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Abstracting's Unique Payoff

by Richard Hermens
June 11, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 24


I don't remember how long I volunteered, but it must have been more than 10 years because I received a 10-year pen from CAS. When I started, I was in my late thirties and teaching at Eastern Oregon University.

This was before computers; I would type up all my abstracts using a typewriter. I had actually ordered the typewriter for my dissertation, and when I was abstracting, it came in very handy. On the keyboard, above the numbers were the numbers in subscript. So if I needed to type a formula, I could just use the shift key and I would get a subscript. I still have the typewriter, and I let the grandkids use it once in a while to see how a "computer" works without a computer.

In the later years, when computers came, I could type the abstracts on the computer, but we didn't have e-mail at that time. So I'd still type up the abstract, print it out, and mail it back to CAS.

I don't recall getting any payment for them, not even the postage to send them back. Still, I think it was worth my time to volunteer just to get the information from reading the articles. After I abstracted the articles, I could keep them.

I worked up until the time the process was more automated. They just had everyone quit. I would still be abstracting today if CAS needed it, because I enjoyed doing it.

When I taught a course in searching the chemical literature, I had first-hand knowledge of how that literature was abstracted. I would always have my students look up a certain abstract, and I made sure my name was on the bottom of it.

Hermens received a Ph.D. from the University of Idaho in 1963 and joined the faculty at Eastern Oregon University in 1966. He spent his career there and retired as Professor Emeritus of Chemistry in 2001.



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