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Pittcon And More

by Rudy M. Baum, Editor-in-chief
March 17, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 12

I have occasionally been taken to task by a few readers for using this page to wax rhapsodic about the stories in the current issue. "We can read the Table of Contents," such readers have said. "Tell us something we don't already know."

Most weeks, I take this admonition to heart, but some issues of C&EN, including the one you are holding, contain such a unique combination of stories on the multifaceted chemical enterprise that I cannot refrain from pointing it out.

C&EN's cover highlights our reporting on this year's Pittcon, held at the end of February in snowy Chicago. C&EN sends a team of four veteran reporters each year to cover Pittcon. The team is headed by Senior Correspondent Stu Borman and rounded out by Senior Editors Celia Arnaud, Mitch Jacoby, and Steve Ritter. They provide the most comprehensive coverage of Pittcon of any scientific publication in the world.

Borman captures the flavor of Pittcon in his overview (see page 51). Much of the overview is devoted to an evaluation by a panel of academic researchers of new product introductions at the Pittcon exposition in three different areas???chromatography, atomic and molecular spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry. These experts identify for C&EN readers noteworthy developments from this year's show.

Jacoby reports on a technical symposium held at Pittcon on extending Raman spectroscopy to the ultraviolet region of the spectrum. This work is allowing researchers to study problems ranging from protein folding to reactions occurring at the surfaces of heterogeneous catalysts. Arnaud reports on a symposium on efforts to develop rugged, reliable, inexpensive, easy-to-use devices for diagnosing tropical diseases in developing nations that lack trained personnel and infrastructure to support complicated analyses. Ritter compiles a catalog of notable instruments and software new to the Pittcon exposition this year.

Many other noteworthy stories populate this week's issue, but three stand out to me as particularly interesting and worth your attention. In one, Senior Editor Rick Mullin provides an in-depth examination of the state of U.S. industry-academic research collaborations (see page 25). Research universities have become increasingly interested in retaining intellectual property rights to discoveries made by their scientists doing research supported by industry. The economic payoff to the university can be significant, but the focus on IP has introduced a new level of tension between academic and industry partners negotiating such collaborations. Some people in industry suggest that the tension is leading them to look overseas for new collaboration partners, particularly to India.

In another important story, Senior Editor Jeff Johnson examines the Department of Energy's plan to design and build a new nuclear warhead that would be more reliable and robust than the warheads currently making up the U.S. nuclear arsenal (see page 34). The program is controversial, and Johnson gives both sides ample opportunity to make their cases. After reading Johnson's carefully researched story, however, it's hard for me to see the need for such a program.

Johnson quotes Ivan Oelrich, a chemist, nuclear physicist, and longtime weapons analyst. "What is the mission for these multi-hundred-kiloton weapons?" Oelrich asks. "They can flatten cities and destroy civilizations and are on constant alert and forwardly deployed on submarines that can reach their targets in 20 minutes. What are they deterring? Is any area of contest today between Russia and the U.S. worth this?"

The third standout story is by Senior Correspondent Lois Ember on the Department of Homeland Security's proposed regulations for securing chemical facilities (see page 39). This is another highly complex topic of enormous importance to the chemical enterprise and to our nation. As Ember writes, "Issues of particular concern to lawmakers and interest groups are federal preemption of state security regulations, the use of safer chemicals and processing technologies, and the sharing of security information." Ember probes deeply into these issues and presents the positions of the chemical industry, legislators, and interest groups.

Thanks for reading.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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