About this Author
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

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Quick E-mail Housekeeping Note | Main | James Watson Likes Us, Anyway »

March 25, 2013

Advertising in the Supplementary Information?

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

Here's a publication concern I'd never come across before. A reader sends word that an ACS journal asked him and his co-authors to remove the names of vendors and manufacturers in their Supporting Information, over concerns that this might be seen as some form of advertising. I think they were specifically thinking of whether the authors might have had academic discounts, etc., that influenced their selection of reagents and equipment.

But while I can see that point, I also think it's important to name suppliers. Any experienced chemist knows that a palladium catalyst from one supplier may well not be the same as one from another supplier, for example (unpaid, unsolicited endorsement: stick with Strem). To pick another issue, HPLC columns come in as many varieties as there are manufacturers - how are you supposed to honestly list your experimental details if you can't say whose columns you used? I don't see how you can have a complete writeup without these details, and I think that this outweighs the concerns about discounts.

My correspondent suggests a compromise: list all the brands, but also state whether any discounts were received. Has anyone else run into this issue?

Comments (19) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. Canadian Chemist on March 25, 2013 7:20 AM writes...

I've had this happened to me by the ACS a few times. Seems to depend on the editor. I agree though, regents/columns from one vendor may not work the same as another. I would rather see the relevant suppliers.

Permalink to Comment

2. will on March 25, 2013 8:07 AM writes...

wait - the acs has something against advertising? i would think mentioning discounts would be more apt to be considered an advertisement then a simple blank statement as to where the sm's and reagents were sourced

Permalink to Comment

3. Pete on March 25, 2013 8:15 AM writes...

What about software? Academic discounts are likely to be an even bigger issue for software than for reagents or equipment.

Permalink to Comment

4. grad student on March 25, 2013 8:27 AM writes...

This is the standard policy for JOC. However, there are some reasonable exceptions. Alternatively, if they've published the relevant information previously, they can cite the General Experimental Methods for that publication.

from the JOC author guide:
"Sources of stationary phases for chromatography and supports for solid-phase synthesis may be
identified. Sources of reactants, reagents, and solvents should not be identified except for(1) starting
compounds that are unusual or not widely available; (2) materials for which the author has reason to
suspect that the source is critical to the outcome of an experiment; and (3) catalysts. In the latter case, any
available purity information should be reported. Experiments involving a catalyst, enzyme, or reagent that
is neither commercially available nor prepared by a described or clearly cited nonproprietary method may
not be reported.

Manufacturers and model names or numbers of spectrometers, chromatographs, polarimeters, X-ray
diffractometers, and other standard laboratory instruments should not be identified. Commercial and
institutional providers of analytical and spectrometric services (or the institutional affiliations of
instrument facilities) should not be named."

Permalink to Comment

5. bad wolf on March 25, 2013 8:45 AM writes...

#4--I got dinged for that recently, but i thought that was for experimental in the body of the paper. Not even in the supplemental data sounds excessive.

Permalink to Comment

6. HBA on March 25, 2013 8:56 AM writes...

I encountered it for my JOC-paper last year, it's actually in their Instructions (not in another ACS journal, except for OL, as far as I know). It allows notification of the commercial source of a catalyst, realizing this is crucial for the outcome of a reaction. For other hardware it is less crucial in many cases, I figure.

Permalink to Comment

7. vinylogous on March 25, 2013 9:08 AM writes...

Is this just a holdover policy from the space-limited pre-electronic-SI days?

Permalink to Comment

8. weirdo on March 25, 2013 11:09 AM writes...

"wait - the acs has something against advertising? "

They're against advertising for which they do not get paid. Like any other commercial enterprise.

Permalink to Comment

9. Shanedorf on March 25, 2013 11:46 AM writes...

"Follow the money" is usually a good place to start when considering these types of rules...

The ACS has its own sponsors for the Annual and Regional shows and those companies pay hefty fee to be promoted at those events and ancillary publications.
Perhaps ACS is getting pressure from some of their sponsors to stop "promoting" the competition in the papers they publish...

Permalink to Comment

10. RM on March 25, 2013 3:55 PM writes...

I'm not sure why stating "we used X from Y" in the methodology would ever be construed as advertising. Assuming it is true, it's a simple statement of fact. I don't even think it matters if you got a discount for the material. It's still a simple statement of fact regarding what happened.

