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Safety Information in Journal Articles Part 3: FAQs and Additional Resources

Safety is a core value of the American Chemical Society and an integral part of the overall research process. In the final part of this three-part series, we cover frequently asked questions and highlight additional chemical safety resources from ACS. If you haven’t caught up, be sure to read the full series below.

Part 1 |  Part 2 | Part 3

Frequently Asked Questions

Quote: Authors must emphasize any unexpected, new, and/or significant hazards or risks associated with the reported work.

There will undoubtedly be many questions that will arise when considering how to best structure your safety statement within the context of your manuscript.

Here, we’ve provided additional clarification for commonly asked questions when authors seek to meet the ACS requirement to “emphasize any unexpected, new, and/or significant hazards or risks associated with the reported work.”

How do I determine what classifies as a “significant” hazard or risk?

A “significant or unusual” hazard is anything that presents a major risk or requires preventative measures beyond those commonly expected to be present in a laboratory setting. Any hazards that fall within the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Category 1 classification should always be noted. Even with novel or less hazardous materials, it is always best to use discretion, perform a comprehensive risk assessment, and note any potential risks associated with your processes. It will never hurt to be as thorough as possible during this reporting step!

Which section of my manuscript should include the safety statement?

To maximize visibility and utility, it is recommended to insert your safety statement in the Experimental Materials or Methods section of your manuscript. It is also a good idea to reiterate or expand upon your safety statement in the Supporting Information section, especially if it includes any details and context related to the author’s specific experience with the hazardous materials or procedures used.

At what point in the research process should I perform a risk assessment?

The risk assessment is the second step of RAMP, and it should be conducted after you’ve identified any hazards and before you begin your experimental methods. As mentioned in Part 2 of this series, your risk assessment will be the most complex step of RAMP, but it will help inform the necessary components of your safety statement as you begin writing.

RAMP Methodology

Does my safety statement count towards my overall word limit? 

If your statement is 100 words or fewer, it will not contribute towards your final word count. Longer summaries will be handled differently by each individual journal—you can learn more about length requirements by either consulting the journal’s Author Guidelines or contacting the Editor-in-Chief’s office.

Additional Safety Resources

ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety

ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety

The ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety is a technical division of ACS and a premier source for advancing best chemical and health safety practices through authoritative technical resources and mentorship. With nearly 2,000 members, the Division provides educational tools, training, and support for chemists, educators, safety professionals, and the public.

For more information or to become a member of the Division, contact membership@dchas.org.

ACS Committee on Chemical Safety

ACS Committee on Chemical Safety

The ACS Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS) was established in 1963 with the vision of fostering “a scientific community that embraces safety in all activities of the chemistry enterprise.” Through collaborative partnerships, peer-reviewed publications, tools for professional and educational use, and advisory support for other ACS committees and members, CCS is leading resource for promoting chemical and laboratory safety throughout the Society.

Visit the CCS website to learn more about the Committee and its members, explore resources, and browse upcoming events.

ACS Chemical Health & Safety

ACS Chemical Health & Safety

The journal ACS Chemical Health & Safety is a global platform for ensuring that all members of the chemical enterprise receive access to new research, safety information, regulatory updates, effective chemical hygiene practices, and hazard assessment tools. The Journal publishes high-quality articles and research appropriate for scientists, EH&S industry professionals, educators, and others who work in settings that contain chemicals or hazardous materials.

If you would like to learn more or are interested in publishing in ACS Chemical Health & Safety, visit the Journal’s website to browse the latest issue or view manuscript criteria.

ACS Center for Lab Safety

Part of the ACS Institute, the ACS Center for Lab Safety is a one-stop shop for educational resources supporting safe, ethical, and sustainable chemistry practices. From grade school classrooms to industrial laboratories, you will find training tools and learning opportunities—both in person and online— that aim to strengthen ACS’s Core Value of Safety through education.

Further Reading

SAFETY INFORMATION IN JOURNAL ARTICLES: THE COMPLETE SERIES
Part 1: The Necessity of Communication
Part 2: Tips for a Well-Written Safety Statement
Part 3: FAQs and Additional Resources


ARTICLES FROM ACS CHEMICAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Approaches to Understanding Human Behavior When Investigating Incidents in Academic Chemical Laboratories

Ronald W. McLeod
ACS Chem. Health Saf.
 2022, 29, 3, 263–279

Safety Data Sheets: Challenges for Authors, Expectations for End-Users
Anne DeMasi, Harry Elston, and Neal Langerman
ACS Chem. Health Saf. 2022, 29, 4, 369–377

The Ten Most Common Laboratory Safety Issues
Richard Palluzi
ACS Chem. Health Saf. 2022, 29, 1, 19–26

Peer Reviewed Methods/Protocols
Mary Beth Mulcahy
ACS Chem. Health Saf. 2022, 29, 1, 1–2


ADDITIONAL SAFETY RESOURCES
Periodic Table of Safety Elements
ACS Essentials of Lab Safety for General Chemistry: A Course
CHAS Workshops 2022-2023
CCS Publications and Resources
ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication: Communicating Safety Information

Safety Information in Journal Articles Part 2: Tips for a Well-Written Safety Statement

Safety is a core value of the American Chemical Society and an integral part of the overall research process. In Part 2 of this three-part series, provide tips and best practices for authors to formulate a well-written safety summary statement. If you haven’t caught up, be sure to read the full series below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

How to RAMP Up Your Safety Statement

Including a clear, articulate safety summary statement in your research is vital to ensuring that others who reproduce or expand upon your work can prepare for significant hazards and conduct their own methods as safely as possible. Therefore, crafting your statement should go beyond simply writing a few lines of text—there are many important things to consider before and during the safety reporting process in your manuscript.

