I am compelled to write to you to publicize an extraordinary act of scientific dedication from the editorial board of Organic Syntheses and Editor-in-Chief Rick Danheiser in particular. I have communicated my feelings to Danheiser personally and expressed my appreciation, but I would like to bring it to the attention of the larger community of chemists.
Over the past several generations, synthetic organic chemists have come to rely on procedures published by Organic Syntheses to simplify the preparation of useful starting materials and reagents. Those procedures have been checked by another laboratory, thus reinforcing their reliability. Several months ago, I encountered errors in a synthesis published more than 30 years ago. I was greatly bothered by the fact that it had been checked by a second laboratory, exactly to ensure that erroneous and substandard procedures do not get into the literature.
With no more expectation than sheer catharsis, I submitted my findings to the editorial board via the Organic Syntheses website (www.orgsyn.org). I received an immediate response from Associate Editor Charles Zercher that they would discuss this at the next meeting of the board, but he wasn’t certain what action they would take. I completely forgot about this incident until a few days ago when I received an e-mail from Danheiser informing me that his laboratory had rechecked the procedure, as they were unable to retrieve records from the submitter’s or the checker’s labs (mainly because of the time that had elapsed). Danheiser not only checked the step in which I had pointed out the error but the previous step as well. He also sent me the corrected procedure, which has been posted on the website.
I am overwhelmed by this gesture—not only did they recheck the procedure, but Danheiser was also thoughtful enough to personally inform me of the actions and the results. He has reinforced the highest level of integrity we have come to expect from Organic Syntheses.
By Sriram Naganathan
Director Chemical Development, Exelixis
South San Francisco