Bloggers Put Chemical Reactions Through the Replication Mill

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Online project seeks crowd-sourced help to reproduce chemists’ published results. Katharine Sanderson writes in Nature (January 21, 2013 ):

 Scrounging chemicals and equipment in their spare time, a team of chemistry bloggers is trying to replicate published protocols for making molecules. The researchers want to check how easy it is to repeat the recipes that scientists report in papers — and are inviting fellow chemists to join them.

lab experiment

“We’re just a bunch of people who want to make the reactions work,” explains blogger See Arr Oh, who is based in the United States and prefers not to reveal his real name. The other team members include chemistry graduate student Matt Katcher from Princeton, New Jersey, and two bloggers called Organometallica and BRSM, who together have launched Blog Syn, in which they report their progress online.

Among the frustrations he and others have experienced with the chemical literature, says See Arr Oh, are claims that reactions yield products in greater amounts than seems reasonable, and scanty detail about specific conditions in which to run reactions. In some cases, reactions are reported which seem too good to be true – such as a 2009 paper which was corrected within 24 hours by web-savvy chemists live-blogging the experiment; an episode which partially inspired Blog Syn. ”I never forgot that reaction,”

See Arr Oh adds:

“Ask any synthetic chemist what they spend most of their time on, and they will admit that it is getting literature reactions to work,” says chemist Peter Scott of the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK. “That is the elephant in the room of synthetic chemistry.”

Read more here.