Defending Chemical & Engineering News

Over at In the Pipeline, the commenters waged a fierce attack on the American Chemical Society’s trade magazine for chemistry, Chemical & Engineering News. They were responding to In the Pipeline blogger Derek Lowe, who’d been invited to join the editorial board of Chemical & Engineering news, and who was asking for feedback on what his readers felt about the magazine.

Commenters had a lot of negative things to say about C&E News, and about the ACS more generally. I was shocked to see that so many commenters held such strong anti-immigration views. Their argument seemed to be that C&EN’s articles on the employment outlook for chemists were too rosy. They felt that H1B visa-holders were taking jobs from qualified American chemists. Some of them also felt that the ACS in general was intentionally trying to attract cheap foreign labor and drive down the wages of American chemists.

These views seem a bit far fetched to me, as I’ve noted. I was glad to see Derek Lowe address these arguments in a later post.

I have to say here, as I did in the comments to some of the posts at In the Pipeline, that I’m a fan of C&EN. I love skimming the digests of recent research. And I did start off my grad school admissions essay by saying that it was through reading C&EN that I realized that a career in the biotechnology was what I wanted. C&EN comes every week. It has research highlights, business-oriented articles, and often in-depth discussions of regulatory and policy issues facing the chemical industry. Plus did I mention their “Facts and Figures Of The Chemical Industry” articles? The other trade magazines I’ve read at one time or another — mainly ASM News, Chemical Engineering Progress, but also Genome Technology and Physics Today, don’t attempt nearly as much breadth.

In my view this breadth makes for interesting reading. It’s probably also a reflection of the breadth of interests among members of the ACS, which is after all the world’s largest scientific society. I am glad to know that my ACS dues go in part towards producing C&EN. The magazine isn’t perfect — for one, I’d like to see a bit more writing contributed by active chemical researchers — but I think it is remarkably good, both in absolute terms and in comparison to other technical trade magazines.

Good job, C&EN. You’re a good magazine.

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