Guest Post: “#Chemclub” by Andrew Bissette

Last month’s guest re-post from Andrew Bissette generated quite the great conversation. So we’re excited to share an original post from Andrew today. We asked him to talk about #chemclub, the online community he co-founded, how it complements other communities like #RealTimeChem, and about what’s in store for #chemclub next.

What’s it like to be a chemist?

Regular C&EN readers hopefully got a good idea from Carmen Drahl’s great article about #RealTimeChem. This growing project, led primarily by Jason Woolford, encourages chemists to share their lives, whether by blogging about it, or taking photos, or even remixing it with some dubstep.

#RealTimeChem Week took place in the last week of April. For one week, chemists from across the world blogged and tweeted intensively about their work and lives. This was a great chance to meet other chemists and hopefully to show the human face of chemistry to the outside world. Perhaps in the popular imagination we all wear labcoats and handle beakers of dry ice, but in reality we are diverse. Even within a particular field, two chemists will have very different labs and lives. #RealTimeChem is a fantastic way to showcase that diversity.

However, diversity has a downside. It is so easy to get absorbed in the details of your own narrow field that keeping up with even closely-related areas can be challenging. What’s worse is that this can be a vicious cycle: the less you know about a subject, the harder it is to keep abreast of things and to identify the really promising new findings.

Since reading as widely and thoughtfully as possible will always be essential, several aids for this purpose have appeared. For example, some reference managers suggest new papers, and journals regularly highlight important publications. My preferred solution is to ask a friend.

That’s why I started #chemclub.

We chemists are lucky to have a strong and enthusiastic online community, as #RealTimeChem week demonstrated. We’re a diverse lot, including everyone from undergraduates to professors, from a range of specialities. Being chemists, naturally every single one of these people is a shining beacon of genius.

#chemclub aims to draw on that collective wisdom. First and foremost we ask people to highlight the papers they’re reading. It’s very simple: anyone can post papers to Twitter with the hashtag #chemclub for public discussion, and every week I round up a selection on my blog, Behind NMR Lines.

The idea of #chemclub is to complement your reading with some papers you might otherwise have skipped, giving you an appreciation for new developments in other fields. Hopefully this will make it that little bit easier to build up a broad knowledge from across chemistry.

To this end we’re expanding #chemclub beyond just the hashtag. The first baby step is to include blogs in the regular round-up; there are plenty of great chemistry blogs out there, and many discuss recent papers in some detail. We’ll be focusing on those that offer context which the casual reader might miss.

Long-term, we’re looking at other ways to help chemists. Our next big thing will be #chemclub reviews: short, coffee-break reviews aimed at giving the reader a quick overview of a subject. Naturally these will lack the gory detail of an academic review, but hopefully will benefit your own reading by providing easily-digestible context and from someone who knows the subject intimately.

Ultimately, #chemclub is much like #RealTimeChem: it’s about community. We’re slowly building an online, ongoing literature meeting that users can dip in and out of, helping chemists to stay current with the literature, meet others from across the world, and broaden their knowledge.

Get involved by posting to the #chemclub hashtag on Twitter.

Author: Carmen Drahl

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6 Comments

  1. Andrew- thanks so much for this guest post. I find it really neat to watch all the various chemistry online communities take root, interact with others, etc. I would love to see more interaction of these communities with other strong sci-web communities, like #sciox or #reachingoutsci . I am a pessimist, but sometimes I feel like cross-talk tends to kick off more under negative circumstances (plaigiarism, fraud, accidents, etc).

  2. Hi Andrew,
    I love the idea of #chemclub and #chemclub reviews. I was a long time member of a book group (fiction) and always thought a reading group made up of scientists would be great fun. If the group helps sort through the tsunami of published research, that would be incredibly useful. Maybe they could nominate a “journal article of the week” from the different branches of chemistry. I wonder how high the opionion dial will go on the commentary.

  3. I love the idea of #chemclub, although it undoubtedly increases my time-management concerns related to Twitter. :) I went back to look at your past round ups, Andrew, and appreciated the pointer to the PNAS commentary about using the correct buffer when trying to reproduce results!

  4. #chemclub seems like a great challenge – Can you get to the heart of a paper in less than 140 characters? I’m tempted to try it with what I write about each week.

  5. Andrew – Thanks for starting #chemclub and for sharing your vision for its near term future. When one is immersed in a particular area of research, it’s far too easy to have tunnel vision and miss a lot of interesting research in other areas. Moreover, it can sometimes be difficult to gauge what research is important or interesting outside of your area of expertise. The #chemclub community is a great way for chemists to share what they’ve found in the scientific literature with other chemists, across all disciplines.

  6. Hi all, thanks for your kind comments. I’m glad that #chemclub has proven useful to you!

    Melody – that is a good idea. I’ve talked about something similar with various people over the past two months – the idea being to pick apart a particular paper each week in real depth. This seems to be a fairly regular thing on the chemistry blogs as it is (I really like BRSM’s ‘Woodward Wednesdays’ for this), so for now I’m just linking to those, but it’s definitely on my mind for the future.

    Bethany – Twitter’s a surprisingly good way to learn to write concisely. I’ll keep an eye out for your 140-character reviews.