The Sceptical Chymist | Blogroll: Chemistry in crowds

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Editor’s note: As we continue to invite bloggers out there in the wild to compose our monthly Blogroll column, Mark Lorch penned the May 2013 column.


Are bloggers the new peer reviewers?

Back in January a chemistry blog with a difference popped into being. Blog Syn is more than the usual opinion, analysis and amusing Twitter memes (try Magdeline Lum‘s account of #dangerous5 for a good version of that). Instead, this new blog has the laudable aim of using crowdsourcing to reproduce chemists’ published results.

The third reaction tackled by Blog Syn, with posts in February and March, is from a 2002 J. Am. Chem. Soc. paper from K. C. Nicolaou’s group. There ensues an interesting series of failures, genuinely helpful dialogue with some of the authors (including Phil Baran and Tamsyn Montagnon) and finally the missing factor is found: water!

Writing at Grand CENtral, Fredrik von Kieseritzky nicely summed up why there is a place for Blog Syn, as he laments the decline in the quality of methods sections of papers and calls for journals to promote experimental procedures from supporting information back into the main text. Moreover, in the wake of Blog Syn’s early success some interesting arguments arose about (pseudo)anonymity in blogging. The point being that Baran’s comments can be easily attributed to him but most of the contributors to Blog Syn remain pseudonymous. Points for and against anonymity were discussed by von Kieseritzky and also Rich Apodaca at Depth-First.

Baran’s encounter with Blog Syn may have made him reconsider his feelings towards bloggers; his lab now hosts The Open Flask. Nevertheless his opening post does start with a quote from one of his colleagues about blogs: “Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few…”.

Written by Mark Lorch, who blogs at

[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is the May 2013 article]

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