Tag Archives: NMR chemical shift

Copy Editors Redefine Standard Units During the Proofing Process

I write a lot of publications, averaging about one peer-reviewed publication or book chapter per month. I have published with a number of publishers including my employer (Royal Society of Chemistry), with Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, ACS and many others. The experience with each publisher is different but, generally, pleasant, and high quality. However, once in awhile the experience is “interesting”. I especially have had some very interesting peer-review “experiences”. But that is not the point ot this post. This post is about the other end of the process…paper reviewed, paper accepted and into proofing stage.

Last month Sean Ekins and I had a paper accepted and we listed in the paper some physicochemical parameters. These included logP, pKa, Lipinski parameters and Polar Surface Area, commonly known as PSA. When we got the paper back for proofing PSA had been replaced by “Prostate Specific Antigen“. It was a good catch on Sean’s part as first proofreader to spot it! How would that happen? One has to imagine a set of scripts that are searching for abbreviations and doing a find and replace. For PSA clearly context matters. For most biology papers the prostate specific antigen conversion for PSA might make sense. It doesn’t really make sense for chemistry and QSAR modeling. So, it’s all about context.

We recently submitted an article in relation to our work on Computer Assisted Structure Elucidation. This is at a time when our book on CASE is about to go to the printers! This is one of our most interesting applications of ACD/Structure Elucidator and will be discussed in more detail when the paper is published. The paper is going to be published with Wiley’s Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry. MRC is my favorite NMR journal by far and I am always happy to publish there! After all these years I was shocked when the feedback from the copy-editors for our paper said…

The copy-editor was suggesting that we changing all instances of PPM for chemical shift to mg/g. Excuse me, but reout usually? Are you serious. First of all PPM is THE defined unit for chemical shift. Did IUPAC change it without us knowing? PPM is a dimensionless unit, based on Hz/MHz, thus the 1oE-6  dependence. Even if it was in terms of Gauss (another interpretation of the mg/G) it should be microGauss/Gauss, so mcg/G.

Anyway, it makes no sense right? Surely it is just an oversight, just a one off? Unfortunately no…this entire paper HAS been published with every PPM reference to chemical shift changed into mg/g. How did that happen? We have to imagine a search and replace replacement, acceptance of the “house style” by the author and no oversight by the editor post-proofing. The result, chemical shifts are now quoted in milligrams/gram. Terrific! Surely a context issue of some type…but truth be told, I am not sure for what!

Is this a side effect of non-skilled copy-editors? A result of off-shoring? Whatever the reason it is wrong..unless IUPAC truly decided on a new standard????! NOT….


Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Quality and Content