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Natural Products

Reactions: Organic synthesis’s burden

April 23, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 14


Letters to the editor

The cover of the Feb. 14, 2022, C&EN issue, which shows silhouettes of scientists looking at flasks as they stand on an M. C. Escher–like path.
Credit: C&EN/Daria Kirpach

Proving metal-free reactions

I am writing to express my displeasure regarding the letter to the editor by Julian Tyson (C&EN, March 14/21, 2022, page 5) about “metal-free” reactions (Feb. 14, 2022, page 20). Specifically, my concern is about the suggestion that manuscripts submitted for publication that indicate a metal-free reaction must be subjected to special review to ensure that the reactions did not make use of metal. My position is that organic synthesis is perhaps the most tedious process of all the five disciplines of chemistry (inorganic, organic, physical, analytical, and biochemistry). Synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry must go through reaction workup and characterization, using infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, high-performance liquid chromatography, and single-crystal X-ray chromatography. In addition, new products require additional data in the form of high-resolution mass spectrometry or low-resolution carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen analysis. That being said, it would be unfair to require synthetic chemists to do inductively coupled plasma analysis for metal detection. One would expect that researchers in academia and industry, including state, federal, and private research laboratories, are familiar with ethical conduct associated with research and dissemination. If an author publishes a reaction that they said is metal-free but later found to contain metal, such article should be flagged for retraction.

Cosmas Okoro
Nashville, Tennessee


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