In Part 1 of this series, we provide an overview of RAMP, a system that guarantees laboratory safety measures are at the top of every scientist’s mind before and during experimental processes. After Recognizing significant hazards and Assessing associated risks, you can apply this information to your safety statement to help both yourself and others Minimize these risks and Prepare thoroughly for possible emergencies.1

Safety Hazard Pictograms

Credit: GHS Hazard Communication Pictograms/ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. Click image to view full size.

This figure contains the nine pictograms established by the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).2 These symbols are located on chemical containers and labels, allowing you to quickly recognize the nature and possible hazards of a chemical. Certain chemical classes are noted as being of particular concern and should always be included in your safety statement.3

It is crucial to document any reaction or process hazards as well. Some examples include elevated temperature or pressure, highly exothermic processes, oxygen/fuel mixtures that are ignitable, or any factors that could make your process more complex such as radiation or biological pathogens.3

After identifying all hazards involved in your experimental process, you must then assess any risks from these hazards. Risk assessment involves consulting authoritative resources and analyzing the available data throughout all stages of your experiment to inform the best strategies for minimizing risk. There is no denying that risk assessment is often the most lengthy and complex component of RAMP, but there is a wealth of information and resources available for you to reference along the way.

Essential safety information should outline the approaches and strategies used to minimize risks and prepare for unforeseen emergencies. Examples may include using special equipment, substituting with a less hazardous method, or, in extremely high-risk scenarios, eliminating the use of certain hazards.3

What to Include in a Safety Summary Statement: A Checklist

The checklist below contains important items to include in your safety statement as they apply to the journal, procedures, and audience.3 Other things to consider:

  • Using numbers and bullets helps compartmentalize your risks and mitigations, making your statement easier to read.
  • Know your audience—with a research audience, certain standard safety procedures are widely known, but a teaching audience might benefit from a bit more detail.
  • Be sure to cite all sources used during the risk assessment portion of your statement.
Information to Include in a Safety Summary Statement: A Checklist

Credit: ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. Click image to view full size.

Join us on Monday, October 24 for the third and final part of our series, in which we address common questions and provide additional tools and resources for communicating safety information. In the meantime, catch up on Part 1 and explore the resources below to learn more about evaluating hazards, writing your safety statement, and the importance of chemical health and safety.

—————

Further Reading

ACS SAFETY RESOURCES
ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS)
Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories
ACS Chemical Health & Safety
ACS Style Sheet for Writing Safety Statements

FROM THE AXIAL ARCHIVE
Safety Information in Journal Articles Part 1: The Necessity of Communication
Sharps in the Lab: Safety Procedures
How to Make Safety a Priority Before Students Enter the Lab
The Missing Piece of the Lab Safety Puzzle
RAMP Up Your Safety Education and Practice

References

  1. What is RAMP? The ACS Center for Lab Safety.
  2. About the GHS. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
  3. McEwen, L. and Sigmann, S. Communicating Safety Information. ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication 2020:1.3.1–1.3.7.

Safety Information in Journal Articles Part 1: The Necessity of Communication

Safety is a core value of the American Chemical Society and an integral part of the overall research process. In this three-part series, we review the importance of disclosing safety information in journal articles; provide tips and best practices for authors to formulate a well-written safety summary statement; and share additional resources that will help authors prepare for potential safety risks associated with their research and effectively communicate them with the scientific community. Read the full series below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The Hazard of Insufficient Safety Reporting

The importance of safety in the research laboratory is widely recognized, including maintaining awareness of potential hazards and associated risks. But what about when it comes to effectively communicating these hazards and risks1 as authors prepare their research for submission to a scientific journal?

When submitting a manuscript to an ACS journal, authors are expected to disclose potential safety hazards and other relevant information. These reporting requirements came into force in 2017,2 driven in part by a review of author guidelines across more than 720 chemistry journals—which found that only 8% mentioned safety information requirements for authors.3

The ACS Divisions of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS) and Chemical Information (CINF) along with the Committee of Chemical Safety (CCS) also conducted a survey of chemical safety in academia around the same time, and they found while most researchers were somewhat familiar with formal, industrial-level safety management processes, they rarely used them in their daily work—and few consistently shared them in their publications.4 Perhaps unsurprising, then, that a decade ago 46% of scientists had experienced some sort of injury in the lab and 30% had witnessed at least one major incident requiring medical attention.5

What Information Should be Included in a Safety Statement?

Quote: Authors must emphasize any unexpected, new, and/or significant hazards or risks associated with the reported work.

The Author Guidelines of every ACS journal state that an author “must emphasize any unexpected, new, and/or significant hazards or risks associated with the reported work.”6 If an experiment requires specialized equipment, procedures, or training beyond basic laboratory practices, the author must provide sufficient information so that others who may want to reproduce or build upon the published work can easily understand the hazards and risks involved and replicate the processes safely.

