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Erick Carreira named editor in chief of JACS

Organic chemist is first Latino to lead the Journal of the American Chemical Society

by Linda Wang
September 3, 2020


Credit: Courtesy of Erick Carreira
Erick Carreira

After a worldwide search, the American Chemical Society has named Erick Carreira, a professor of organic chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich), the new editor in chief of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

Carreira will become the first Hispanic-American chemist to assume this role. He will also be the first editor in chief of JACS who resides outside of the US. Carreira will succeed Peter Stang of the University of Utah, who has led JACS since 2002. Carreira’s appointment begins in January 2021.

“Since my first publication in JACS in 1988, the journal has played a significant role in my career,” Carreira said in a statement. “It’s an honor to lead this publication.”

“I’m very pleased that Professor Carreira is taking over. He is an internationally recognized, first-rate scientist with experience as an editor,” says Stang. “JACS is in excellent hands, and he’ll take it to the next level.”

Carreira was born in Cuba and lived in Spain and the US before settling in Switzerland, where he currently resides. Carreira says he is committed to diversifying the journal in many ways. He will start by building a diverse editorial team, which will include a group of executive editors covering different areas of chemistry and residing in different parts of the world.

The new executive editors are Joseph Francisco of the University of Pennsylvania; Zhaomin Hou of the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science; Kai Johnsson of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; Melanie Sanford of the University of Michigan; and Karen Wooley of Texas A&M University. A sixth executive editor, who is based in China, will be named at the end of this year.

“I look forward to working more closely as a group to make decisions that will move JACS in a forward direction and make people feel they have a stake in the JACS experience,” Carreira says. Having diverse perspectives will “make for better judgement as to what we send out for review, and that will ultimately make JACS more attractive to its authors.”

Carreira is currently editor in chief of Organic Letters. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and a PhD in chemistry from Harvard University. He joined the chemistry faculty at Caltech in 1992 and moved to ETH Zürich in 1998. At ETH Zürich, his research focuses on asymmetric catalysis as well as the chemical biology and synthesis of natural products.

Carreira says the addition of a group of executive editors to JACS is the first of many changes he plans to implement to foster more inclusivity and to bring together different perspectives. “I think that there are a lot of opportunities to build on the successes that Peter Stang beautifully engineered and remain competitive in a landscape that’s rapidly changing,” Carreira says.

“I am confident Professor Carreira will continue the established JACS tradition of excellence and look forward to seeing his exciting vision shape the journal over the years ahead,” said James Milne, president of ACS Publications, in a statement.

News of Carriera's appointment reignited debate over a letter he wrote in 1996 describing the long working hours he expected of those in his research group at the time. In a statement released Sept. 5 Carriera said "I regret writing this letter, as it in no way reflects my leadership approach today. . . . Whether I am leading a lab or leading a journal, I am committed to promoting a sustainable and positive cultural shift in our industry."

C&EN is working on a story about academic chemistry department culture. If you have suggestions or tips to share, contact us by email at or see our secure communication tips here.


This story was updated on Sept. 8, 2020, to include reaction to Carreira's appointment.



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John Williams (September 4, 2020 12:06 PM)
With all due respect, this is a huge travesty for JACS. There was a great opportunity to change the leadership to address diversity, equity, and inclusion and lead JACS into the future where chemistry touches on far more.

We all know the culture and Erick sets. We should ask ourselves whether this is future of chemistry that we want.
a US postgrad (September 15, 2020 8:33 PM)
Shame on you for the choice of your new editors. While declaring inclusion and openness of science, the ACS has chosen a way of corporatism, elitism and nepotism for its flagship journal and is trying to lacquer it with political correctness. It is appalling to see a second major chemistry journal to do itself such a major disfavor in such a short time.
S.K.Balasubramanian , address: B-8 Apsara Apartments, 259, Bund Garden Road, Pune 411001 India (October 2, 2020 9:11 PM)
I have no comments on the Editor choice. I am suggesting a policy change. The JACS and other important journals should reserve a small amount of space (say 2%) for peer reviewed dissent. The reviewer should argue his position and be ready to reply. There should be no summary opinion.
There should be scope for critical opinion on past experimental work also. I had pointed out a possible error in the first synthesis of Morphine by Marshall Gates. The last step might violate Bredt's rule.
The Editors had been over-ruled in the past. I am giving my experience. In 2003 I submitted a paper on a new model for atomic structure based on the chemistry of carbon. The Editor Dr.W.T.Borden advised me to revise the paper and re-submit it. His rejection, given below, was an apology that J"ACS is a conservative journal". I need not say anything. Dr. Borden has said enough. (This letter is continued after Dr.Borden's comments.)
• A unitary model for atomic structure •
submission history
There are three papers in the series. They deal with a new proposal for atomic structure. The papers describe the application of the new model to the atomic structures of Carbon, Silicon and Boron. They have the distinction of
explaining the covalent geometry of these elements on a non-Quantum mechanical basis. The paper on Carbon was submitted to the British Journal Polyhedron in July 1990. The Editor’s letter of 20th August 1990 said:
“The paper is not suitable for publication in Polyhedron because it does not deal with new work and discoveries in Inorganic Chemistry. The paper rationalizes a number of known structures of molecules containing carbon and it
would be more suitable for a general publication or one of an educational character.”
The method was extended to Silicon, Boron and Nitrogen. In the last case we got tantalizing experimental result with commercial potential.
In June 2003 a combined paper on Carbon and Silicon was submitted to the Journal of the American Chemical Society. I am giving below the comment from the Editor.
W. T. Borden, Associate Editor, JACS wrote:
“Dear Dr. Balasubramanian:
I have carefully read your manuscript; and, although I think that it certainly should be published, I do not believe
that JACS is the proper place to publish it. In one sense, JACS is a very conservative journal of general chemistry; and manuscripts that question the fundamental assumptions of current chemical theory are referred to more physical journals. Therefore, I am not sending your manuscript for review."
I had been able to get experimental evidence in the solution chirality of sodium chlorate. The Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters had no comments on the first time observation made by me but "urged" me to collaborate with a US university to upgrade the contents.
A few months ago there were media reports of the discovery of "d-Hexaquark" by a York university group (UK). My paper predicted such a particle postulated first by Linus Pauling who called it "dineutron". We found that there can be two variants of the particle. We called the second variant, "mass deficient triangle" and used it to explain the exclusive features of nuclear fission. This is what perhaps the York group had discovered.
Nuclear fission has no rational explanation so far.
I hope you understand the immensity of the tragedy resulting from over-ruling Dr. Borden. In this manner I might say the days of science itself may be ending.
It is my opinion that empiricism should be the master of theory not mathematical speculation. The less the use of mathematics the safer it is for science.
I have published my whole work as a Kindle book (160 pages; 2014). Only a dozen had visited the book.
I do not have any more to say. I leave the matter to the good sense of the New Editor and his team.
I wish him and JACS good luck.

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