There's a type of paper that's showing up often in the major chemistry journals these days, and it's a type that didn't even exist a few years ago. I can't count the number of reports of nanometer-sized structures that have been described recently. Rods, filaments, sheets, cylinders, shells - you name it and someone's got it. That inorganic salt plugging up your filter? Turns out it's not just an annoyance, it's a publishable nanostructure!
On one level you can see why this happens, with all the publicity that nanotechnology has these days. But that's not what most of the papers are really about. No particular use or general principles are suggested, for the most part, just "We found these things, and they look like this." (You can spot these papers quickly in the abstracts at the front of the journals, because they're invariably illustrated with a photomicrograph of the new structure.)
There's a place for that kind of paper, naturally, but are there dozens of places? Some of these things may turn out to be useful, or at least point the way to something useful, but for now they're largely just being described as curiosities, and they're being published because - well, because they can be. Perhaps some of these groups are hoping that someone, someday, will make a breakthrough that makes their paper look ahead of its time.
The techniques to look for these structures have been around for some years, so it's not like we're just now able to see them. It's just that up until recently, no one has cared all that much. I have to wonder what would have happened if someone had submitted a paper to JACS fifteen years ago about, say, scandium salts that form nanoscale helices when precipitated out just so. Would the editors and reviewers have known what to make of it? Or would they have tossed it back, telling the authors to come back when they had more to say?
There's a lot of serious nanotech work being done in chemistry, but this stuff isn't it. I have to think that these papers are going to look a bit strange and dated in coming years, once this stamp-collecting phase passes. When will the editors at the likes of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Organic Chemistry, Organic Letters,and Angewandte Chemiecall a halt?