Even though a chemical may carry a “significant risk” and must be reported does not mean it cannot be used. Laboratory hazards and risks can be managed using RAMP methodology: Recognize hazards, Assess and Minimize risks, and Prepare for emergencies.7 Chemistry professionals must therefore be proficient in evaluating hazards, conducting assessments, and mitigating any identified risks. ACS recognizes this in both the Society’s Core Value of Safety and their position statement on safety in the chemical enterprise.8

RAMP Methodology

Copyright 2015 American Chemical Society

Doing What’s Right

Chemical safety is both an ethical and legal responsibility for chemistry professionals, and it is necessary for the protection of both researchers themselves and of the broader scientific community. As principal sources of chemical information, it is imperative that both authors and journals use their platforms to educate readers about inherent risks in the experiments they publish. By championing an ethical, transparent, and positive safety culture, there is hope that scientists will change how they think about safety and incorporate it as a fundamental part of their role.9

Part 2: Tips for a Well-Written Safety Statement
Part 3: FAQs and Additional Resources (coming soon!)

—————

Further Reading

ACS SAFETY RESOURCES
ACS Chemical Health & Safety
ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS)
ACS Center for Lab Safety
ACS Essentials of Lab Safety for General Chemistry: A Course

FROM THE AXIAL ARCHIVE
Sharps in the Lab: Safety Procedures
How to Make Safety a Priority Before Students Enter the Lab
The Missing Piece of the Lab Safety Puzzle
RAMP Up Your Safety Education and Practice

References

  1. McEwen, L. and Sigmann, S. Communicating Safety Information. ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication 2020:1.3.1–1.3.7.
  2. Kemsley, J. ACS Journals Enact New Safety Policy. Chem. Eng. News 2016;94(48):7.
  3. Goode, S.R. and Grabowski, L.E. Review and analysis of safety policies of chemical journals. J. Chem. Health Saf. 2016;23(3):30–35.
  4. McEwen, L., et al. Baseline survey of academic chemical safety information practices. J. Chem. Health Saf. 2018;25(3):6–10.
  5. Nitsche, C.I. Promoting safety culture: An overview of collaborative chemical safety information initiatives. J. Chem. Health Saf. 2019;26(3):27–30.
  6. Safety Considerations. ACS Publications Author Guidelines.
  7. What is RAMP? The ACS Center for Lab Safety.
  8. Safety in the Chemistry Enterprise: ACS Position Statement.
  9. Bertozzi, C.R. Ingredients for a Positive Safety Culture. ACS Cent. Sci. 2016;2(11):764–766.

ACS Celebrates the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022

February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day created by the United Nations to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. Women and girls continue to make important contributions to chemistry, even as the COVID-19 pandemic of the past two years has proved to be measurably more disruptive for female scientists than their male counterparts.

Together with our many women editors, authors, reviewers, and readers, ACS Publications works to promote the full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. We salute the hard work of women and girls in the chemistry community, who contribute to the American Chemical Society’s mission “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.”

Chemistry of Materials Virtual Issue: Resilient Women and the Resiliency of Science

This Virtual Issue highlights a collection of papers published during the COVID-19 pandemic in Chemistry of Materials by women corresponding authors. In addition, the issue Editorial features a Q&A with nine recent authors in the journal about how they define resilience and the times in which they were resilient.

ACS Energy Letters Virtual Issue Series: Women Scientists at the Forefront of Energy Research

As part of ACS Energy Letters’ annual celebration of the contributions of women scientists, we bring you a four-part Virtual Issue series. From early career researchers to well- established senior scientists, the successful career paths they have taken to become leaders in the community have impacted energy research in a significant way. The contributions of female energy researchers who have published new advances from their laboratories in ACS Energy Letters are compiled along with their short inspirational stories. To inspire other scientists working in the field, we asked them to comment on their inspiration to engage in energy research, discuss an aha! moment in research, and/or provide advice to newcomers in the field. We hope that these personal reflections compiled in this virtual issue can motivate many young researchers to tackle challenges in clean energy.

Women Scientists at the Forefront of Energy Research: A Virtual Issue, Parts 1 & 2

Women Scientists at the Forefront of Energy Research: A Virtual Issue, Part 3

Women Scientists at the Forefront of Energy Research: A Virtual Issue, Part 4

Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry Virtual Issue: Women in Mass Spectrometry

We have assembled this virtual issue featuring talented women mass spectrometrists who publish in Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry as the corresponding author. The articles compiled are among the most highly cited that were published in the journal in the last 5 years, regardless of gender, and are representative of the best mass spectrometry science reported in Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

ACS Omega Virtual Issue: Women at the Forefront of Chemistry

In this special collection, ACS Omega celebrates the contribution of women researchers who have published new advances from their groups in our journal. This Virtual Issue is guest-edited by ACS Omega’s Associate Editor, Prof. Luisa Torsi (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy), a recipient of the IUPAC 2019 Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering award. The articles selected feature women at different stages of their career from around the world, in all areas of chemistry. We hope highlighting the work of these champions of chemistry will challenge stereotypes, advance progress towards full gender equality in the future, and encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM.

ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters Women in Medicinal Chemistry Special Issue

Journal of Medicinal Chemistry Women in Medicinal Chemistry Special Industry

Impactful Publications from Women in Materials, Interfaces, and Applications

ACS Applied Bio Materials
Osteogenic Potential of Additively Manufactured TiTa Alloys

Erin G. Brodie, Kye J. Robinson, Elizabeth Sigston, Andrey Molotnikov, and Jessica E. Frith

***

Biodegradable Breast Tissue Marker Clip

Moran Haim Zada, Zehava Gallimidi, Michal Schlesinger−Laufer, Abraham Nyska, and Abraham J. Domb

***

Catalyst-Free Mechanochemical Recycling of Biobased Epoxy with Cellulose Nanocrystals

Liang Yue, Kai Ke, Mehrad Amirkhosravi, Thomas G. Gray, and Ica Manas-Zloczower


ACS Applied Electronic Materials
Record-High Responsivity and Detectivity of a Flexible Deep-Ultraviolet Photodetector Based on Solid State-Assisted Synthesized hBN Nanosheets
Sushmitha Veeralingam, Lignesh Durai, Pinki Yadav, and Sushmee Badhulika
***
Nanospike Electrode Designs for Improved Electrical Performance in Nanoscale Organic Thin-Film Transistors
Calla M. McCulley, Xin Xu, Kelly Liang, Xiao Wang, Liang Wang, and Ananth Dodabalapur
***
Near-Unity Photoluminescence Quantum Yield in Blue-Emitting Cs3Cu2Br5–xIx (0 ≤ x ≤ 5)
Rachel Roccanova, Aymen Yangui, Hariharan Nhalil, Hongliang Shi, Mao-Hua Du, and Bayrammurad Saparov

ACS Applied Energy Materials
Reduced Graphene Oxide-NiO Photocathodes for p-Type Dye-Sensitized Solar Cellsv
Marco Zannotti, Elisabetta Benazzi, Lee A. Stevens, Marco Minicucci, Lawrence Bruce, Colin E. Snape, Elizabeth A. Gibson, and Rita Giovannetti
***
Understanding the Role of Interfaces for Water Management in Platinum Group Metal-Free Electrodes in Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells
Jiangjin Liu, Morteza Rezaei Talarposhti, Tristan Asset, Dinesh C. Sabarirajan, Dilworth Y. Parkinson, Plamen Atanassov, and Iryna V. Zenyuk
***
Operando X-ray Tomography Imaging of Solid-State Electrolyte Response to Li Evolution under Realistic Operating Conditions
Natalie Seitzman, Olivia F. Bird, Rory Andrykowski, Steve Robbins, Mowafak M. Al-Jassim, and Svitlana Pylypenko

ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
Cytotoxicity of Graphene Oxide and Graphene in Human Erythrocytes and Skin Fibroblasts
Ken-Hsuan Liao, Yu-Shen Lin, Christopher W. Macosko, and Christy L. Haynes
***
Decomposition of Organic Perovskite Precursors on MoO3: Role of Halogen and Surface Defects
Sofia Apergi, Christine Koch, Geert Brocks, Selina Olthof, and Shuxia Tao
***
Stretchable, Biocompatible, and Multifunctional Silk Fibroin-Based Hydrogels toward Wearable Strain/Pressure Sensors and Triboelectric Nanogenerators
Faliang He, Xingyan You, Hao Gong, Yun Yang, Tian Bai, Weiguo Wang, Wenxi Guo, Xiangyang Liu, and Meidan Ye

ACS Applied Nano Materials
Metal and Metal Oxide Nanoparticles to Enhance the Performance of Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)
Yuan Gao, Yingzhu Zhou, and Rona Chandrawati
***
Quantum Dots and Their Applications: What Lies Ahead?
Mônica A. Cotta
***
High-Index Core–Shell Ni–Pt Nanoparticles as Oxygen Reduction Electrocatalystsv
Gerard M. Leteba, David R. G. Mitchell, Pieter B. J. Levecque, Lebohang Macheli, Eric van Steen, and Candace I. Lang

ACS Applied Polymer Materials
Utilizing Reclaimed Petroleum Waste to Synthesize Water-Soluble Polysulfides for Selective Heavy Metal Binding and Detection


Logan Eder, Cameron B. Call, and Courtney L. Jenkins
***
Fundamentals and Applications of Polymer Brushes in Air
Guido C. Ritsema van Eck, Leonardo Chiappisi, and Sissi de Beer
***
Recent Trends in Advanced Polymer Materials in Agriculture Related Applications
Amrita Sikder, Amanda K. Pearce, Sam J. Parkinson, Richard Napier, and Rachel K. O’Reilly

ACS Central Science Editorials

In this Editorial, Achieving Gender Balance in the Chemistry Professoriate Is Not Rocket Science, Carolyn R. Bertozzi considers why it seems so hard to populate the ranks of chemistry department faculty with women.
Learn more about The Chemistry Women Mentorship Network (ChemWMN) in this piece from Brandi M. Cossairt, Jillian L. Dempsey, and Elizabeth R. Young.

OPR&D: Celebrating Women in Process Chemistry Special Issue

In recognition of a new age that embraces better gender balance and diversity in all its forms, this Special Issue of Organic Process Research & Development features a collection of papers published by women in process chemistry. Such innovative work encompasses a multitude of topics relevant for the safe, environmentally benign, and ultimately economical manufacturing of organic compounds that are required in larger amounts to help address the needs of society across the globe. Read a related Virtual Issue on Celebrating Women in Organic Chemistry

Bioconjugate Chemistry: Women in Bioconjugate Chemistry: Celebrating Women Scientists

In the spirit of celebrating women who are collaborating across disciplines, developing new understanding and new ideas, publishing groundbreaking research in our journal and in all the journals beyond ours, and not letting the trappings of other people’s expectations and assumptions define what is possible, Bioconjugate Chemistry is happy to present the “Women in Bioconjugate Chemistry: Celebrating Women Scientists” Virtual Issue.

Journal of Chemical Information Modeling : Advancing Women in Chemistry Call for Papers

Following the response to and impact of JCIMs May 2019 special issue on  Women in Computational Chemistry addressing the issue of gender disparity in science, JCIM is launching a new call for papers for a special issue on “Advancing Women in Chemistry.” This special issue aims to raise awareness for addressing and closing the gender gap in chemical sciences.

ACS Symposium Series eBook: Addressing Gender Bias in Science & Technology

A recent addition to the ACS Symposium Series, Addressing Gender Bias in Science & Technology walks readers through this important subject by using supporting data to define the challenges and then discussing ways to dismantle barriers and respond to gender biases. With solutions backed by research, this work will be useful for those working in all science and technology fields. Read more here.

A New ACS Guide Chapter: ACS Inclusivity Style Guide

The ACS Inclusivity Style Guide, a new open-access chapter added to the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication, helps readers learn to communicate in ways that recognize and respect diversity in all its forms. The chapter includes recommended language on gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, disabilities and disorders, and more. It offers important context for each topic, including the background behind each recommendation and links to valuable resources. Because language is ever-evolving, the guide will be updated over time to reflect changes in language and to incorporate new topics. Read the chapter here.

Learning to Communicate Inclusively: A New ACS Guide Chapter 

When done right, communication can open doors—it allows people to learn new concepts, meet one another, and share information. But often, we can unintentionally close doors with our communication when unconscious biases appear in the words and images we use. Language and images that alienate groups or perpetuate stereotypes create barriers between a communicator and their potential audience.

To break down those barriers and help advance a more diverse and inclusive culture in science, the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication has added a new open-access chapter on inclusive language and images. The latest chapter is the ACS Inclusivity Style Guide, a resource developed by the American Chemical Society Communications Division and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Respect. Using accessible language and real-life examples, the new chapter helps readers learn to communicate in ways that recognize and respect diversity in all its forms.

The guidelines can be applied to all content to make it more welcoming and relevant, regardless of the topic. The chapter includes recommended language on gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, disabilities and disorders, and more. It offers important context for each topic, including the background behind each recommendation and links to valuable resources.  Examples of topics the guide discusses include:

  • when to use the description “people of color,”
  • when to use the singular pronoun “they,” and
  • when to use people-first or identity-first language for health conditions.

The guide is primarily based on recommendations from advocacy and journalistic groups. Because language is ever-evolving, the guide will be updated over time to reflect changes in language and to incorporate new topics.

The ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication provides students, researchers, educators, and librarians with the instruction and advice they need to master the art of scholarly communication beyond the scientific journal. With the valuable guidance and examples provided in this newest ACS Guide chapter, readers can learn how to keep communication opening, not closing, doors.

To give feedback on this chapter of the guide, please email ISG@acs.org.

Learning to Create Effective Patents: A New ACS Guide Chapter

Patents can be powerful tools, yet any scientist who has experience with them knows how difficult patents can be to create. A patent’s legal requirements, detailed descriptions, claims, and drawing sections can present a daunting challenge for those used to communicating their work through research articles.

Creating Effective Patents is the most recent chapter published in the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. This chapter serves as a useful starting point for scientists and inventors with patentable ideas, demystifying the process through relevant real-world examples, definitions, infographics, and links to useful resources.

I would recommend this to new inventors, to entrepreneurs, and those that are curious about patents and how they work.—Susan K. Cardinal

Authored by Xavier Pillai, J.D., Ph.D., an experienced scientist, patent attorney, and inventor, the chapter offers readers an introduction into the complex world of patents, whether they are interested in searching, reading, or getting started with writing one of their own.

The new chapter provides useful information on the following topics:

  • The various types of patents and their uses.
  • Guidance for searching through patent literature.
  • Helpful insights and best practices for writing and filing patent applications.
  • Effective techniques for communicating with patent offices.
  • Rights and obligations of inventors and patent holders.

The chapter breaks down the parts of a patent document and how they are assembled, using layman’s terms to help the reader understand important legal requirements and the tools they will need to navigate the application process. Common pitfalls and useful reminders for the reader are included throughout.

The chapter also includes additional context beyond the patent application, including advice on conducting prior art searches, how applications are examined and assessed, and differences between patents in various countries around the globe.

Very helpful to young professionals starting in the patent field…a good and highly informative work. —Beatrice Ngatcha, Ph.D., J.D.

The ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication provides students, researchers, educators, and librarians with the instruction and advice they need to master the art of scholarly communication beyond the scientific journal. With the valuable guidance and examples provided in this newest ACS Guide chapter, readers can learn to prepare and maintain stronger patents, enhancing the value of their work and creating new opportunities for innovation.

Mastering Scholarly Communication – Part 7: Standards of Scientific Writing

The ACS Style Guide has always been a classic handbook for scientific publication. But in 2020, it was revised and expanded as the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. The ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication not only provides students, researchers, educators, and librarians with professional guidance, it also helps researchers at different stages of their careers to respond to the evolving world of publishing.

This ACS Axial series contains excerpts from the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. Parts of the original text be available for free for a limited time under an ACS Free to Read License. Specific sections will be indicated at the end of each post. 

The words chosen by a writer are one of the defining characteristics of that author’s style; however, word choice is not governed by style alone. The audience for an article must influence a writer’s choice of words so that the writer can select words that are likely to be known to the audience and define the words that are not. The type of document also may influence a writer’s word choices because some documents, such as journal articles and books, tend to require more formal word usage, whereas other documents, such as emails, allow less formality.

Common Confusing Words and Phrases

The choice of the correct word to express meaning begins with a good dictionary, but it also extends to understanding small differences in meaning between two words or phrases that are almost synonymous or that are spelled similarly but have significant differences in meaning. It is best to use words in their primary meanings and to avoid using a word to express a thought if such usage is uncommon, informal, or primarily literary. Many words are clear when you are speaking because you can amplify your meaning with gestures, expressions, and vocal inflections, but when these same words are written, they may be clear only to you.

Words: Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

Usage: To assure is to affirm; to ensure is to make certain; to insure is to indemnify for money.

Example sentences:

He assured me that the work had been completed.

The procedure ensures that clear guidelines have been established.

You cannot get a mortgage unless you insure your home.

Phrases: Based on vs. On the basis of

Usage:  Phrases starting with “based on” must modify a noun or pronoun that usually immediately precedes or follows the phrase. Use phrases starting with “on the basis of” to modify a verb.

Example sentences:

The doctors’ new methods in brain surgery were based on Ben Carson’s work.

On the basis of the molecular orbital calculations, we propose a mechanism that can account for all the major features of alkali- and alkaline-earth-catalyzed gasification reactions. (not ‘based on’)

Words: Comprise vs. Compose

Usage: Use “to comprise” to mean “to contain” or “to consist of”; it is not a synonym for “to compose.” The whole comprises the parts, or the whole is composed of the parts, but the whole is not “comprised of” the parts. Never use “is comprised of.”

Example sentences:

INCORRECT: A book is comprised of chapters.

CORRECT: A book comprises chapters.

CORRECT: A book is composed of chapters.

Using Gender-Neutral Languages

Most publishers have gone to great effort to eliminate the use of gender-biased language from their publications. Gender-neutral language is also now expected in scientific publishing. Current style guides and writing guides urge copy editors and writers to choose terms that do not reinforce outdated sex and gender roles.

Gender-neutral language can be accurate and unbiased and not necessarily awkward. The most problematic words are the noun “man,” when used to refer to humans generally, and the pronouns “he” and “his,” when used to refer to a nonspecific individual. These terms are no longer considered gender-neutral, but there are usually several satisfactory gender-neutral alternatives for these words. Choose an alternative carefully and keep it consistent with the context. Of course, if the identity of the person being discussed is known, then it is perfectly acceptable to use their specified pronouns.

How to Use a Comparative Phrase

Words: Fewer vs. Less

Usage: Use “fewer” to refer to number; use “less” to refer to quantity. However, use “less” with number and unit of measure combinations because they are regarded as singular.

Examples:

Fewer than 50 animals

Fewer than 100 samples

Less product

Less time

Less work

Less than 5 mg

Less than 3 days

Phrases: Greater than vs. More than vs. Over vs. In excess of

Usage: Use the more accurate terms “greater than” or “more than” rather than the imprecise “over” or “in excess of.”

Example sentences:

Greater than 50% (not in excess of 50%)

More than 100 samples (not over 100 samples)

More than 25 mg (not in excess of 25 mg, not over 25 mg)

Phrases: On (the) one hand and On the other hand

Usage: Use “on (the) one hand” and “on the other hand” to present conflicting points of view. These two phrases should be used only as a pair, never alone, and preferably within a few sentences of each other. In other words, use “on the other hand” only if “on (the) one hand” precedes it.

Example sentences:

On (the) one hand, we wanted to arrive early so that we could practice our presentation and correct any last-minute problems. On the other hand, we did not want to miss the current session of talks and the opportunity to talk to others about their research.

Avoid Using Inappropriate Words and Expressions

Write in a style that conveys the intended meaning using simple, subject-appropriate language. Avoid slang and jargon, which are expressions in the common vernacular that are not formal enough to be appropriate in a professional context. Write as if speaking to a colleague. For instance, instead of writing, “We put the sample in the fridge for a while,” write, “We stored the sample in the refrigerator at 4 ºC overnight.”

Do not use “respectively” when you mean “separately” or “independently.”

INCORRECT: The electrochemical oxidations of chromium and tungsten tricarbonyl complexes, respectively, were studied.

CORRECT: The electrochemical oxidations of chromium and tungsten tricarbonyl complexes were studied separately.

Avoid using contractions and abbreviations:

INCORRECT:  Wasn’t

CORRECT: Was not

INCORRECT: In the lab

CORRECT: In the laboratory

Avoid using such redundant sentence structures as “it is,” “there are,” and “this is”:

INCORRECT: It is a procedure that is often used.

CORRECT: This procedure is often used.

INCORRECT: There are seven steps that must be completed.

CORRECT:  Seven steps must be completed.

INCORRECT: This is a problem that is prevalent in the sciences.

CORRECT: This problem is prevalent in the sciences.

For more information on using making better word choices, please refer to section 5.1.1 of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

Mastering Scholarly Communication – Part 6: Graphics and Tables

The ACS Style Guide has always been a classic handbook for scientific publication. But in 2020, it was revised and expanded as the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. The ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication not only provides students, researchers, educators, and librarians with professional guidance, it also helps researchers at different stages of their careers to respond to the evolving world of publishing.

This ACS Axial series contains excerpts from the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. Parts of the original text be available for free for a limited time under an ACS Free to Read License. Specific sections will be indicated at the end of each post. 

Graphics

Graphics are an integral part of a manuscript that helps authors present a lot of information without the need for lengthy descriptive phrases. As modern instruments and computational tools generate enormous data, selecting the right plot to present data becomes a key step in highlighting new advances presented in the article.  Many people “read” a research article by scanning the figures. Each graphic, together with its caption, should be able to stand alone and include the essential information.

