Collaboration and community at Comms Chem: An interview with editor Dr. François-Xavier Coudert

We asked Dr. François-Xavier Coudert about his experience on the Editorial Board of Communications Chemistry and the journal's community-driven values
Published in Chemistry
Collaboration and community at Comms Chem: An interview with editor Dr. François-Xavier Coudert

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Dr. François-Xavier Coudert

Dr. Coudert is a Researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, France), where his group applies computational chemistry methods to investigate the physical and chemical properties of nanoporous materials. FX has received the Early-Career Researcher award from the French Physical Chemistry division, was named a Distinguished Junior Member of the French Chemical Society, and was awarded the 2018 International Award for Creative Work by the Japan Society of Coordination Chemistry.

Q: What is your current research focused on?

My main research topic is on the interplay between porous materials and fluids confined inside them: how does the confinement affect the behaviour of the liquid inside nanopores, for example — something I can relate with after two long lock-downs. But also how the adsorption of fluid inside the pores can change the structure and properties of the materials, which used to be considered a rather subtle effect but can actually have important consequences, especially in soft porous crystals.

Q: What’s your best experience of being a Communications Chemistry editorial board member so far?

Reading reports from different reviewers on a paper can be an interesting experience, because it will show how the same paper can be read in very different ways by people depending on their background, and their specific focus at the time of reading.

Interacting with the team of in-house editors, and benefitting from their experience in how best to handle papers when I am unsure what the best way forward is.

Q: What does the word 'community' mean to Communications Chemistry?

Beyond any metric (of which I am really not a fan), I would say that successful journals are those that have a clear community, and provide value to that community. It may sound simple, or maybe naïve, but I have many examples of journals that may not be particularly famous, but provide a great service to their community (large or small) and appear like the natural place where you expect a new study to be published. Obviously, this is easier to achieve in a specific subfield community, than to be relevant and useful to all chemists. But I think Communications Chemistry is taking the right steps to do that, and some initiatives reflect it well: trying to highlight the important role of reviewers by selecting a “reviewer of the month”, or commissioning specific pieces in the “Open questions in…” series.

Q: How do you think attitudes to Impact Factor have changed over the last 10 years? 

10 years is almost the age of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), and it is supposed to make people better aware of the limitations of bibliometrics, and using metrics (including impact factors) in inappropriate ways, for example in the evaluation of research outputs or researchers. Many organisations have now signed it, but in practice there are still many abuses of metrics in the academic community.

Q: How do you think multidisciplinarity / interdisciplinarity is increasing (in your field)? How does Communications Chemistry support this?

There is a continuing increase in the size of collaborating teams, and the number of techniques (both experimental and computational) involved in large-scale studies. This includes increased multidisciplinarity, but also diversity of specialisations within the chemistry community itself. This is a great opportunity as it allows to study more complex problems and provide a better understanding of the chemical phenomena at multiple scales. However it can become difficult, as an author, to balance all this and write papers that appeal to (and are readable by) chemists of all backgrounds. And as an editor, it can take some effort to find the right reviewers for a specific paper, with the needed and complementary expertise to assess all aspects of a given work.

Learn more about the impact of Communications Chemistry, including recent peer review metrics, here.

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