The article ’Making Light Work’ (Chemistry World, April 2012, p52) coincided with an alarming Daily Telegraph article relating the near-catastrophic increase in antibiotic resistance due to misuse by the NHS and in agriculture. It seems that big pharma is no longer interested in infection control for two reasons:

  1. Any new antibiotic will quickly become ineffective due to acquired resistance.
  2. They can make more money with continuous-use drugs to treat obesity, cholesterol and blood pressure than they can make on a 10-day course of antibiotics.

It is no great surprise that they are not interested in the potential of photodynamic therapy (PDT). The argument that they are not engineers is very negative, as in other fields of chemistry, such as cleaning and disinfection of food manufacturing equipment, it is routine for the chemical company to supply and service the dispensing equipment.

PDT is too good an opportunity to waste and there is a moral case for its commercialisation. I wonder if the experts in PDT would consider forming a cooperative organisation whereby professional scientists bought small shareholdings in the venture. I for one would be very happy to contribute a modest percentage of my pension.

M Barrett MRSC
Tewkesbury, UK


I would like to offer my support to Michael Welch in his letter asking for clarity and regularity in grant applications (Chemistry World, April 2012, p44). In the 1980s, I led a small team from the British Plastics Federation called the polymer engineering group. Among our tasks were the review of research projects in the polymer engineering ‹ield and the development of new joint research projects funded by the Science and Engineering Research Council and industry. Our team was often amazed to ‹ind that such clever academics seemed unable to present clear research proposals in a form that would convince peer group committees or potential industrial partners. They appear to understand ‘peer groups’ as those who must or should understand their work so that clear simple explanations were unnecessary. They also failed to understand that peer group members were often busy with their own research and did not wish to spend time hunting for the wheat amongst the chaff. It seemed to us that each research department should include one non-expert whose task was to demand draft proposals they, the non-expert, could understand before the draft left the building. In passing, I should express my gratitude to the many eminent scientists who were willing to listen to our non-specialist team.

J Baldwin CChem MRSC
Darlington, UK


Integrity is to the fore in Chemistry World with the comments by Maura Hiney and James Parry (Chemistry World, April 2012, p42–43), but these contributions rather miss the point, it seems to me. After decades studying research papers in structural molecular biolo¡y to support my own researches, I have not detected fraud or other misconduct (perhaps I’m blind to it). What I have found is a high proportion of ‘research’ papers that are really at technician level, that is, results are reported without any effort to place them in a scienti‹ic model, context or theory. Promotion in science is largely through research and by recommendation from heads of team, not, for example, through excellence of teaching. However trivial the research results (and many are trivial), research ‘counts’ and teaching does not.

Another problem is that few scientists understand the nature of empirical truth and many still consider that they have been ‘proving’ various propositions. Virtually no scientists, anywhere in their training, are exposed to studies of the philosophy of truth and of science and hardly understand what is meant by such concepts, even though such ideas are central to the meaning of their lives’ work.

One way to raise the intellectual standard and integrity of research papers, is to consider questions such as these explicitly at the end of research papers:

  1. What are the de‹iciencies in the work I am reporting?
  2. How could the value of my results be improved?
  3. If the theoretical construct I am using were inapplicable, what else might account for my results?

Answers to these questions, though painful, would rapidly raise the value of the corpus scientia.

C Delmonte FRSC
Norfolk, UK


I read Derek Lowe’s column every month and normally enjoy his observations on the world of medicinal chemistry, but his article ‘The usual suspects’ (Chemistry World, March 2012, p22) cannot go unchallenged.

He states: ‘There’s cisplatin for the entire set of metals, and that’s about that.’ Has he never heard of anaemia and drugs such as ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate which contain Fe2+ as the active ion?

He further states that phosphorus is in big osteoporosis drugs, but fails to mention the important anticancer agent, cyclophosphamide, which most certainly contains a P atom. He also neglects boric acid in eye drops (the only acid you can safely put in your eye).

Sorry Derek. This piece isn’t up to your usual high standard.

D Cairns CChem FRSC
Robert Gordon University, UK


Perhaps I’m being rather old-fashioned in this modern ‘global economy’, but an outsider might ask if it is reasonable for a relatively rich country like ours to ‘import’ talent from poorer countries who have educated their scholars to university level, at some expense, only to see them being actively encouraged to go elsewhere. It also suggests we are not making a sufficiently good job of producing our own talent.

J Davis FRSC
Hertfordshire, UK