What made headlines in 2017 | December 18, 2017 Issue - Vol. 95 Issue 49 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 95 Issue 49 | p. 2 | Editor's Page
Issue Date: December 18, 2017

What made headlines in 2017

Department: Editor's Page
Keywords: Opinion, year in chemistry

Get ready for the biggest chemistry-related stories of 2017. If you enjoyed our Dec. 4 issue, which brought you highlights of what happened in the world of pharma during the year, you are going to love this issue too.

This year has been incredibly busy—as I said in my last editorial, a whirlwind—but also quite unusual because of the confluence of a series of circumstances affecting different parts of the world: A new administration in the U.S., the Brexit controversy in the U.K., and much more. So what made headlines? There is simply too much to list here—you’ll have to read this issue—but for the purpose of this editorial I’m going to pick some personal favorites.

The first thing that comes to mind is of the year the March for Science. Seldom have we seen scientists take to the streets to celebrate science and the role it plays in everyday life. Scientists who took part called for evidence-based policy-making, appropriate funding for scientific research, and greater government transparency for scientific matters. It was an unprecedented global event, with more than 1 million participants from about 600 cities around the world that held rallies. But it wasn’t without controversy. Many in the scientific community resist the notion that scientists should participate in public life in this fashion and see these activities as a politicization of science.

In terms of scientific advancement, the fields of of the year machine learning and quantum computing started to deliver on their promises, with significant advances announced this year (see page 20) and likely to continue into 2018. Also noteworthy is of the year the evolution that we have continued to observe in the field of flow chemistry, which has made inroads in the pharmaceutical industry with the manufacture of a chemotherapy drug candidate (see page 23).

When it comes to chemicals that made headlines this year, there was global controversy around regulation and safe use of pesticides like chlorpyrifos, glyphosate, and dicamba. But one could say that opioids, at least in the U.S., dominated the agenda. Deaths by overdoses skyrocketed this year, and the issue is now widely referred to as a serious national crisis.

In 2017 we lost many notable scientists. I’d like to spare a thought for Ronald Breslow, Mildred Dresselhaus, Isabella Karle, George Olah, and Gilbert Stork, among many others (see page 39). They exemplify the best of the chemical enterprise and will be sorely missed.

Besides what made headlines in 2017, in this issue we also take a look back at the fate of research from a decade ago. Can you remember what was trending in terms of chemical research in 2007? If you guessed the elucidation of G protein-coupled receptor structures and the role they play in drug discovery, you guessed right (see page 42).

And for first time this year we look forward and ask a selection of in 2018 C&EN writers and editors to predict what will be in the limelight in 2018. There are some interesting suggestions, including Steve Ritter’s prediction that “chemistry’s cold war,” the divide between science and public policy, “will continue to grow and get chillier” and Britt Erickson’s suggestion that there will be further lawsuits on the reform of the U.S.’s Toxic Substances Control Act (see page 40).

For a bit of fun and lighthearted reading, turn to page 28. We selected of the year the most interesting and innovative chemical structures that chemists made in 2017 and asked people to vote on their favorites. A complex polysaccharide won the poll with 34% of the vote, followed very closely, with 32% of the vote, by a pair of unusual trinitrogen structures. What was your favorite?

As the year draws to an end, the team and I would like to thank you for your loyalty to C&EN and for your continued support of our journalism.

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

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