Monday, August 3, 2015

This week's C&EN

A few of this week's C&EN stories:
  • Good cover story by Lisa Jarvis and others on life in the bustling life sciences metropolis that is Boston. 
  • Looks like we'll have two candidates for ACS president-elect: Bryan Balasz and Allison Campbell. (article by Sophie Rovner)
  • Sarah Webb has a conversation with Martin Burke about his new robotic synthesizer.
    • Burke likes to use the word "bottleneck": "Until now, synthesis has represented an important bottleneck in gaining access to all of that function." I don't think that's actually true - I don't think synthesis has been a bottleneck for access to materials. It's cost of synthesis that is a barrier, or design that is the slow step. 
  • This piece on, among other things, the gap between US and Chinese patent numbers by editor-in-chief Bibiana Campos Seijo is.... interesting. 
    • I'd like to know if there's a quality/quantity divide on US/China patents. Is the numerical comparison valid? Perhaps there needs to be a financial comparison (i.e. these patents have derived this value, those patents have derived that value. Probably a difficult comparison to make.) 
  • I thought this piece about gaps in one's employment history was pretty good. 


  1. Didn't Balasz run for ACS president a few years ago? Neither here nor there, just wondering if this is common to run multiple times.

    1. Yes, he did. I am definitely surprised that he ran again, but it seems like something where he was interested in pursuing it.

  2. The Burke piece reads like an executive summary of the Science profile from a few months back. I guess this is what we get when C&EN downsizes.

  3. Back when Donna Nelson ran for the office, she wrote a lot about the situation of the unemployed chemist. After being elected, however, not only did of that talk disappear, but she explicitly expressed a disinterest in it. What will be the story for Balsz and Campbell? At the very least, I am relieved that neither of them are faculty members.

    1. No-one's going to find a job for you, GC.

    2. Anon 12:10 PM, your comment is pointless, since you have no more idea of who I am than I do of you. Except that you are acting like a troll.

    3. I'm pretty sure the only person who's trolling is you, and the person getting trolled is Donna Nelson, whom your comments here have repeatedly blamed for your lack of suitable employment. Maybe calling her office and flooding her email with your complaints is your idea of a proactive job search, but it isn't going to get you anywhere closer to a job than not.

    4. Dear Mr Troll,
      (1) Like I already wrote: you don't know me and hence have no idea of how many job applications I send and where they are sent to.
      (2) Please point me EXACTLY to the place on this blog where I have ever implied that Nelson was somehow responsible for my own circumstances.
      (3) When I wrote to Nelson, I did so using my real name. Hence that is not trolling. In contrast to you (for example, CJ and I know each others' real names, etc.)
      (4) Now on to your attitude. Your current comments have reflected:
      (i) a profound lack of information about the current job market situation: it is common knowledge that in the past 4-5 years, that ca. 70% of all jobs in the US are secured by personal networking.
      (ii) a clear lack of cognitive abilities, as demonstrated by your factually incorrect accusations (see (2)).

    5. More than a few times you've repeated the above post blaming Donna Nelson for your own predicament, and bragged about how you hounded her office and email until she stopped responding, at which you assume she has broken some sort of electoral promise to you. If that's networking I suggest you reread "What Color is your Parachute".

      As for your obsessiveness and judgmental qualities, you've said before you are looking for an academic position, and you certainly seem to have the personality type for that.

    6. Hi Generic, are you interested in international analytical services positions? I have seen a few thia week. If others are interested, I could forward them to CJ.

  4. The piece about 'gaps in employment history' would be good if only employers actually responded to those kinds of strategies. As it is, they will not hire people with employment gaps - they are too worried about the possible consequences and resulting liability - an absolutely ridiculous position that already has eroded the national economy.

    The solution is to ditch HR and three decades of collected "HR wisdom." Reduce government interference in the free market. Lower taxes and throw out 90% of the tax code (enforcement of which, as it turns out, really is an ongoing socialist conspiracy to bring the US under one-party rule).
    Bring back employment for real people and not paper-pushing government-minded bureaucrats.
    While we're at it, bring back job training and hiring on the basis of general qualities.

    1. Yeah, I snickered a bit when they recommended emphasizing the skills you learned during the gap. "Increasing your medical knowledge" during a prolonged illness.

      If you read a resume that states that someone recently "learned much about the American justice system," "repurposed lavatorial facilities into a fermenter," and "learned how to repurpose cutlery into defensive technology," he or she was probably in prison.

    2. A chance to note one of my favorite jokes:

      "While the brokers were busily calling potential customers to drum up business, the president of the firm stopped to eavesdrop on a new employee. He listened as the young man talked eight consecutive contacts into moving their stock portfolios to him.

      The boss approached the young man and said, "I've been listening in, and I must say I'm impressed with your ability. Where did you learn so much about talking to investors?"

