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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 24, 2012

Too Many Med Chem Journals?

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Posted by Derek

The recent discussions on awful molecules in the med-chem literature got me to thinking the other day. There are many more med-chem journals now than there used to be. Back in the day, you had the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, and that was that. Then in the early 1990s came Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry and Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters. Now we've got ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters and MedChemComm and ChemMedChem, among others. (And as we were seeing the other day, there are levels and levels as you move down, ranging from obscure-but-respectable, to just plain obscure, all the way to disreputable crap).

This at a time when industrial medicinal chemistry has been getting cut back. Now, on the other side of the ledger, you have all the folks who are cleaning out the file cabinets for publishable material to have on their C.V.s (and don't think that's not a real force). But in general, I have to wonder if the amount of medicinal chemistry being published from industry hasn't been going down.

Here, then is the question: is there enough decent medicinal chemistry being done to usefully fill all the pages of all these journals? My answer, as you might guess, is "Probably not". But I'd welcome other opinions.

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. njord on October 24, 2012 11:52 AM writes...

my answer would be... probably not.

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2. NJBiologist on October 24, 2012 11:58 AM writes...

You're not alone, though--at one time or another, the journal Brain Research has been surrounded by these sister publications:

Brain research. Brain research protocols
Brain research. Brain research reviews
Brain research bulletin
Brain research. Cognitive brain research
Brain research. Developmental brain research
Brain research. Gene expression patterns
Brain research. Molecular brain research
Brain research protocols
Brain research reviews

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3. Mike on October 24, 2012 12:22 PM writes...

I suspect that there is more than enough good medicinal chemistry research being done to fill all those journals, but quite a bit of that research will not get published for various reasons. For every laid-off researcher writing up some of their work to flesh out their CVs, there are other employed researchers who simply don't have the time (or managerial support, or law department acquiescence, or whatever...) to get their good work into print.

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4. Richard Apodaca on October 24, 2012 12:31 PM writes...

I see nothing wrong with the number of medicinal chemistry journals.

The problem is that journal publishers remain addicted to the broken business model from days of yore when research was published on dead trees.

Researchers have a clear choice:

1) Hide their heads in the sand a pretend that the scientific publishing industry is somehow immune to what's happening to newspapers.

2) Begin publishing in open access journals or directly publishing to the web.

Only one option ensures that hard-won results in medicinal chemistry continue to be available for the next generation of scientists.

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5. Dennis on October 24, 2012 12:32 PM writes...

Dumb question from an academic: What's the usual lag time between the work being done and being published in industrial settings?

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6. newnickname on October 24, 2012 12:54 PM writes...

For the most part, I think that there are too many journals and not enough good material to fill them. At least there are far too many for me to cover in any reasonable way anymore. The good stuff is spread out in an increasing number of "top" journals (so I have to cover more of them) but some gems do show up in an increasing number of "low" journals (so I have to cover more of them). Abstracts and indexes (CAS, ISI, Scopus, etc) are not a replacement for reading the primary literature.

For all of that, there are some defunct journals that I wish would return: Bring Back Worm Runner's Digest!

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7. Anonymous on October 24, 2012 1:00 PM writes...

Since when was quality work a criteria for these publishing houses? If they can make money off of crap, they will. And they do (including the "high tier" journals like JMC).

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8. CMCguy on October 24, 2012 1:44 PM writes...

My response is seemingly "never was" as opening JMedChem wishing for at least a couple worthwhile papers then majority of time being disappointed. Part of that was, to #5 Dennis query, it frequently due to Patents and other confidentially issues so what was there was relatively old area/compounds(5-10 years lag) where likely known already, mundane or ceaseless flavor-of-the year chemistry, or was obviously a dead end project (CV fodder as Derek suggests).

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9. Sumo on October 24, 2012 2:20 PM writes...

In twenty years the concept of a formal 'chemical journal' whose proceeds use public money to fund the lavish gold plated toilette lifestyle of its publishers will seem absurd.

