Blogroll: Angry chemists

Mar 27, 2019
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[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is October’s article]

Funding woes spark indignation and ire, but excellence sparks inspiration.

The release of the new research portfolio of the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in July dismayed many chemists (see Chemistry World for some of that dismay) but it angered synthetic organic chemists the most. They are due to be among the first to feel the pinch of reduced funding. Rather than take this lying down, Paul Clarke of York University started off with a blog post at Sheer Lunacy that soon ended up with letters to national newspapers, cabinet ministers and the prime minister.

In response, EPSRC chief executive David Delpy argues that organic synthesis has received “a greater proportion of EPSRC support than most other areas in [its] physical sciences portfolio” and that this will be reduced so they can increase funding in other important areas. But of particular annoyance to Clarke and other organic chemists was the lack of consultation: it seems the EPSRC’s definition of ‘consultation’ is different from, among others, the RSC’s, with president David Phillips writing to Delpy outlining his concerns. The issue is so contentious that the Periodic Table of Videos crew made a video called Angry Chemists.

From angry organic chemists to inspirational ones…Dr Freddy, on Synthetic Remarks, implores Phil Baran (Scripps) to “Slow down, Phil”. Poor Dr Freddy offers this plea, because “mortals have no chance to keep up with you” and they “need a break” from Baran’s relentlessly high-profile publications! Dr Freddy suggests Baran should ‘do a Heck’: “Invent an awesome reaction, publish, disappear from the face of the Earth for some 20+ years, only to return to pick up the Nobel prize.” In a nice post-script, Baran himself commented on the post, humbly suggesting that it was his students who deserve the credit.


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