When to Use Graphics?

Use a graphic when a visual presentation:

  • Improves the effectiveness of the data presentation
  • Provides a better understanding of the results and/or increases the reader’s comprehension
  • Makes it easier to view trends and relationships in the data (relative proportions, magnitudes, etc.)
  • Highlights specific results with quantitative analysis
  • Communicates the information more succinctly than in prose

For more information on designing graphics, please refer to section 4.1.3 of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

How to Use Published Graphics or Data?

Use original graphics in your article whenever possible. If you plan to include information from a previously published graphic, determine whether you can provide enough information by simply citing the previous publication or whether it is necessary to include a copy of the previous graphic. If you include the graphic, be sure it is a clear, high-quality image.

Clip art and images taken from the internet typically require copyright permission. If you are unable to obtain permission, the image cannot be included in the article. Obtain and provide written copyright permission, if required.

Whether you include either a copy or a slightly modified version of a previously published graphic, the reproduction or modification should be stated in the caption, and copyright permission obtained if required by the copyright holder. Copyright permission is typically not required when the graphic is redrawn, meaning there is extensive modification to the point where it can be considered a new graphic.

What is a Table of Contents Graphic/Graphical Abstract?

One of the most important but often neglected graphics in an article is the Table of Contents (TOC) graphic. It is published on the Table of Contents as well as next to the article’s Abstract in most journals. It is one of the first things a potential reader sees, and it can either attract a reader or cause them to skip over your article.

A Good TOC Graphic:

  • Tells the reader what the article is about
  • Is a simple unique color scheme or illustration
  • Is provided in the manuscript in its actual published size (refer to the Author Guidelines for specific journal requirements)
  • Fits into the size recommended by the journal (usually a horizontal frame)
  • Has minimal text, with all text legible when viewed at the published size.

In this video, ACS Editors share advice on getting started with a paper and creating figures.


For more information on TOC graphics, please refer to section 4.1.5 of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

Tables

When to Use Tables?

Use tables when the data cannot be presented clearly as narrative, when many precise numbers must be presented, or when meaningful interrelationships can be better conveyed by a tabular format. Tables should supplement, not duplicate, text and figures.

Determine whether the material you want to present really warrants a table. A table should generally consist of at least three interrelated columns and three rows. If you have only two columns, try writing the material as a narrative. If your table has unusual alignment and positioning requirements, consider making it a figure instead. If you have three columns, but they do not relate to each other, consider whether the material is really a list of items and not a table at all.

For more information on using tables, please refer to section 4.2.1  of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

Parts of a Table

Effective tables are well designed, so think carefully—first, about the data you need to present and, second, about the best way to present it visually on a page. Sometimes, what looks fine on a letter-size sheet of paper is not practical for an online journal or book.

Parts of a table. Source: adapted from Dopilka, A; Zhao, R.; Well,J. M.; Svilen, B.; Peng, X.; Chan, C. K. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces2018, 10 (44), 37981–37991. Copyright 2018 American Chemical Society.

Title

Give every table a brief, informative title that describes its contents in non-sentence format. The title should be complete enough to be understood without referring to the text.

Column heading

Every column must have a heading that describes the material below it. Be as succinct as possible. Keep column headings to no more than two lines if possible and use abbreviations and symbols whenever practical.

Spanner heading

If a column heading applies to more than one column, it should span the columns to which it applies. This is called a spanner heading (or sometimes a straddle heading). Below the spanner heading, give the specific heading for each column.

Footnote

Table footnotes include explanatory material referring to the whole table and to specific entries. Examples of information that should be placed in general footnotes referring to the whole table explanations of abbreviations and symbols used frequently throughout the table.

For more information on designing tables, please refer to section 4.2.4  of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

Multimedia Files

Multimedia is an effective way for enhancing demonstration and communication of research findings and promoting communications. Before creating a video or Web-Enhanced Objects (WEO), please refer to the author’s guide of specific journals to learn about whether such files are allowed to be used in the journals.

Video Files

Videos are useful ways to provide demonstrations and simulations, to illustrate methods, or to discuss your research. Examples of acceptable file types include .qt, .mov, .avi, and .mpg.

ACS Web-Enhanced Objects (WEO)

The Web editions of ACS Journals allow authors to make use of multimedia attachments called Web-Enhanced Objects (WEOs) to further the understanding of the research being reported in their article. WEOs include graphics, text, 3D images, spectra, and videos. Links to WEOs appear in the HTML version of the published article.

For more information on using multimedia, please refer to section 4.1.6  of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

Mastering Scholarly Communication – Part 5: The Review Process

The ACS Style Guide has always been a classic handbook for scientific publication. But in 2020, it was revised and expanded as the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. The ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication not only provides students, researchers, educators, and librarians with professional guidance, it also helps researchers at different stages of their careers to respond to the evolving world of publishing.

This ACS Axial series contains excerpts from theACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. Parts of the original text be available for free for a limited time under an ACS Free to Read License. Specific sections will be indicated at the end of each post. 

When a manuscript has been submitted to a journal and complies with all submission standards of the journal, the editor-in-chief will make the first review decision on whether to reject the manuscript or transfer it to an associate editor-in-chief, who is often chosen on the basis of his/her fields of expertise and sometimes other factors such as his/her workload. After accepting the transferred manuscript, the associate editor-in-chief shall decide whether to assign the manuscript to an external reviewer on the basis of his/her first review decision, and make a final decision on accepting or rejecting publication of the manuscript by going through the procedures including external reviewer reporting, etc.

