August 2016 - ACS Axial | ACS Publications

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Get the Inside Scoop on Publishing With Stefano Tonzani

redditOn August 16, ACS Publications hosted an Ask Me Anything session with ACS Omega Executive Editor Stefano Tonzani to discuss the publishing process, open access, and more. Stefano is well-versed in the scientific publishing world, having worn many hats over the course of his career. With the launch of his “baby”—ACS Omega, ACS Publications’ newest open access journal—Reddit users had a lot of questions on how journals work and the changing landscape of open science. Read below for some of the highlights:

/u/iorgfeflkd: What is the editorial process at ACS for table-of-contents graphics? Is there any review of them whatsoever? You get some pretty wild stuff on ACS journals as TOC graphics. Have you ever had an editor reject one for being offensive or too silly?

Stefano Tonzani: The ToC graphic is built as part of the paper, so Editors and referees see it when shuttling it through peer review, and can block images they find offensive or scientifically misleading. However, we do not claim that ToC graphics are peer reviewed, as their purpose is to “give the reader a quick visual impression of the essence of the manuscript without providing specific results”. Our production team, after acceptance, also strives to prevent offensive and copyrighted material from being included in the eToC.

/u/that-is: I’ve read a lot about the problem of data manipulation such as p-hacking in order for scientists to improve their odds of publication. How seriously do you think this is currently affecting the literature? Do you think the industry is capable of overcoming this?

Stefano Tonzani: Selective reporting of data is a problem. There are a number of initiatives ongoing to deal with it. For example, a couple of companies ( and are using different approaches to improve reproducibility; publishers (Wiley and Nature come to mind) are also working on this same problem, which is seen as important especially by funders.

I think the industry can overcome this issue, but the main problem is of incentives and author behavior: publishers, funders, and institutions need to foster a culture of openness in reporting, giving authors strong incentives to do so, and making it easy to comply. If it’s not easy to report all data without bias (easier than continuing to report only the data that fits the hypothesis), authors are not going to do it.

/u/lzawwlgood: I wonder if you could talk about access, particularly how the rise of open access has affected your journals approach to paywalls. Additionally, I’m curious if you can address the peer review process, and how it could be improved or streamlined.

Stefano Tonzani: Open access is the present AND the future of scientific publishing. ACS Omega is a born-open access multidisciplinary journal: In a field such as chemistry, which is not at the forefront of the OA movement, this would not have been feasible say 5 years ago.

I have worked on open access titles for quite some time, and I think this is a useful business model, which offers authors many advantages, such as higher exposure and, seemingly, higher citation counts. That said, coming to grips with open access has been, for some publishers, a path through the five stages of grief, whereas others have been much more eager to embrace it. Speaking from personal standpoint, I think one of the most interesting effects stemming from OA on paywalls is the fact that several publishers are now offering ALL their content to their subscribers, as opposed to individual titles, or picking and choosing. This will do marvels for access counts to all paywalled research.

Peer review: It is not perfect, but are non-peer reviewed articles more reliable? On average, I would think this should be a resounding “no”. How can we improve it? Avoid reviewing ex novo the same paper at a different journal after it has been rejected by a first choice journal: Reviews should travel with the paper through its route to publication. Across publishers if needed. I am a believer in open peer review, in the sense that I think reviews (not necessarily the names of peer reviewers) should be disclosed when a paper is published: This has the side effect of showing very clearly which journals are serious about peer review, and which aren’t. I also think that peer review could be complemented by other (potentially commercial) services which check things such as reproducibility more deeply.

/u/nixielover: having published in open access journals myself (pleasant experience) I was wondering, how does the business side of open access journals look like? Are the profits better, equal or worse than the traditional journals behind paywalls?

Stefano Tonzani: I cannot speak to the detail, but I will note that there are a number of purely open access publishers, and they are doing just fine (the reputable ones, not talking about predatory publishers), so open access can be a perfectly profitable business model, just as subscriptions are.

/u/razerxs: How seriously does your journal conduct peer review and what steps do you take to prevent fraudulent articles?

Stefano Tonzani: Very seriously. The tagline for our publications is “most trusted, most cited, most read”, and maintaining our readers’ trust in what we publish is fundamental for us. Our level of retractions is consistently low, which I think speaks to a fair but thorough peer review process.

There are a number of things we do to prevent fraud. Of course having a robust peer review process is number one, but we also aim at rooting out plagiarism as much as possible by passing all manuscripts submitted to ACS journals through anti-plagiarism software to detect text copy-and-paste. When ethical issues are discovered, we aim first to educate authors about what is scientifically ethical behavior. In cases in which authors are found to be willingly engaging in unethical practices, or they are recurring offenders, more drastic measures can be brought in, but I would like to stress that our main aim is to educate authors.

