Incorporating Green Chemistry Concepts into Mobile Chemistry Applications and Their Potential Uses

acssce_v001i001.inddJanuary begins very nicely with a collaborative paper (with Alex Clark and Antony Williams) on green chemistry in mobile apps being published in the very first issue of ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. Even better, it appears to be freely accessible (!), is mentioned on the cover (see image) and is currently top of the download list. So please feel free to go and read it and of course get the free apps highlighted.

Now perhaps it is worthwhile noting that like many manuscripts we submitted last year there is a bit of a story and lesson about publishing behind it. To begin with the paper focusses primarily on the Green Solvents app and also mentions Yield101, ODDT and Lab Solvents and the green chemistry features these possess. I have blogged a few times about why on earth I got involved in green chemistry and how we made use of the efforts of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable (ACS GCIPR).

So you would think that with all the interest in green chemistry the natural place to put the paper would have been the RSC’s Green Chemistry..We tried by submitting a manuscript on the 13th Feb 2012. We waited until July 5th to hear the following:

Reviewer(s)’ Comments to Author:
Referee: 1
Comments to the Author
Sadly I do not feel that publication in Green Chem is warranted, although personally I think the app is good, I downloaded it and had a look around it, I do not believe that the acceptance of this article would achieve any impact.  I fear that the readership of GC is already aware of solvent selection metrics, perhaps a more general article in Chemistry World would be more appropriate.

Referee: 2
Comments to the Author
This manuscript describes a mobile App for iPhones and iPads. Whereas the  app is useful, modern, and would attract young users and other tech  savvy users it is not appropriate to publish this article in a  mainstream scientific journal. The app has advertising and links to other apps that are not free. Hence, publication of this article would  amount to “free advertising” for those who profit from the ads that are streamed through this app and the other apps that are sold through these links.

The authors may wish to purchase advertising space through this journal’s advertising department or those of other journals to get “the word out” as they indicate as their intent in their cover letter.

I found the quote “..app is useful, modern, and would attract young users”  quite interesting. I am 42, my co-authors are probably of a similar age give or take a few years +/-..what age are Green Chemistry reviewers, 70 – 80 (with respect)? Also the reference to purchasing advertising was quite funny considering the app has a small banner add at the top and the app itself is free. The reviewers are entitled to their opinion. Who knows maybe there was a bit of ACS vs RSC envy going on there but we present the data in the app in a very neutral way and have no endorsement from ACS. Even one of our authors is an RSC employee..but to no avail. We did get to put a small blog out on the RSC Green Chemistry Blog as a consolation.

So our next step was to make use of a recent paper from GSK on their solvent selection guide and use the solvents as a test set for Tanimoto similarity calculation and a rather crude prediction of likely health and waste classifications. This served to give the  manuscript more utility. We also went into more depth about green chemistry utilities in other mobile apps.  This greatly updated manuscript was submitted to the new journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering on the 13th July.  We had reviewer comments by Nov 21st which were addressed..and the manuscript accepted on the 27th Nov 2012.

What we learnt – both Journals had long review times for our article (~4.5 months )- not fast turnaround. Perhaps this is because there are few people able to review papers that address mobile apps and in the latter case a very new journal..However ~5000 people have downloaded Green Solvents for iOS alone and we expect that the Android version will catch up..so that has to represent a good number of potential reviewers.

Maybe what is needed is a journal for scientific mobile apps, in which developers can publish information of what the app does, how they created it and its potential uses. A website like scimobileapps.com get you part the way there..but I could imagine some publisher developing a “Journal of Scientific Mobile Apps”.

Of course its certainly worth all the effort to see something like this published and it makes sense for the ACS to give it a wide viewership as the data initially is very useful and ACS GCIPR really have not put anything out to increase its visibility. I know we have done the work for them for free because its such low hanging fruit, Alex is keen to do more projects on Green Chemistry – would anyone fund them or sponsor such apps? This paper is a stepping stone to getting chemists to realize that their phone can be useful in their job too with apps that help them pick better solvents for the environment..that is definitely something that should be published- take note RSC Green Chemistry.




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