When a manuscript is submitted to a journal and meets all the submission criteria, the journal’s editorial team must make an initial decision: to decline the submission or to assign it to an editor who will then move it through the necessary steps to a final decision, including accepting the manuscript for publication. Editors are generally assigned on the basis of subject expertise, but sometimes workload and availability play a role. The assigned editor then reviews the manuscript and either declines the submission, recommends the manuscript be transferred to another journal, or assigns the manuscript to be peer reviewed.

Learn More About the Peer Review Process

The peer review process.

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the peer review process, but many scholars still need to learn how to respond to review feedback, especially when a paper is rejected.

Review Feedback

After accepting an invitation to review a submission, a reviewer is allowed anywhere between several days to twoweeks, depending on the journal, to provide written comments, which can fall into twocategories: (1) comments that are only for the editor and (2) comments that are shared with the authors. The first type of feedback, comments for the editor only, should be restricted to expressing concerns about potential ethical violations. They should not include comments on the quality of the manuscript.

Reviewers evaluate submissions based on how well the authors answered their research questions, whether the conclusions and implications were appropriately derived from the results and findings, whether suitable techniques and methods were used, and whether the research advances the field. Perhaps an even more critical role of reviewers is to evaluate whether the arguments presented by the authors are sufficient and effective enough to inform and convince a typical reader of the value of the published work. Reviewers ensure the authors meet the standards of the discipline and the results and conclusions are warranted, and ultimately help maintain the integrity of the science.

For more information on the peer review process, please refer to section 2.5.2 of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

Handling Rejection

Every scholar has to learn to deal with rejection in a professional and constructive manner. In the video, ACS editors share their tips for handling rejection and how to bounce back.
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How to Become an Excellent Reviewer

ACS Publications has created a free online training course to assist both new and experienced reviewers in mastering the core ideas of the review process. The ACS Reviewer Labwas designed by ACS editors, leading researchers, and ACS Publications staff. The six interactive modules provide practical guidance and real-life situations to help recognize ethical issues, to better understand the criteria for a review, and to formulate and write an effective evaluation. The six modules are as follows: (1) Introduction to Peer Review; (2) Ethics in Peer Review; (3) Preparing for Review; (4) Assessing Significance and Technical Quality; (5) Assessing Presentation and Readiness for Publication; and (6) Writing Your Review. The modules include exercises to test knowledge, videos, downloadable summary sheets, and a final assessment. The site requires a valid ACS ID, but registration and usage are free; the content is available in several languages.

ACS Reviewer Lab.

The Importance of Obtaining Peer Review Credit

Providing professional service to one’s research community is an important part of a researcher’s job description. When being considered for promotion or undergoing merit evaluations, individuals need to document their contributions to the scientific community as reviewers. In some instances, providing a list of journals and the number of manuscripts that have been reviewed is enough. In other cases, more formal tracking of an individual’s service may be needed.

Reviewers of ACS Publications journal articles can now receive public acknowledgment of their work, thanks to a collaboration with ORCID(Open Researcher and Contributor ID). Reviewers will be able to get credit through their ORCID profile, without revealing which article they’ve reviewed.

For more information on review credit, please refer to section 2.5.4 of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

Mastering Scholarly Communication – Part 4: Getting Started

The ACS Style Guide has always been a classic handbook for scientific publication. But in 2020, it was revised and expanded as the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. The ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication not only provides students, researchers, educators, and librarians with professional guidance, it also helps researchers at different stages of their careers to respond to the evolving world of publishing.

This ACS Axial series contains excerpts from the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. Parts of the original text be available for free for a limited time under an ACS Free to Read License. Specific sections will be indicated at the end of each post. 

Before you consider writing an article, ask yourself:

• Do my data tell a story that can appeal to my scientific community?
• What are the key findings of my scientific research story that advance the field?
• What data are needed to support the key findings?

How should you start writing a scientific paper? This video offers tips on how to get started with writing a scientific research article.

Get more information on organizing your thoughts into an outline in section 2.1.3 of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

Before you start writing, it’s worth learning the elements that an excellent scientific paper should have. The journal you’re submitting to will have guidelines you can use to make sure your work is presented correctly.

The following checklist can be used to ensure that a paper has the right form, structure, and content to reflect the value of your research.

Aesthetics

  • Has an engaging title with broad appeal
  • Engages the reader in an interesting research story
  • Avoids high text density
    • Breaks long paragraphs into shorter ones
    • Includes nontext features (e.g., tables, equations, well-drawn schemes, illustrations, other graphics) that are accurate, attractive, and understandable
    • Embeds legible, informative graphics in appropriate locations
    • Ensures that all labeling in graphics is legible when the images are viewed actual size (100%)
    • Includes paragraph headers or section headers

Content

  • Explains the significance of the work in the abstract and throughout the article as a major theme of the scientific story
  • Expresses a clear, well-defined theme that is supported by the data
  • Presents well-organized information progressing from one topic to the next in a logical order
  • Includes sufficient background information and experimental detail to fully support the conclusions
  • Presents results and conclusions clearly
  • Omits redundant or irrelevant information, including only results required to support the key findings and essential to the story and the focus
    • Places supportive data (e.g., data files, experimental details) in the Supporting Information section
  • Concludes with a paragraph that not only presents the key findings but also suggests new ideas for extending the study

Get more information on organizing your thoughts into an outline in section 2.1.4 of the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.