/u/Chai4You: Hello! I’m currently pursuing BSc. Chemistry and I wanted to know two things:

Have you ever been in a situation that you had a reject a simply amazing paper because of language and/or grammar issues or something similar that couldn’t be resolved? How did it feel?

What’s the one tip you want people who are publishing for the first time to know?

Stefano Tonzani: 1) No. Generally, if the paper is written very badly (reject-level badly), then the science is spotty as well. If there are language difficulties but the paper is very good, most editors will make suggestions (commensurate to the amount of time they have!), refer authors to language editing services, or tell authors to ask peers to take a critical look at language in the paper.

2) Compare, compare, compare. There is a lot of published research out there, chances are someone else has done work related to yours. Cite those papers, and tell your readers what is the improvement/step forward/increased understanding deriving from the bit of research you are describing in the manuscript.

/u/mhrn110: How to find and select a journal for publishing a paper? How much should a researcher care about journal metrics such as impact factor?

Stefano Tonzani: Submit your research to a journal you actively read and that is appropriate for the scope of your paper: chances are many other scientists in your field will read it too, and engage with your research (which is the purpose of publishing a paper, by the way).

Metrics: many authors have direct incentives to publish in high(er) impact factor journals. Frankly, choosing a journal over another JUST BECAUSE its impact factor is .001 higher (real life story) is downright silly. Overall, metrics only measure certain things, and those things are not necessarily the ones you care about.

To find more insight from ACS experts like Stefano Tonzani, explore the archive of AMAs. Check out ACS Omega for the latest in open-access chemistry research.

Sun-Protection Solution Goes Global With ACS Sensors

It was a simple idea: a sun-protection solution that would let you know if you’re catching too many rays before you start to burn. It was so simple that J. Justin Gooding, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the University of New South Wales, didn’t even pursue it. He pressed on for several more years managing his lab’s many other surface chemistry projects, adding to his lifetime tally of over 300 science publications.

The idea stuck with him, however, and with the help of Parisa Khiabani, and colleagues Alexander Soeriyadi and Peter Reece, the project to develop a simple, paper-based sun-protection solution kicked-off in 2014. Their findings were published in May 2016, in the sixth issue of ACS Sensors, a new journal from the American Chemical Society. Their paper triggered a wave of media interest around the world.

A Simple Sun-Protection Solution

“We thought it was so simple that it wouldn’t even get picked up. But it’s really addressing a very specific sensing need,” says Gooding.

There is a pressing need for a simple sun-protection solution. One-in-five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. In Gooding’s backyard – Australia – the rates are even worse.

“We worry about sun in this part of the world,” says Gooding. At Australian beaches, you’ll see kids running around in shorts, hats and ‘rashies’ — essentially sun-proof tops that cover more skin at the beach.

Gooding’s solution is a simple paper-based sensor that reacts to UV radiation. It follows the ‘canary in the mineshaft’ principle; when you see the strip change color you know it’s time to get out of the sun — before you turn red yourself.

Many of us have been (literally) burned by overcast weather, a change in latitude or altitude, or an insufficient SPF-factor sunscreen. Simply put, sun damage risk is not always intuitive. All of these variables make the cost-effective, disposable strips immediately applicable. Gooding’s lab also found a way to customize the sensors to allow for person-to-person differences and their reactions to the sun.

“The laminate that we put on it controls how long it lasts. Through this, we can tune it to a skin color or an SPF factor,” says Gooding. The strip would be applied to the user like a band aid, to give them real-time information about their sun exposure.

An added benefit is that the lamination renders the product waterproof – an important feature for sun protection at the beach or lake. All of the materials are already approved for human use, which means this simple sun-protection solution is ready for commercialization.

“The idea worked the first time we tried it,” says Khiabani, first author of the ACS Sensors paper. “It was just fine tuning the product.”

Why ACS Sensors?

ACS Sensors is quite different from most scientific publications. It was created to do more than talk about conceptual advances, explains Gooding. It’s also about sensor technology that has the potential to make it to the commercial marketplace. It’s translatable science we can all relate to.

“The research idea is so simple,” says Gooding. It is, however, directly applicable and addresses an important unmet need.

The value of a simple, efficient sun-protection solution is evident in the amount of media coverage the research generated.  Media in the U.S., Europe, and Australia have picked up the story.

“Since this publication, we’ve had a lot of people approach us. From little backyard operations to big companies,” says Gooding. “We’ve had some meetings to discuss potential partnerships with the likes of a sunscreen company. It’ll be interesting to see how far it comes with that commercialization pick-up.”

