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More organocatalytic Suzukies

More organocatalytic Suzukies
19 October 2021 - Greener things

suzuki Qingmin Liu 2021.PNGEarlier in the year this blog mentioned a publication by Hai-Zhu Yu and Hua-Jian Xu on a unusual Suzuki reaction catalyzed by an organocatalyst (link) Until then all Suzuki reactions without exception have required some metal (usually palladium) as a catalyst, which also makes sense in terms of reaction mechanism.

The publication was therefore met with great skepticism (on Twitter it only takes 5 chemists to create a Twitter storm) especially because it is al too easy for any reaction to be contaminated with metallic trace amounts. In record time, two investigations were published that indeed proved the contamination theory. It is simply not possible to synthesize the organocatalyst itself (an aromatic amine) without ending up with some leftover palladium (blog blog).

Article retracted then? Curiously, the journal responsible for the publication, Nature Catalysis, did add the cautionary note "paper subject to criticisms" but nothing has happened since.

And now in October 2021 another Suzuki reaction and another organocatalyst (DOI) but now the journal is Chemical Science (Royal Society of Chemistry platform). In the article Qingmin Liu, Shangbin Jin and Bien Tan write that they successfully synthesized a conjugated microporous polymer based on a Suzuki coupling. The organocatalyst was again an aromatic amine just the one Yu and Xu did use. Liu et al happily cite them as if oblivious of the controversy (article submitted 21 July). The proposed reaction mechanism is similarly fantastic but now without Yu and Xu getting any credits.

The grammar is notably bad. I am certain my English is mediocre but at least it does not look like it was delivered by machine translation. So what is wrong with Chemical Science, the journal? Did they outsource article acceptance to artificial intelligence as well? Or did they decide to join the organocatalytic Nobel bandwagon? Interestingly, the journal this year did introduce double-anonymized peer review (link) but clearly too late for this patient.