Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Happened to Blog Syn?

"What Happened to Blog Syn?"*

I get asked that question a few times every week. With questions about scientific (ir)reproducibility and data integrity popping up everywhere, it would seem apropos to resurrect the blog from its months-long slumber. So why aren't we posting?

Changing Circumstances: Five synthetic chemists ran most of the experiments for the first three posts.
Where are they now?

- One moved to another country, and hasn't started in his new lab
- One defended his Ph.D., and moved to another state
- One passed his qualifying exams, and wrote a bunch of papers for a new lab
- One faced a daunting funding situation at his small company, along with changes in work responsibilities
- (I don't know where the last person is...!)

So . . . life happened.

Time: The process of coordinating and writing a Blog Syn entry takes a while. Let's compare:

Just Like Cooking: Read interesting paper, dig up literature, make some graphics, edit, post.
Time: 20-60 minutes

Blog Syn: Read interesting paper, discuss with Twitter community and coworkers, read supporting literature and SI, coordinate across multiple time zones by email, order reagents, run experiments, purify, analyze, compare data, coordinate response by email / Skype / Twitter, construct post, peer edit, post.
Time: 2-4 weeks

Resources: We have no formal funding model. At present, our labs bear Blog Syn's costs, and that's OK for reagents you have just sitting around. It becomes dicey, though, to convince purchasing managers to order unusual reagents for your pet projects.

People: Despite multiple attempts to recruit chemists to the cause, we've not added anyone new to our roster. I've sent out at least three separate email blasts, had some nibbles, but no one has committed. I feel it would be disingenuous to run each experiment in triplicate myself, since that only proves that I could repeat all my own mistakes.

I think what's happening to Blog Syn is what happens to all volunteer organizations over time. Life happens. People move. Interests shift and change. Resources dwindle. The message and mission grow muddy.

*HELP WANTED: I'd really like to keep this going; I have preps picked out to try, folks to review and publicize posts, even some potential funding to fall back on. So, who's with me? Who wants to help revitalize Blog Syn?

If you've been dragging your heels and wish to get involved, don't hesitate to contact me!
Operators are standing by...

12 comments:

  1. how about a kickstarter/indiegogo campaign to fund some chemicals?

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    1. It's been suggested, and I've reached out to the organizations in question.

      Most online crowd-funding sites prohibit campaigns for purchase of chemicals (see: health, medical, drugs)
      http://www.kickstarter.com/help/guidelines?ref=footer

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  2. maybe if you changed your model a bit, and proposed some procedure(s) up for consideration next, more people would be willing to pitch in

    as you said, if we've got it sitting around in the inventory it's not such a serious commitment

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    1. That's a very fair assessment. OK, I'm thinking about trying the direct arylation that currently tops Prof. Frontier's "May Require Mojo" list. The most 'exotic' things required would be 1,10-phen and KOtBu. I have the paper, and can email it to any interested parties.

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    2. What do want to know about direct arylation? We have some experience with this and I have colleagues that do this routinely.

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  3. Heard someone got canned over this. Are they #5?

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  4. Would adding a procedure help? Is it possible?

    Thanks in advance.

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  5. I'm willing to (continue) to help, but as I've moved from the US to Japan at about the time you sent me information about BlogSyn 4(?), I was in a time crunch to clean up, pack up and get out. It also helped that in my previous lab, we had an amazing selection of chemicals and didn't have to purchase anything.

    You mentioned in your post that you have a few procedures picked out already. Maybe if you posted several papers there might be a chance of getting a hit from someone that already has access to the required chemicals. You are right, it might be very hard to convince my boss to let me purchase something for a BlogSyn project unless there was some direct benefit to our research. However, from a research point of view, I think it's important to participate if for no other reason than to interact with other chemists and maybe learn some new chemistry. That to me is almost as important as figuring out irreproducible procedures.

    So, count me (back) in. You mentioned a procedure using 1,10-phen and KOtBu. I have both of those, so I'd be willing to give it a look and a go if I have everything else.

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  6. I tried to contact you about helping out but still haven't heard back.

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  7. have any academics been approached to get on board with this? it may sound naive but if it were possible to have supervisors willing to occasionally have students run reactions for blog syn "for the good of the community" then there wouldn't be the issue of spending time and resources off books on pet projects that i'm sure many people worry about.

    also out of curiosity when trying to reproduce procedures are the blog syn chemists meant to follow the procedures exactly as reported; following the procedures as they would be interpreted by an average-skilled lab based synthetic chemist; or applying personal knowledge that may aid the reaction even though such detail would not be apparent in the literature reported procedure?

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  8. Congrats for being refered to in oct 19th publication of The Economist !

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    Replies
    1. Did you notice that the structure on the cover has an OHNO group?

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