If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Editorial: 3 resolutions for the New Year

by Michael McCoy
January 5, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 1


I have never been much for personal New Year’s resolutions, but I’m going to offer three for C&EN in 2024:

1. We will strive to be an independent voice for chemistry news.

At C&EN, we want to be trusted as an objective source of information about chemistry and related fields. At the same time, according to American Chemical Society bylaws, C&EN is “the official organ of the SOCIETY for the dissemination to its members of information about SOCIETY business.” The tension between editorial independence and our obligation to ACS can be hard to resolve.

As our Standards and Practices document notes, stories about ACS programs and activities are tagged as ACS News. They are typically written by an ACS News team that is separate from C&EN’s newsroom. But occasionally, those stories get prominent placement in the magazine. For example, the cover story of this issue is a Q&A, conducted by Sophie Rovner, a writer in the ACS Communications Division, with Mary K. Carroll, the 2024 ACS president.

The annual sit-down with the ACS president is important, but objectively speaking, is it cover story–level important? I’m not sure that it is.

A similar argument can be made regarding the cover story that a C&EN reporter writes every year about the winner of the Priestley Medal. The Priestley Medal is the highest honor bestowed by ACS, and it is indeed a coveted and important prize. But the Nobel Prize in Chemistry is undoubtedly a higher honor, and we write no cover story about its winners.

The truth is that C&EN sometimes does cover ACS preferentially. Acknowledging this shortcoming is, I think, the first step to remedying it.

2. We will be better at finding the chemistry story behind the news of the day.

Liam Conlon, our audience engagement editor, often takes senior staff to task at our Friday wrap-up meetings by pointing to big stories for which we should have found a chemistry angle. C&EN is uniquely qualified to find that angle, and Conlon knows that readers like such stories: the most-viewed article on our website last year was about the derailment of a train in East Palestine, Ohio, carrying vinyl chloride and other hazardous chemicals.

In early 2022, we jumped on the story of how Russia’s war on Ukraine was affecting chemists and chemistry in Ukraine. But Conlon correctly observed recently that we have failed to cover the impact of the Israel-Hamas war on the chemistry communities in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Our (weak) defense is that we were severely short staffed in 2023; as we get back to full editorial strength in 2024, we must be sure to tackle these kinds of stories.

3. We will unite and grow this year under our new editor in chief and ACS.

It’s easy for me to make New Year’s resolutions for C&EN because in about 6 weeks, I will be stepping down as interim editor in chief. It will be up to my successor, Nick Ishmael-Perkins, to fulfill these lofty vows while growing C&EN.

But I’m confident that Ishmael-Perkins, working with the rest of us, will take the magazine forward. One reason for my confidence is that we have the backing of ACS. Although being published by ACS does create tension for C&EN, the relationship is also a source of strength.

Unlike most commercial publications, which must sink or swim in a shrinking advertising pool, C&EN receives financial support from its parent organization. In exchange, we deliver to ACS members independent journalism about chemistry that is one of the main reasons they join the society and stick with it. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and one that should carry us through 2024 and beyond.

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


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.