see how representative our list is in comparison.
p.s. We are organic chemists by the way
I am no stranger to a controversial piece of work, my first post-doc publication took a solid pounding from one referee, and I have taken a fair bit of flack since its publication both in person or otherwise (nothing online bar comments in the following links, so no gratuitous trolling I am afraid). Some people also said nice things about it (here ($) and here (free)) though.
The reason I mention this is because yesterday a paper was published in a notable journal that could well indeed fit in to this category of “controversial”. A key difference between this and my work though, is that amongst the people I spoke to, we were not divided. About half the people I discussed with were critical of my work, but we appear to be unanimous that the work from yesterday is not worthy of publication where it was published, by a long shot.
[It should be noted we might all be completely wrong, after all, we are all friends and therefore probably have a similar outlook; but if not….]
There are many reasons why this is upsetting, but for me the main one is this: many people toil for a long time on their work, they have it criticised and rejected, stamped on and sometimes even treated unfairly. This is a hard thing to take when you commit so much to a piece of work, but then to see work that really appears significantly unworthy of publication in a given place is demoralising and upsetting. It is not only a kick in the teeth for those who have work rejected, but devalues other work published in the same place. This is bad for the journal, scientists and research as a whole.
If you were unsure about the significance of research into new hydrogenation catalysts here is some more food for thought.
3 papers published ‘back to back’ in Science:
Nanoscale Fe2O3-Based Catalysts for Selective Hydrogenation of Nitroarenes to Anilines (Beller)
Cobalt Precursors for High-Throughput Discovery of Base Metal Asymmetric Alkene Hydrogenation Catalysts (Chirik)
Amine(imine)diphosphine Iron Catalysts for Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation of Ketones and Imines (Morris)
I won’t discuss the merits or otherwise of the papers, you can judge for yourselves, but this is indicative of the huge amount of research left to be done in this field and the significant impact it will continue to have for many, many years to come.
I spend a lot of time worrying about the image of chemistry. I want people to know that you don’t have to be a ‘geek’ to be great at science. I also think this image can dissuade great young minds from following their instincts and passion for science (particularly chemistry of course) because they do not ‘fit’ in to what they perceive is the image of a scientist.
I am hoping that this new ‘reality show’ out of MIT will give people a bit of an idea about what chemistry at university is about, and will show a broad spectrum of people and personalities. I know MIT is probably not that representative of science education as a whole, but we can can hope a little that the result of this is positive for the perception of chemistry and chemists.
Though a deeply buried and cynical part of my being, despite my audible protestations, thinks probably not!
Here is the MIT blogpost