What a year 2019 has been. It has flown past faster than I could have imagined. I started the year convinced that it was going to be pretty dynamic given that it had been declared the International Year of the Periodic Table by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. And oh boy, it’s gone by in the blink of an eye.
It is fair to say that the chemical enterprise has been as dynamic as one would expect. In this issue and the next one, coming out on Dec. 16 (note: it’ll be a double issue, so you will not be receiving an issue on Dec. 9), we treat you to a comprehensive summary and highlights of the main happenings in the world of pharma as well as some of the most important research breakthroughs in chemistry. Our editors and writers have gone over what they wrote this year, selected their favorite stories, identified trends, and put them to a vote. What we present in these next two issues is the outcome of that—a year in review.
It is important to note that our selection is not a reflection of the most-read stories but of the ones that the team considers most significant. If you are interested to learn what stories were most widely read in 2019, I can tell you that top of the list is C&EN’s Global Top 50, our annual survey of the world’s top chemical companies. In 2019 the list was topped, for the first and last time, by DowDuPont, beating BASF, which held the spot as largest chemical company in the world for 12 years. The second most popular piece from C&EN is not a story you read but one that you listen to: our podcast with lithium-ion battery pioneer and Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner, John Goodenough, who at age 97 told us his work is not done. Listen and you’ll be captivated by his laugh, his story, and the warm feeling that we all had—he’s the eldest person to win a Nobel—when the award was announced.
Other stories in the top 10 most read include “Why Glass Recycling in the US is Broken” and “Magnet Doubles Hydrogen Yield from Water Splitting.” But perhaps the most important on the list is “10 Years after Sheri Sangji’s Death, Are Academic Labs Any Safer?” This article was conceived to mark the 10th anniversary of Sangji’s death after a lab fire at the University of California, Los Angeles, a tragedy that the community has turned into a force for good through the realization that the best way to honor her memory is by instilling and maintaining a culture of safety. The popularity of this piece speaks to how important safe working environments are to chemists today.
But there is more. I’d like to invite you to a webinar we are hosting on Dec. 4. The speakers are C&EN’s deputy editorial director, Lauren Wolf; Nature Chemistry’s chief editor, Stuart Cantrill; and one of ACS Central Science’s senior editors, Christopher Chang. They’ll be exploring not only the hottest scientific trends of 2019 but also the areas of research that are likely to dominate 2020. You can register at cenm.ag/2020chemadvances, and remember you can also download it on demand at a later date.
Also, I had not given much thought to this, but it is also the end of the decade, a decade that started with planning for the International Year of Chemistry in 2011 and finishes with the International Year of the Periodic Table. A decade that has given us another woman winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, only the fifth to receive the award in its 118 years of existence. Still a lot of work to be done.
And so we start another year and another decade. It is difficult to imagine how the way we practice science will have changed by 2030. The path is not clear, but the target is: achieving the sustainable development goals set by the UN for 2030. It will no doubt drive a lot of activity for the foreseeable future. Here’s to a prosperous 2020 and a new decade full of tolerance, success, and respect for the world around us.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.