Reviews in Angewandte Chemie: Influence, Language, Competition

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When I joined the German Chemical Society (GDCh, Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker) as a student member in the fall of 1974, I took out a personal subscription to Angewandte Chemie, as did many of my fellow students at the University of Heidelberg. I received the first issue at the beginning of October, and in the second October issue I already found a review that influenced me significantly in the orientation of my research interests and which I still often cite and recommend today, namely, the progress report by R. H. Martin on “The Helicenes”, elegantly translated into German by F. Vögtle, who was a young professor in Würzburg at the time. I am sure that many share my experience, and that reviews in Angewandte Chemie have fascinated them and shaped their development to an unusual extent since the beginning of their academic careers.

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Angewandte Chemie is not only the flagship of the GDCh journals, but of chemistry journals worldwide. In the more than thirty years that I have been reading the journal, its appearance has been transformed significantly; a number of changes, such as the introduction of the coveted cover picture and the tantalizing graphical table-of-contents entries, led the way for many other journals. Despite the changes and adjustments to the details, the highly successful combination of Reviews and Communications, which is unique among chemistry journals, has been preserved in essence. The need for the rapid communication of information has been met through weekly publication, and the popular “Highlights” have joined the Reviews and Minireviews. In a broader sense, the Essays also fall into this category, so that the status of the reviews in Angewandte Chemie has, if anything, increased.1

Figure 1.

The cover pictures of the most popular Reviews of 2004 …

Indeed, reviews are of particular importance in our highly interdisciplinary, rapidly developing scientific world. Besides high scientific quality, one of the main requirements of a review for Angewandte Chemie is that the content can be “digested” by as many readers as possible and doesn't only interest specialists. If these criteria are fulfilled, a review is almost unbeatable in the function of the rapid transmission of knowledge beyond subject boundaries.

The reviews in Angewandte Chemie are also unique in that they appear in both German and English. Admittedly the task of translating a review takes time, if one undertakes it oneself, and can be somewhat laborious. However, other authors of reviews certainly share my experience that both versions benefit significantly from this exercise. The act of translating forces one to reconsider definitions and formulations in the original version (whether English or German) in terms of clarity and precision, which leads to the revision and improvement of the language and content of both versions. In this way, the result is a better review in both German and English.

It is discussed every year in Editorial Board meetings of Angewandte Chemie whether the German Edition should be maintained alongside the International Edition. The recommendation is a clear “yes” each time, as the German edition makes a valuable contribution to the preservation and further development of the German language in chemical research and teaching. Another reason for its importance is that it is one of the few remaining places where it is possible to publish in German; even funding applications are often submitted in English. This influence of the German Edition, and in particular of the reviews, is not only of importance for the academic and industrial world, but also helps make it possible to teach modern chemistry in German at high schools and other educational establishments. From my own experience, I know that it is easier for students from German-speaking countries to first use the German version to become accustomed to reading Angewandte Chemie and the general chemical literature regularly.

Therefore, it was an apt and useful initiative taken in 2003 for the first time by the GDCh to ask about 200 people from the German-speaking readership of Angewandte Chemie to act as a jury and select the best reviews of the year. Everyone benefits from this initiative: the authors, whose reviews are recognized, the GDCh, who with Angewandte Chemie delivers the forum for the reviews, and the readers, who via the selected jury play an active part in the scientific publication process with their judgment. Furthermore, the jurors participate in a draw with attractive prizes to the value of almost 13 000 Euro. The main winners are the student members of the GDCh, who are given a complementary copy of the special issue of Angewandte Chemie with the twelve reviews that received the most votes.

Those allowed to vote in the review selection in 2004 were: a) lecturers at four German tertiary institutions with full chemistry programs selected at random (the universities of Bremen, Frankfurt, Jena, and Karlsruhe); b) 40 principal authors of scientific publications in the previous 12 months; these authors from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland were selected at random, with authors of reviews excluded; and c) 20 chemists in industry, who were selected at random from the referee database of Angewandte Chemie. As the reviews are directed above all at students, the jurors were encouraged in the invitation letter to involve their research group (university jurors) and young colleagues (industry jurors) in the nomination.

The results are shown in Table 1.2 The selection is representative of the diversity of the topics covered in Angewandte Chemie: The theoretical treatments of gold clusters described by P. Pyykkö and physical chemical models for enzyme–ligand interactions of D. H. Williams et al. appear next to I. Krossing and I. Raabe's description of salts with noncoordinating anions and reviews with a focus on preparative organic chemistry by T. Mukaiyama as well as P. I. Dalko and L. Moisan. Natural products are represented with the story of the total synthesis of colchicine by H.-G. Schmalz and T. Graening, and the review by B. Hauer and colleagues offers insight into modern industrial synthetic processes. The popularity of instrumental methods is recognizable from the fact that C. O. Kappe's review on heating with microwaves occupies first place, and S. W. Homans's report on the application of NMR spectroscopy in drug design is likewise high on the list. D. R. Liu and X. Li build a bridge to biochemistry with their description of DNA-supported organic syntheses, and as is the case in the articles by I. Willner and E. Katz on hybrids formed from biomolecules and nanoparticles and by N. Budisa on the engineering of the genetic code, two conceivably distinct subdisciplines are covered. It is precisely these interdisciplinary topics that show that chemistry is no longer limited to core fields—themselves far from exhausted—such as inorganic and organic synthesis, but is developing in cooperation with neighboring disciplines. The review selection presented in Table 1 reflects this development, as such reviews with topical themes deliver new stimuli and are particularly valued by readers.

Figure 2.

… express the diversity of the topics.

Table 1. The twelve “best reviews of 2004”; correspondence authors are marked with a star.
RankAuthorsTitle
1C. O. Kappe*Controlled Microwave Heating in Modern Organic Synthesis
2T. Mukaiyama*Explorations into New Reaction Chemistry
3E. Katz, I. Willner*Integrated Nanoparticle–Biomolecule Hybrid Systems: Synthesis, Properties, and Applications
4P. I. Dalko*, L. MoisanIn the Golden Age of Organocatalysis
 T. Graening, H.-G. Schmalz*Total Syntheses of Colchicine in Comparison: A Journey through 50 Years of Synthetic Organic Chemistry
6N. Budisa*Prolegomena to Future Experimental Efforts on Genetic Code Engineering by Expanding Its Amino Acid Repertoire
7S. W. Homans*NMR Spectroscopy Tools for Structure-Aided Drug Design
 X. Li, D. R. Liu*DNA-Templated Organic Synthesis: Nature's Strategy for Controlling Chemical Reactivity Applied to Synthetic Molecules
 I. Krossing*, I. RaabeNoncoordinating Anions—Fact or Fiction? A Survey of Likely Candidates
10M. Breuer, K. Ditrich, T. Habicher, B. Hauer*, M. Keßeler, R. Stürmer, T. ZelinskiIndustrial Methods for the Production of Optically Active Intermediates
 P. Pyykkö*Theoretical Chemistry of Gold
 D. H. Williams*, E. Stephens, D. P. O'Brien, M. ZhouUnderstanding Noncovalent Interactions: Ligand Binding Energy and Catalytic Efficiency from Ligand-Induced Reductions in Motion within Receptors and Enzymes

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