Learn more about ACS Sensors and read the journal article on the team’s sun-protection solution: Paper-Based Sensor for Monitoring Sun Exposure by Parisa S. Khiabani, Alexander H. Soeriyadi, Peter J. Reece, and J. Justin Gooding.

Watch Khiabani, the paper’s first author, explains the research project:

Check out samples of the news coverage their sun-protection solution received:

ABC News, Australia: New waterproof patch could alert users to excessive sun exposure

SBS/AAP: UV sensor will help prevent skin cancer 

The Economist: Patched up


ACS Editors’ Choice: Fish-Killing Microalgae — and More!

This week: fish-killing microalgae, electrochemical reduction of CO2, potential treatment of diabetic nephropathy — and more!

Each and every day, ACS grants free access to a new peer-reviewed research article from one of the Society’s journals. These articles are specially chosen by a team of scientific editors of ACS journals from around the world to highlight the transformative power of chemistry. Access to these articles will remain open to all as a public service.

Check out this week’s picks!
Mechanism of Pressure-Induced Phase Transitions, Amorphization, and Absorption-Edge Shift in Photovoltaic Methylammonium Lead Iodide
J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2016, 7, pp 3458–3466
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.6b01648
Enhanced Reduction of CO2 to CO over Cu–In Electrocatalysts: Catalyst Evolution Is the Key
ACS Catal., 2016, 6, pp 6265–6274
DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.6b02067
Selenium Redox Reactivity on Colloidal CdSe Quantum Dot Surfaces
J. Am. Chem. Soc., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.6b06548
Chemodiversity of Ladder-Frame Prymnesin Polyethers in Prymnesium parvum
J. Nat. Prod., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.6b00345
Discovery of AZD2716: A Novel Secreted Phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) Inhibitor for the Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease
ACS Med. Chem. Lett., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.6b00188
Chemical Short-Range Order in Selenide and Telluride Glasses
J. Phys. Chem. B, Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.6b05996
Discovery and Preclinical Characterization of 6-Chloro-5-[4-(1-hydroxycyclobutyl)phenyl]-1H-indole-3-carboxylic Acid (PF-06409577), a Direct Activator of Adenosine Monophosphate-activated Protein Kinase (AMPK), for the Potential Treatment of Diabetic Nephropathy
J. Med. Chem., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.6b00866
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What’s Your ACS IQ?

Attendees at the 252nd ACS National Meeting who visited the ACS Publications booth were greeted with a little quiz to test their knowledge of both chemistry history and ACS trivia. Think you’re up to our chemistry quiz challenge? There’s only one way to find out.

Our Editors Win Big at the 2017 ACS National Awards

The winners of the 2017 ACS National Awards were announced at the 252nd ACS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia this month. A number of ACS editors came away from the meeting with major awards. The majority of the 2017 ACS National Awards will be presented at an awards ceremony held during the 253rd ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.

Carolyn R. Bertozzi (Editor-in-Chief of ACS Central Science) won the Arthur C. Cope Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in the field of organic chemistry in the past five years. Read more about her research.


M. G. Finn

M. G. Finn (Editor-in-Chief of ACS Combinatorial Science) won an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award recognizing and encouraging excellence in organic chemistry. Read more about his research.

tolman formal shot scaled
William B. Tolman (Editor-in-Chief of Inorganic Chemistry) won the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry recognizing individuals who advanced inorganic chemistry by significant service in addition to the performance of outstanding research. Read more about his research.

Benjamin G. Davis (Senior Editor of ACS Central Science) won the Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry recognizing outstanding contributions to the field of biomimetic chemistry. Read more about his research.

Martin Gruebele (Associate Editor of JACS) won the Nakanishi Prize recognizing and stimulating significant work that extends chemical and spectroscopic methods to the study of important biological phenomena. Read more about his research.

Nicholas A. Kotov (Associate Editor of ACS Nano) won the ACS Award in Colloid Chemistry, recognizing and encouraging outstanding scientific contributions to colloid chemistry. Read more about his research.

Robert T. Kennedy (Associate Editor of Analytical Chemistry) won the ACS Award in Chromatography, recognizing outstanding contributions to the fields of chromatography. Read more about his research.

Matthew S. Sigman (Associate Editor of JACS) won the ACS Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry recognizing outstanding achievement in the development or application of mass spectrometry. Read more about his research.

Marcy H. Towns (Associate Editor of the Journal of Chemical Education) won the ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry recognizing outstanding contributions to experimental research that have increased our understanding of chemical pedagogy and led to the improved teaching and learning of chemistry. Read more about her research.
David R. Walt (Associate Editor of Analytical Chemistry) won the Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success recognizing outstanding entrepreneurs who have created a commercially viable business within the chemical enterprise. Read more about his research.

