Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Blogroll: ChemBark, PI

[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is September’s article]

A worrying tale of misconduct, a consideration of ‘chemical intuition’ and a very useful reference finder.

How can we distil more than five thousand words, spread across a series of blogposts, that themselves distil 167 pages of information about the misconduct of Columbia graduate student Bengu Sezen? (And I was never any good at distillations in the lab…) The series comes from ChemBark, which has doggedly (pun only slightly intended) pursued this case for some time. In obtaining the documents, under a Freedom of Information Act request, ChemBark has uncovered a fascinating story that deserves to be widely read, if only to act as a warning. Starting with ‘finicky or sensitive’ reactions, that only seemed to work with Sezen in the lab, and progressing through doctored spectra before ending with retracted JACS papers, the whole story is bewildering and depressing. The documents themselves can be downloaded, and the posts are still ongoing at the time of writing and include a discussion on the role and responsibility of Sezen’s advisor Dalibor Sames. For a summary of the case, take a look at Chemical & Engineering News.

What is chemical intuition? The question is posed — but maybe not fully answered — at the Curious Wavefunction. Is intuition, however we define it, more important in chemistry than in physics? Wavefunction thinks so, but Google doesn’t agree: ‘chemical intuition’ gets only ~31,000 hits, compared with ~135,000 for its physical counterpart. In any case, the post goes on to suggest some tips that Waveform has noticed from great chemists down the years. Don’t ignore the obvious (like colour and smell), get a feel for energetics, stay in touch with the basics, and learn from other fields.

And finally…the editorial team just love the reference resolver developed by Alex Zhurakovskyi — just type/paste in the reference in almost any style you like, and bingo! You’re directed straight to the article.

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