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November 2000
Vol. 30, No. 11, 1.
Chemist at Large

Table of Contents

Michael J. Block / Editor

Reading, reading, . . . and reading

cartoon of editor“Time goes by so slowly and time can do so much . . .”

Time may have moved slowly for Hy Zaret, the lyricist of “Unchained Melody”, but I’ll guarantee that it moves pretty fast for most of us. In my job, as in yours, I’m sure, there are the things that absolutely must get done on schedule, and whatever time is left over is used for less rigidly structured things such as planning, networking, cleaning up the office—and keeping up with the literature. When you’re involved with a broad-ranging operation such as Chemical Innovation, the “literature” consists of almost everything relevant to science. And it’s not just the technical stuff, but business, education, careers, and laws and regulations.

With time available for reading as limited as it is, how do I structure it to keep up as efficiently as possible? Well, of course it’s mandatory to devour Chemical & Engineering News every week. In addition to being extremely informative across the range of topics I need to know about, C&EN is my road map to the world of chemistry. A weekly magazine like C&EN is largely reportorial, that is, it digs out the news and reports it to its readers. And although C&EN also contains longer, in-depth articles that go beyond reporting into analysis and evaluation, those activities are what monthlies like Chemical Innovation do exclusively.

My second source of information consists of the other magazines in our ACS Special Publications family: Today’s Chemist at Work and Modern Drug Discovery and the so-called “A-pages” of Analytical Chemistry and Environmental Science & Technology. I have to confess to my fellow editors that I don’t read every word they put into print, but I do use their pages to check out the trends in the fields that they cover.

What about non-ACS magazines? You don’t have to look any further than Science to get a well-rounded view of what’s happening all over the scientific world. I’ve been a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and therefore a subscriber to Science, since the 1970s. I often marvel at AAAS’s ability to put out such a huge book every week. Of course, half of Science consists of peer-reviewed journal articles, which makes its production process even more daunting.

A Chemist at Large piece earlier this year was titled “Get your bio info here”. In it I touted Chemical Innovation’s ongoing push to present more biological information to chemical scientists (who are increasingly working for biotechnology companies). But of course, we’re pikers compared to Science, which, along with Nature, is the pre-eminent source of news and analysis of what’s what and who’s who in life sciences. A poor old chemist like me can’t get into the second paragraph of Science’s research articles on biology, but I frequently find myself immersed in the synopses of such articles in the news pages. What I most enjoy, however, is the wonderful mixture of topics. In a recent issue (August 25), there were articles on otter migration on the California coast, the genetically-modified food controversy in Asia, and—in case you missed it in C&EN—the finding that element 107 (bohrium) has chemical properties consistent with its position in the periodic table.

There are many more science magazines out there, with varying levels of sophistication and scope. Some of the ones that at least make contact with my desk, if not always with my eyeballs, are Chemistry in Britain, the MIT Technology Review, and Trends in Biotechnology. You probably have your own collection to deal with each month. Which magazines do you read? Should we encapsulate articles from them in Heart Cut?

“Don’t you read any journals, Mike?” you ask. Well, only very selectively, I must sheepishly admit. I just don’t have the time. If someone like you directs me to a journal article that could be the basis for a Chemical Innovation piece, yes, I’ll read it, but to keep up with the literature as I did when I was a researcher would wipe me out. Besides, that’s what magazines like CI are forto keep people like you up to date on what’s happening in the wide world of chemical research.


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