Every chemistry department will have its own 'journal'.

The reviewers will come from a pool of accepted 'reviewers'. Since they're doing away with print journals (for mercenary capitalist reasons that will ultimately make science less accessible),
this is the natural endpoint.

Bye bye paper = digital = anyone can do it.

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10. Helical_Investor on October 24, 2012 2:55 PM writes...

is there enough decent medicinal chemistry being done to usefully fill all the pages of all these journals?

So, what you are saying is there is still room for the 'Journal of Indecent Medical Chemistry'? No Lipinski qualified structures need apply.

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11. DrSnowboard on October 24, 2012 3:19 PM writes...

@10 How about just setting up the Journal of Outliers? Or the Journal of Non-druglike Drugs?

Might be pretty thick tomes, depending on the editorial policy...

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12. marklar on October 24, 2012 3:36 PM writes...

Based on the manuscripts that I receive to review for JMC, I would have to agree and also say 'no' to Derek's question. Perhaps there's an opportunity to make an official journal for this stuff and call it Journal of Crappy Medicinal Chemistry and get rid of the back-alley journals that Derek has already highlighted.

As far as this comment: " out the file cabinets for publishable material to have on their C.V.s..." The problem is that nobody cares about pubs, at least if you are looking (or will soon be looking) for another med chem job in industry. There's already a laundry list of med chemists out there that cannot find a job and have 15, 20, 30+ pubs. Perhaps it's different if you are looking for a position in academia.
If you have been lucky enough, I mean 'smart' enough, to advance candidates into the clinic, then your chances are much better in industry. This, of course, assumes that a company would even want a seasoned med chemist when the current attraction (as limited as it might be) is for fresh grads & postdocs.

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13. John Wayne on October 24, 2012 4:15 PM writes...

@5: In my observation, 2 to 4 years; occasionally longer

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14. Curryworks on October 24, 2012 7:46 PM writes...

As a grad student I do not find the proliferation of Journals useful or interesting. Essentially with ACS I have been consistently able to find the manuscripts I need in an orderly fashion. Taking the open access argument and every one with their own Journal to its end you get blog posting of cats in labs doing chemistry. Impact factors matter as a convenient method to screen out the limited amount of time I have vs number of manuscripts to read.

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15. Rock on October 24, 2012 10:45 PM writes...

I would only change your "probably" to "absolutely" not. But the same goes for other areas of chemistry as well as other disciplines. I would argue we could lose 75% of all the published literature and not miss it one bit. How many times have you seen one body of work split into two, three, or four papers? It has all gotten very much out of hand. Keeping up with my RSS feeds is becoming a losing battle....

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16. overthetop on October 25, 2012 12:58 PM writes...

@5- Years. Basically when a project has either been candidate selected and is in at least PhI, or after a project has been shelved. Either way, the first question I ask myself when I see a pharma paper is: "I wonder when this program ended?" or "I wonder how far along and how good are the current backup compounds?"

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17. another_one on October 26, 2012 12:22 PM writes...

Case closed.

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18. Dr Dr Doom on October 27, 2012 3:37 PM writes...

Well in the old days advancement at Merck was based on publications so those guys published loads. They also tended to have hordes of competing chemist on projects so they could stay ahead of the rest by force of numbers even when they were publishing on active projects. But on the whole most other companies only published the dead stuff. Journals also only had themselves to blame - few of us in industry were ever going to work to the standard necessary for full papers e.g combustion analysis so short letters became the order of the day with a book chapter to summarise your discovery if you made it to market. What I've always found hard to understand though is how poorly academia seems to grasp the drug discovery process - they are after all the ones who produce the majority of the real dross in these journals.

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19. Johnston on October 30, 2012 10:10 PM writes...

Can anyone here comment on the Future Med Chem journal and other titles from Future? Is it worth reading/subscribing to? Thanks.

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20. Dr Dave on January 22, 2014 8:06 AM writes...

I read Future Med Chem, they have a lot of quality papers and seem focused on the hot areas.

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