Vicki H. Wysocki (Associate Editor of Analytical Chemistry) won the Frank H. Field and Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry recognizing outstanding achievement in the development or application of mass spectrometry. Read more about her research.

Check back often in the coming months for profiles of the winners and more ACS Publications journal news.

C&EN Roundup: Thyroid Disruptions, Drug Discovery, and Flexible Crystals

Chemical & Engineering News covers the world of chemistry, from research and education to business and policy. Here’s a sampling of their coverage of research from ACS journals:


Flint Water Crisis May Also Be Responsible For Legionnaires’ Outbreaks


Two recent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint, Mich., may be the result of the city’s change in water supply, according to a recent study. Flint made headlines after the city began sourcing its water from the nearby Flint River. Inadequate treatment of the new water source led to corrosion of the city’s aging pipes, leading to cases of lead poisoning. A study finds the corrosive water also leached iron out of pipes, which stimulated Legionella bacteria reproduction while also inactivating chlorine disinfectants meant to kill the bacteria.


 Contaminants in Household Dust Could Cause Thyroid Disruptions


Household dust contains chemicals that may disrupt thyroid hormone signaling, researchers say. An analysis found that 31 of 485 known dust contaminants might have the ability to bind to thyroid receptors, which can affect the body’s ability to regulate metabolism, brain development, and cardiovascular function. Further tests on five of those compounds found four of them could bind weakly to the receptors; most notably the herbicidal compound 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid.


Contaminants in Household Dust Could Cause Thyroid Disruptions


An improved process for spotting drug-target enzyme inhibitors and revealing their molecular structures could make it easier to discover new drugs inspired by natural products, researchers say. The method introduces a protein drug target to a natural extract containing molecules with medicinal potential and uses crystallography to study the protein complex that results when a molecule inhibits the drug target. Using this method, the structure of a promising molecule can be revealed within weeks.


New Method Could Aid Drug Discovery in Natural Products


Researchers have developed a one-step method for making nanometers-thick sheets of molybdenum disulfide using a scaffold made from the shells of marine diatoms. This process for producing the sheets provides an alternative to slower or more expensive methods used in the past. The sheets of silica particles and MoS2 flakes could be used for energy storage, as well as catalysis, sensing, and light-emitting materials for electronic and optical devices.


Flexible Crystals Could Have A Variety of Industrial Uses

A design principle for creating flexible crystals made from organic molecules could be used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, organic solar cells, and light-emitting diodes, researchers say. The design for organic crystals relies on weak interactions between repeating building blocks, since those connections can break and reform easily, allowing a material to bend without breaking under mechanical stress.

That’s just a small sample of the robust coverage C&EN provides. Get the latest news in your discipline with weekly e-mail updates.

ACS Editors’ Choice: Efficient Synthesis of Key Component of Anti-AIDS Drugs — And More!

This week: efficient synthesis of a key anti-AIDS drugs component, understanding meth addiction, ulrastable battery anodes — and more!

Each and every day, ACS grants free access to a new peer-reviewed research article from one of the Society’s journals. These articles are specially chosen by a team of scientific editors of ACS journals from around the world to highlight the transformative power of chemistry. Access to these articles will remain open to all as a public service.

Check out this week’s picks!

Significant Enrichment of Engineered Nanoparticles in Water Surface Microlayer
Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00271
Selective Enhancement of Dopamine Release in the Ventral Pallidum of Methamphetamine-Sensitized Mice
ACS Chem. Neurosci., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acschemneuro.6b00131
An Algorithm for Tuning NMPC Controllers with Application to Chemical Processes
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.6b01121
Atomic-Scale Control of Silicon Expansion Space as Ultrastable Battery Anodes
ACS Nano, Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.6b04522
Research and Development of an Efficient Synthesis of a Key Building Block for Anti-AIDS Drugs by Diphenylprolinol-Catalyzed Enantio- and Diastereoselective Direct Cross Aldol Reaction
Org. Process Res. Dev., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.oprd.6b00178
Design Considerations for RNA Spherical Nucleic Acids (SNAs)
Bioconjugate Chem., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00350
Functional Toxicogenomic Assessment of Triclosan in Human HepG2 Cells Using Genome-Wide CRISPR-Cas9 Screening
Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b02328
Love ACS Editors’ Choice? Get a weekly e-mail of the latest ACS Editor’s Choice articles and never miss a breakthrough!

