Editor’s Desk: Covering the World Today- and Tomorrow

Our editor in chief answers the question from an editorial perspective: Where did 2020 go? (And what's ahead?)

By Bibiana Campos Seijo

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by Bibiana Campos Seijo | Editor-in-Chief and VP of C&EN Media Group | @bibianaCampos


We are nearing the end of the year and I can’t help but wonder: how did that happen? 2020 has flown by and it feels like the whole year has been a slog. 2020 has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a global economic recession like we haven’t seen in decades. Add to that social unrest, and the impact of climate change, which has caused some of the most frequent and vicious fires we’ve ever seen. During a presentation I gave a few weeks ago, I described 2020 as an “annus horribilis”. Would you agree, reader?

In this time, we’ve aimed to cover the impacts of all of this in the scientific community. We’ve written a lot about COVID-19. You can find all these stories in one place – anything from the basic biology of the virus, how disinfectants work, what the economic outlook will be for chemical businesses, to methods for tracking and diagnosing the disease.

C&EN’s extensive and authoritative coverage attracted millions of people to cen.acs.org, causing a spike in traffic that broke all previous records. To put into perspective: in the first 6 months of 2020, cen.acs.org welcomed more visitors than in the whole of 2019. During this period we doubled the number of subscriptions to our weekly non-member newsletter. This coverage also won C&EN an honorable mention for News Coverage in the Association/Non-profit category at the 2020 FOLIO: awards.

The team is looking forward to the day when we can report that a viable vaccine is widely available across the globe. It is impossible to predict when that may be but in the meantime, we are planning a special issue in January 2021 to mark the one year science the pandemic started. It will include a comprehensive timeline of key milestones in the scientific fight against the coronavirus, an analysis of how the pandemic has affected public trust in science, a feature that explores whether the pandemic will bring about radical changes to how drugs and vaccines are tested and approved, and more.

Another important theme brought to the forefront this year was racial discrimination and inequality, which led to many conversations and calls to action across many institutions, especially in the USA. C&EN has strived to be a champion of diversity inside and outside our organization, and in recent months, we have doubled down on our efforts.

Some editorial examples include a recent feature on how historically Black colleges and universities are the most successful at preparing Black students for careers in science, profiles of Black chemists you should know about, and an editorial condemning injustice and affirming our support and solidarity with communities of color. We also asked Black chemists to share their stories, discussed how we all can advocate for more inclusivity in STEM, and recorded a podcast discussing strategies for dismantling systemic racism in science.

We have big plans for 2021, too. To commemorate Black history month, we are going to dedicate our second annual Trailblazers double issue entirely to Black excellence in science. Expect an announcement in coming weeks about the identity of our celebrity guest editor. If the inaugural C&EN Trailblazers issue is anything to go by – when our first-ever guest editor was CRISPR pioneer and winner of the 2020 Nobel prize in Chemistry, Jennifer Doudna – we are in for a treat.

The special COVID-19 and Trailblazers issues are just a couple of examples of what we have coming up next year, but of course, 2020 is not over yet. In November we will release the 2020 list of our anticipated C&EN’s Ten Start-ups To Watch. We are already planning our Year in Chemistry and Year in Pharma for December issues as well. Our editorial calendar for 2020 and 2021 will give you a flavor of what we believe will be important for our communities in the times ahead.

Stay safe, and keep in touch.

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