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By The Numbers

by A. Maureen Rouhi, Deputy editor-in-chief
July 2, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 27

This issue features C&EN's annual analysis of the state of the global chemical industry. In brief, 2006 was a good year.

On 40 pages, beginning on page 29, we lay out the data underlying that statement. Here are some interesting tidbits:

• U.S. employees of the chemical industry generated average per capita sales of $596,200 in 2006.

• Plastics in primary form yielded the best U.S. trade balance in chemicals ($12.5 billion), while medicinals and pharmaceuticals yielded the worst (-$16.8 billion).

• In 2005, China's organic chemicals exports ($12.1 billion) equaled 68% of Japan's total ($17.9 billion); in 2006, China narrowed the gap, with its exports ($15.5 billion) equivalent to 83% of Japan's ($18.6 billion).

This annual Facts & Figures feature is the most comprehensive of several surveys and analyses of industry statistics we undertake each year. We do it in part to fulfill C&EN's mission to keep you abreast of significant news, events, trends, and activities of the chemical enterprise. We also believe it is our responsibility to assemble annually the most comprehensive, exhaustive collection of basic statistics about the chemical industry at any one time, any place, anywhere. For the past 60 or so years, Facts & Figures has been a staple of C&EN.

I joined C&EN around this time 13 years ago. I remember the excited, somewhat anxious buzz about the Facts & Figures issue being imminent. I soon learned that this wasn't the ideal material with which to train a novice C&EN production editor because of the extraordinary amount of work it requires and the countless details to check and double-check.

Indeed, Facts & Figures represents a huge amount of work.

This year's version began taking shape in April, and by May, Senior Correspondent William Storck, who has coordinated this effort for the past 17 years, had finalized the plan. Joining him in data-gathering and number-crunching were five other members of C&EN's business group: Michael McCoy, Marc Reisch, Patricia Short, Jean-François Tremblay, and Alex Tullo. In all, Storck estimates, the team devoted 66 full days to assembling the material and writing the report. "It's an incredible amount of work," he says, "but it's fun, too."

According to Assistant Managing Editor for Editing & Production Robin Giroux, production began on May 16, when the first of the issue's 64 tables became available for checking, even more checking, and then formatting by Krystal King, our digital production expert. Giroux says all of this—as well as creating the 10 graphs by artist Monica Gilbert—was work that had to be folded into the regular routine of getting out weekly issues in the meantime.

In addition, because of the magazine's new design, our artists—Nathan Becker, Robin Braverman, and Yang Ku—were involved far earlier in the production cycle than usual, ensuring that the voluminous material would be displayed clearly and actually fit the physical page.

Production reached a crescendo last Wednesday. Like whirling dervishes, production editors Janet Dodd, Kimberly Dunham, and Stephen Trzaska worked with reporters and moved copy for last-minute corrections and clarifications. Multiple reviews by Managing Editor Ivan Amato, Giroux, and copy editors Arlene Goldberg-Gist, Faith Hayden, and Tonia Moore ensured to the extent that we could that what you'll be reading in these pages is of the highest possible quality and accuracy.

As of today, production still continues. Luis Carrillo and Tchad Blair, of our online team, are hard at work converting the tables into files that will be downloadable from C&EN Online beginning on July 16. We started offering this capability two years ago, motivated by the idea that readers might be able to generate more information if they could download and further manipulate the data.

What people do with the data they download, we're not sure. It could be as simple as converting data columns into graphs or charts. I've often thought it would be interesting to determine statistical correlations among various performance or production factors. If you've ever downloaded these tables, we'd love to know what you did with the data.

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


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