Here’s a brilliant example of scientists at a chemistry blog providing instant high-quality peer review of an odd paper – complete with live-blogged experimenting.
Spotting a surprising claim in a paper published by the respected Journal of the American Chemical Society (X. Wang et al, J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja904224y), an organic chemist flagged it with a terse “WTF is going on here?” in the comments thread of an unrelated post at widely-visited chemistry blog, Totally Synthetic.
WTF indeed. The paper claimed that sodium hydride, a strong reducing agent, was acting as an oxidant – converting an alcohol to a ketone.
Less than 24 hours after that alert had appeared online, blog-savvy chemists had repeated the paper’s experiment, and shown that the authors had their reaction right but their mechanism mistaken: some other oxidant (probably trace amounts of oxygen in air) was doing the work. Totally Synthetic’s author, medicinal chemist Paul Docherty, live-blogged his own experiment to kick off the fun.
“This is perhaps the first time that such a ‘web2.0’ approach to chemistry has occurred, and I’m indebted to my readers for their effort!” Docherty tells Chemistry World.