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February 15, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 7


Letters to the editor

Chemists’ compensation

I was initially interested in your article about how young chemists are underpaid in the UK (C&EN, Dec. 2, 2019, page 22) until I read the part where they were comparing how they got only 25 vacation days per year, not to mention that the UK has nationalized health care. When adding in these additional benefits, these chemists have competitive wages to what a new graduate might make in the US. While I realize the scope of the article was Europe, it was hard to be sympathetic when I think about how much employer-sponsored heath care costs and how most new chemists here are lucky to have 10 vacation days per year.

Emily Nicolai
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Chemistry Nobel Prizes

The observation in your article on Nobel Prizes in Chemistry trending toward life sciences (C&EN, Dec. 9/16, 2019, page 5) should come as neither a surprise nor a cause for concern. As I have pointed out in my 2019 book, Solving Chemistry, there are few fundamental problems in chemistry that are unsolved or poorly understood. More than 80% of chemistry research, even in the most prestigious universities, is now concerned with using the deep understanding we have of chemistry to solve problems of biology, medicine, materials science, fate of molecules in the environment, and putting industrial processes on a sound scientific footing. It is not just Nobel Prizes that reflect this. A comparison of C&EN research briefs from 1959 and 2016 that I did showed a shift from 75% basic chemistry to 80% application of chemistry. Similar observations have been made by Peter Atkins in 2000 and John Deutch and George Whitesides in their 2011 editorial in Nature. Rather than wringing our hands at the shift in Nobel Prizes, we should celebrate the triumph of chemical understanding achieved in the second half of the 20th century that makes this possible.

Bernard J. Bulkin



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