The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters Wants to Spotlight on Your Work

This editorial originally appeared in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

Communicating how and why our work is interesting—or matters—is difficult. An editor of a high-profile journal once said to me: “I’d really like to report more news about breakthroughs in physical chemistry research. But the problem is that I read the abstracts of the latest papers, and I can’t understand them!” The abstract of a research article is the gateway to our work, and in this era of information overload, the abstract is often decisive when the reader inquires whether your work matters to them. The success of our work therefore starts—and sometimes ends—with the abstract.

As a journal, we want your papers to be read and cited. In this issue, we are launching an initiative that will help this happen on a number of levels. In each issue, we will “spotlight” a handful of articles based on their appeal to the generalist, educated reader. As you can see in this issue, we will present an accessible plain-language summary of the spotlighted papers that will broaden the readership of your research and gain better traction with popular science journalists. We will use the Spotlights summaries to promote actively this work across a broad network, similar to a news release.

Spotlighted articles will be chosen in a three-tier process that emphasizes how well the abstract of each article communicates an intriguing story to the nonspecialist. To this end, two members of the selection panel are not academic researchers. Once the articles are selected for spotlighting, their abstracts will be condensed and copy-edited, yielding an engaging plain-language summary of the research.

We anticipate that a large fraction of the spotlighted articles will be promoted through channels like online science magazines, blogs, and so forth. We hope that the overall process encourages even more engaging and interesting abstracts for many of the papers published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, which, in turn, we expect will improve recognition, downloads, and citations to work published in the journal.

I look forward to reading the Spotlights each month to get a snapshot of the broad scope of advances across the field. Overall, we hope that the Spotlights initiative will expand awareness, recognition, and enthusiasm for physical chemistry.

Come celebrate 120 years of excellence with The Journal of Physical Chemistry at the JPC-PHYS Division Reception during the 252nd ACS National Meeting on Aug. 23 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.


Free Resources for Creating Chemistry Figures for Journal Publication

We recently polled authors on what their preferred program for creating chemistry figures for research publication via our @ACS4Authors account. Unfortunately, Twitter polls only allow for 4 answer choices, so we hoped to capture votes for other popular programs for creating chemistry figures by asking you to tweet at us. And tweet you did. 5,892 impressions, 233 engagements, 181 votes, 18 direct tweets and 24 hours later, here are the results:

Free Resources for Creating Chemistry Figures

No surprises here: ChemDraw wins with 59% of the vote as the most popular program for creating chemistry figures. One of the common “Other” responses you shared was Inkscape, a free program similar to Adobe Illustrator.

It’s clear that creating publication-quality chemistry figures is an essential skill for all active researchers. The task isn’t always fun, however, partially because the end result is often under-celebrated. Even when the task is unglamorous, a good publication figure is crucial to conveying your research results with sophistication and ease. To make your job a bit easier, we’ve compiled a quick reference guide to the free and paid programs you can use to craft chemistry figures, as well as a checklist to ensure all your charts, graphs, and table of contents images are up to standard.

Free Programs & Tools for Creating Chemistry Figures:

There’s plenty of free software out there for creating chemistry figures, but beware; the learning curves for some of these programs can be a bit steep:

  • Blender for animations
  • ChemSketch: Freeware drawing package that allows you to draw chemical structures
  • Embed and crop extensions: Control image compression
  • GIMP: Free image manipulation program, use with the Separate+ plugin for color conversions.
  • ImagesJ: Open Source imaging processing toolkit
  • Inkscape: Powerful open-source graphics editor
  • Matplotlib: Python 2D plotting library
  • R: Free software environment for statistical computing and graphics

Paid Programs for Creating Chemistry Figures:

Tips for Creating Chemistry Figures:

  • Start by checking your chosen journal’s image requirements. Some journals require images in different file formats and resolutions. Make sure you’re aware of the basic publication prerequisites before you start creating your chemistry figures.
  • Think about what data you’re presenting. How many variables are you displaying? What visualization techniques will best achieve your goal? Remember that the reason for creating chemistry figures is to allow the reader to quickly digest a large amount of data.
  • Consider replacing bar and line graphs with scatterplots, histograms and boxplots especially with small sample sizes.
  • Ensure all graphs and charts are properly labeled and titled. Check for units, scales and that all axes are labeled properly.
  • Make sure your chemistry figures are in high resolution and ideally use vector images.
  • Safeguard the integrity of your figures by transparently outlining how the image was created. Maybe no one will ever question your figure, but what if years down the road an influential scholar does? You need to be prepared to show your work.

For more tips concerning creating chemistry figures for publication, please be sure to check out the ACS Publications video series: Publishing Your Research 101, Episode 10: Ensuring High-Quality Graphics.