Now, that doesn't mean that the general principle of minimizing irrelevant details in methodologies doesn't apply. If it's highly unlikely to affect the outcome, don't mention it. But generally you should err on the side of giving too much information, rather than too little, especially in SI.

If there were explicit arrangements which are selling placement in the method (e.g. if you get a discount under the condition you explicitly mention the provider in the methods), that shouldn't be allowed. As are issues where the authors have financial interests in the companies supplying the reagents - but the latter is an issue for the conflict of interest statement, rather than the methodology. You don't avoid the issue by simply omitting the name of the (only/major) manufacturer of that particular critical reagent.

Permalink to Comment

11. Anonymous on March 25, 2013 3:59 PM writes...

Won't be needing supplemental methods at this rate.

Ran the solution through a column, collected in some tubes at the end. End of story.

Permalink to Comment

12. Moses on March 25, 2013 4:17 PM writes...

That's an interesting attitude.
I worked for a text-mining software company recently, which was investigating a means of extracting key terms from the Materials & Methods sections of online journals, in order to automatically populate the screen with advertisements for relevant products and services. It's analogous to Google Adwords, but specifically for this domain. This was in conjuntion with a major STM publisher.
In the event, the publisher didn't take the idea further at that time, but I'm sure it will come

Permalink to Comment

13. Anonymous on March 25, 2013 6:39 PM writes...

There are few greater insults to my experimentalist personality than "I couldn't reproduce your results. I don't believe you." And if ACS journals won't let me say where I buy my NMR solvents, but so-and-so can't reproduce my purity because their acidic chloroform chews up the material, I don't want my reputation to suffer. There are other journals I can publish in. Didn't the lack of reproducible proceedures lead many to shift from publishing in Tetrahedron Letters to Org Lett?

Permalink to Comment

14. WB on March 25, 2013 9:15 PM writes...

When my team and I do our experimental section, we always list the source of reagents so that someone may reproduce the work. Oftentimes your source of Pd2(dba3 matters a LOT (and yes, I get good results with Strem but poor results with the other brands). If an editor were to ask me to redact the supplier names, I would definitely defend the right to include the names for the sake of reproducibility. Some engineers have even suggested including chemical batch numbers.

Permalink to Comment

15. John Wayne on March 26, 2013 8:14 AM writes...

Wow, I totally disagree with this. Listing where you got your equipment and chemicals isn't advertising, it is critical to the reproducibility of chemistry. Heck, different NMR software interprets things a bit different; that information could be used to find errors in a work.

As a reviewer, I have asked people to take vendor information from the main body of a paper into the supplemental information section.

Permalink to Comment

16. InfMP on March 26, 2013 11:39 AM writes...

I wrote a J. Org. Chem. in November and they insisted that i remove all vendors for all chemicals and all brands from equipment and not even mention what analytical equipment was used. They didn't say why. Also, they were so picky on my word count for SI that I had to completely ditch the general methods and other details that would be useful.

All the chemicals were all from weird suppliers and are likely not even prepared in the literature, so it's hugely annoying for anyone who might wonder where i got my chemicals to start with.

Permalink to Comment

17. A. Postdoc on March 26, 2013 12:07 PM writes...

I've quit submitting my papers to at least one ACS journal. Both the editor and senior author on the paper were on the board of a company whose products they used and promoted in the paper. In my review, I said unacceptable for publication without a proper conflict of interest statement from the last author and the editor. Neither was added, nor were my other concerns addressed, the paper was published as is.

Permalink to Comment

18. xyz on March 26, 2013 12:20 PM writes...

Yhey first force you to write them till the end and now erase all, this is an order! ACS please stop spamming my mailbox and inbox! That would be a nicer start.

I am quite happy that I am almost done with this weird chemical synthesis world, at least for a while and happily I would do anything else than trying to cope with so called "perfectionists":D in organic chemistry.

Permalink to Comment

19. Quinoline on March 27, 2013 11:44 AM writes...

You NEED the manufacturer for metal catalysts. And for other reagents - how else can you be sure about the trace metal content if it's ever needed?

3rded support for Strem Pd catalysts.

Permalink to Comment


Remember Me?


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry