Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

ACS: Friends reunited

Even though there are reportedly 14,000 people at this meeting, I’m always amazed at how small the chemistry community can be. I’ve bumped into lots of my ex-colleagues from when I was in industry, and they all have different stories to tell.

Some of these people are working in the pharmaceutical industry, which is having a tough time at the moment. There’s a lot of anxiety about jobs, which seems particularly cruel given that some of these people have only just recovered from being made redundant elsewhere.

Still, big pharma seems to be doing a lot better than agrochemistry. A friend of mine who used to work in that area says that there are very few agrochemistry R&D presentations at this meeting, which basically reflects the state of the industry. Genetically modified crops and lower price margins have taken their toll, and the industry seems to be in real decline.

Finally, some thoughts from a process chemist. He comments that there seems to be no appreciation of environmental concerns in most of the lectures that he’s seen. Green chemistry is a noble thing, but he says that the simplest way of helping the environment would be to phase out certain solvents – such as dichloromethane or benzene. At least one big pharma company will be doing this in the next few years. My friend believes that the top academic chemists should set an example by using more environment-friendly solvents, but they rarely do.

What do you think? Do the big name chemists have a responsibility to be green?

Andy

Andrew Mitchinson (Associate editor, Nature)

Comments

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    Uncle Al said:

    Conservation means somebody else in the future deserves to consume it; and not them, either.

    Have a dried cow patty-burning East Indian tell a Chinese oligarch sipping his freon-cooled beer that adding a gigawatt of coal-fired electrical generation each week is bad for Gaia. The future belongs to those who show up to work. The only American enterprise still guaranteed to result in wealth is tax evasion.