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Journal Cover Art

February 12, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 7

Stephen Ritter asked recently, "Does [scientific art] on journal covers serve a purpose in the Internet age?" (C&EN, Nov. 6, 2006, page 24).

My reply is, "Yes, certainly!"

Cover art helps emphasize the connection of chemistry to the world. Chemistry draws from the world around us, and its value lies in what it returns in our understanding of how the world works, contributing to the survival and advancement of our species.

The art also prepares the reader for what he or she is about to study, setting a framework for the concepts to be presented. But that's not entirely why I think the cover art is important. We may be intensely studious with our science, yet it is not an end in itself. If we take a wider world view, we make our work more relevant, and art invites us to communicate on a different level. To be aware of wonders causes us to value them, and that helps to preserve them while also enriching our lives.

When I see the connection between molecules and the natural world, I am delighted. At its best, art does more than illustrate, it entreats and delights. It adds feeling, begging that some emotional investment be derived from the text and glyphs of our science printed within.

No matter how specialized a journal is there will be content that individual readers find somewhat foreign to their experience. It is the art that tells us, "Look closer, there is a kind of beauty there."

Cover art would work best if related directly to the content of the current issue. However, it would still be effective if it made a stand-alone statement from the chemist's perspective. Specific art would have to be produced before the issue deadline, unless specific art could be taken from a pool. If ACS opened a channel for art contribution from the chemist community, I believe a nice collection would grow, and more of us could have the opportunity to "make the cover."

Jim Profitt
Goshen, Ind.



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