Blogroll: Turf wars

I was invited to write for Nature Chemistry’s Blogroll column for their December issue. The column is meant as a brief summary of the current chemistry/science blogosphere and features in their printed and online issues, which hopefully creates access to a broader audience. Thanks to Stuart Cantrill and colleagues for the opportunity! Original (including link to PDF) can be found here (£££).

Molecular modellers scoop Nobel and a publishing ‘trash heap’ uncovered.

Nobel season has come and gone, with this year’s chemistry prize awarded to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel. Once more, Paul Bracher at ChemBark must be thanked for collating the runners and riders on his blog ( That the prize was awarded for computational chemistry delighted Ash Jogalekar at the Curious Wavefunction (, who noted that it recognized both a whole field and the lifetime achievements of the three winners. Realizing that not everyone was happy with the decision, Jogalekar’s delight soon turned to frustration ( at those chemists who snipe at researchers in other fields of chemistry. As Ash put it, these ‘turf wars’ hardly help improve the public image of chemists.

Speaking of turf wars, a recent sting investigation reported in Science on open-access (OA) publishers caused a stir both in the blogosphere and the mainstream press ( John Bohannon, under the superb alias Ocorrafoo Cobange, sent a spoof paper describing the new (non-existent) anticancer properties of a new (equally non-existent) wonder drug to 304 OA journals. It was accepted in 157, occasionally without peer review, despite clear scientific and ethical shortcomings.

“An Open Access Trash Heap” cried Derek Lowe at In The Pipeline (, with his two barrels aimed directly at those journals who rip off authors for “whatever fees they can scam”. Open Access advocates, including PLOS founder Michael Eisen, were quick to defend OA publishing, suggesting similar failings would also occur in subscription-only journals. As Jon Tennant, guest-blogging on Matthew Shipman’s SciLogs page, pointed out, Bohannon’s sting uncovered deeper issues with peer review and editorial processes in general, regardless of publishers’ business models (

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