      "Yale, sir," the young man answered.

      Impressed, the boss said, "Oh, that's fine, just fine. And what's your name?"

      "Yim Yackson," he replied."

    3. @ Iron Chemist - You forgot "Defensive hygiene product recovery."

    4. @AnON 232:

      "really is an ongoing socialist conspiracy to bring the US under one-party rule"

      An excellent point that is really not well enough know or appreciated.

      I think it all started with the gubmint began telling folks what their kin needed to be learned to graduate. Clearly No Child Left Behind was the work of the devil designed to weaken the minds of the American populace so we'd all vote for a foreigner with a silver tongue...starts out innocently enough...'closing Guantanamo'.....'net neutrality'....

      THEN, Whammo! the 'Affordable Care Act' which enables the death panels and letting the gays get married....Why just last week my brother's friend's second cousin had to get a divorce from his wife to marry a man cuz that's what the law says.

      Sorry, could not resist. Will not happen again.

    5. Sorry, bud, to break the news to you, but Lois Lerner was caught with her hands dirty, and the agency commissioner and attorneys are under threat of being in contempt of court for noncompliance, with evidence "lost' despite a subpoena and preservation order.

      In your country election tampering is permissible, and even rewarded.

    6. Kennedy and Chicago, 1960?

    7. Plenty of other places on the internet to argue politics.

  5. Some discussion of the article by B.(C.) S. - first a few highlights:

    "...investors around the world now fear that the turmoil may spill into China’s economy..." Sorry, but I read this and couldn't stop laughing - no schadenfreude intended, just if she doesn't think there are wider economic repercussions I want some of what she's smoking. The whole situation is the government's attempt to lay economic subsidy off on the people, who in great numbers bought into this transparent effort in a fashion most unwise. Lest I be accused of some subtle bigotry here, I pre-emptively respond that the US government could be said to have done something very similar with housing earlier this century - and we all know how well that played out.

    "The drive for the creation of this megalopolis is to combine the high-tech and cultural industries of Beijing, the port facilities of Tianjin, and Hebei’s resources to create a powerhouse like we haven’t seen before." We've seen this before, it's a way to keep the economy on life-support while building whole cities with housing for which there is no demand. This time the powers that be appear to have wised up (marginally) and seem to be trying to build this thing where there might be some demand - but make no mistake, this is all about propping up the Chinese economy through a planned building initiative that is perforce doomed to fail.

    The official Japanese response, by the way, was: "あが!!!! ゴジラ です!!!"

    " is concerning that air and water quality do not appear to be high in the agenda for planners." ARRRGHHHH! "..concerning" is not meant to be used like this. Also, this is not a matter of (or for) concern, it's just the way the PRC operates and shouldn't be a surprise to anyone - big "communist" states have a legacy of being extremely hard on their environments and bring this legacy with them when they start pretending they're capitalists.

  6. "But while the number of patents published seems to contradict the perception that China does not have a culture of innovation, it’s only a matter of time until this perception changes." I don't know whether to sigh and admit that numbers trump reality or say, "In a pig's valise." She is careful to say that it is the perception that will change.
    "...but with such output, the Chinese government now taking IP rights more seriously, and a drive to raise the quality of the enterprise..." IP will be taken more seriously but only to the proportion that the PRC becomes a stakeholder in IP rights. Otherwise, it's business as usual, and what's "ours" is already "theirs."

    "... increased scrutiny of manufacturing plants and more and more anticorruption investigations..." These have to be viewed not in terms of increasing the competitiveness of the domestic production environment but rather as useful tools to be employed in intra-Party rivalries and social campaigns - the ends of which have nothing to do with their stated purposes. In case someone thinks I'm dumping on the Chinese, I would also opine that the US has analogues and that neither the BLM nor the IRS operate for the purposes for which they are ostensibly intended - similarly the "safety" campaign against Toyota had very little to do with its ostensible rationale.

    "...this gap in the number of patents is going to get larger and larger." I see that B. (C.) S. is from "the trend is your friend" school of analysis, and there is little consideration for the quality of said patents.
    On the broader issue of the "quantity/quality divide" I'd opine that comparison on the basis of patent returns would be difficult, if not highly speculative and/or nonsensical, because there is no comparable Chinese historical record with which to compare US patents' performance. Patent substance (including, as B.(C.)S. rightly points out, patent area) would be one characteristic to consider. I'd argue that a patent's value is in some way related to its defensibility as well as its utility and related returns and how broadly/narrowly it's structured. The difficulty is compounded when said defensibility may relate more strongly to pragmatic than intellectual concerns, such as what resources are available to defend the patent or where the arbiter is located relative to the patent - and I suspect here, the CCP may frequently have final jurisdiction despite the merits of its cases.

    1. Interesting, relevant, and mercifully brief article here: