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The Business Of Chemistry

by Rudy M. Baum
June 11, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 24

When I was a reporter for C&EN, I was in the Science/Technology/Education Department and most of my reporting was on basic research in chemistry and related disciplines. Occasionally I wrote on business, environmental, or regulatory topics. My primary focus, however, was the science of chemistry.

Many of C&EN’s readers think of the magazine as primarily a publication focusing on science, and the department with the largest number of reporters remains the Science/Technology/Education Department. As this week’s issue very clearly demonstrates, however, C&EN covers the entire chemistry enterprise like no other magazine in the world, with a focus on business, government and policy, employment, and the American Chemical Society in addition to its focus on chemistry.

Take this week’s Business Department as an example of the depth of C&EN’s coverage. The three stories in the department illustrate well the multifaceted nature of the chemical industry and the forces that are shaping it.

The lead business story, by Senior Editor Melody Bomgardner, examines the challenges associated with biobased jet fuel. In her story, Bomgardner points out that, although it’s not surprising that numerous companies are attempting to break into the biobased jet fuel business, what is somewhat surprising is that representatives of the airline industry are cheering them on. She quotes one such representative speaking at an industrial biotech conference as saying, “Our industry is under the tyranny of petroleum-based crude.” With biofuels, airlines are looking for relief from the rising cost of traditional fuel and to address environmental concerns.

Bipartisanship is usually a four-letter word in Washington these days. However, in the second Business Department story, Senior Editor Rick Mullin reports on a rare case of bipartisanship breaking out over legislation affecting drug safety. Very similar bills that passed the Senate and House of Representatives with nearly unanimous yes votes reauthorize the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, which establishes payments by innovator drug companies to help fund FDA’s efforts to audit production facilities and process New Drug Applications. More important to fine chemicals manufacturers, Mullin observes, are sections of the bills that create a new user fee for generic versions of branded small-molecule and biologic drugs.

You may have noticed a new byline in C&EN in recent weeks, the one that appears on the third Business Department story: Alex Scott, C&EN London. Scott joined C&EN as the magazine’s European business correspondent in early May after 15 years with IHS Chemical Week. His story this week is on the possibility of exporting REACH, the European law regulating chemicals, to the U.S. and other countries. Many of the European regulators responsible for implementing REACH think it would be a good fit for the rest of the world. As Scott points out, representatives of U.S. chemical companies have other ideas. Although U.S. firms acknowledge that the Toxic Substances Control Act needs revision, REACH is not the model they want to use to fix it.

CHANGES. After more than 32 years with C&EN (36 with ACS), I plan to retire from ACS late this year. My last day as C&EN editor-in-chief will be Sept. 14.

I am very pleased to be able to announce that Deputy Editor-in-Chief A. Maureen Rouhi will succeed me as editor-in-chief. In accordance with the ACS Constitution & Bylaws, a blue-ribbon search committee evaluated several candidates for the position and recommended Rouhi to the ACS Board of Directors, who concurred with the recommendation. I was and am an enthusiastic supporter of Rouhi for the position. I know that she is the person who is best equipped to continue C&EN’s tradition of journalistic excellence and evolve the magazine in productive directions in the tumult of this digital age.

I will continue to be associated with C&EN as editor-at-large, contributing book reviews, occasional stories, and a blog on CENtral Science. More about that in a later editorial.

Thanks for reading.

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


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