An Overview of Synlett Spotlights after 10 Years and 300 Editions
30 November 2009 (online)
In 1999, the editorial board of Synlett introduced a new section called Synlett Spotlights. The Spotlight articles focus on selected reagents chosen by graduate students and emphasize their preparation and uses. The first published Spotlight concentrated on bis(cyclopentadienyl)titanium(III) chloride (Cp2TiCl) and was compiled by Helen J. Gold from the University of Cambridge, UK (Figure 1). [¹]
Figure 1 Excerpt from Spotlight issue number 1
This year, Synlett celebrates its 20th birthday, and the 300th edition of Spotlight is to be published in issue 24. After ten years, the Spotlight section has become quite established and is well recognized by readers. Thus, after 300 editions, what could we extract from this innovative section and how has it changed? This summary will provide some facts and figures on the Spotlight section and highlight its influence on the international chemistry community. The data presented here were collected from the Synlett homepage [²] and from the ISI Web of Knowledge [³] and reflects only the author’s impessions. Further, supplementary material is available for more information concerning Spotlights.
From a geographical point of view, in the first two years of publication, more than 70% of Spotlight articles originated from Europe (Table 1). However, the publication of two articles from India presaged the fundamental change that would occur over the following years. A screening of articles by region over the last two years indicates a completely different situation is developing in which contributions from the Asian scientific community has begun to predominate. Unfortunately, so far there have been no Spotlight articles from African groups.
José C. Barros is a chemical engineer from the Instituto Militar de Engenharia (IME). He spent a year in France at École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Clermont-Ferrand (ENSCCF), then undertook an M.Sc. at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). He is currently working toward his PhD at UFRJ working on the synthesis of Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators by means of palladium assisted C-C coupling under the supervision of Professor J.F.M. da Silva and Professor O.A.C. Antunes. José C. Barros is the author of a Spotlight article published in 2005.
Table 1 Spotlight Contributors by Region Region Spotlights (%) 1999-2000 1999-2008 2008-2009 Europe 75 33 26 Asia 12.5 43 40 North-America 12.5 8 4 South-America 0 11 23 Middle Easta 0 4 4 Oceaniab 0 1 3 a Only Iran. b Only Australia.
Looking at the distribution of contributions by country (Table 2), it is noteworthy that the developing countries, and notably the BRIC countries (except Russia, which has not yet contributed to Spotlight) are leading the publication table for this section, with India accounting for 33% of all articles, followed by Brazil, China, the European countries and USA. It is also remarkable that Iran, with twelve articles, is the only representative of the Middle East region. This compilation uses affiliations at the time of publication and does not represent the nationality or current address of the authors.
Table 2 Spotlight Contributors by Country Country Number of Spotlights Total number (%) India 98 33 Brazil 31 10 China 28 9 UK 18 6 USA 18 6 France 14 5 Germany 14 5 Spain 14 5 Iran 12 4 Switzerland 10 3
When an evaluation of author affiliations was conducted (Table 3), the results showed that there was a correlation between the leading countries and the leading universities in terms of number of published articles. Also, there is only one of the leading universities in the world as pointed by several controversial rankings. 
Table 3 Spotlight Author Affiliations (continued) University/Research Center Country Spotlights National Chemical Laboratory India 17 Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) Brazil 14 Regional Research Laboratory India 12 Indian Institute of Chemical Technology India 11 Defense Research and Development India 9 Hebei Normal University China Bu-Ali Sina University Iran 8 National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) India 7 University of Cambridge UK Universidade Nova de Lisboa Portugal 6
In order to assess the pertinence of Spotlights, the number of citations of articles was compiled (Table 4). In this context, it could be said that the average number of citations for articles published shortly after the launch of Spotlights remains between two and five. Articles published over the last few years are probably too recent to be cited.
Table 4 Number of Article Citations Year Spotlights Citations by Spotlight 1999 12 61 5 2000 12 61 5 2001 12 57 5 2002 18 44 2 2003 24 108 4 2004 28 95 3 2005 40 131 3 2006 36 59 2 2007 40 18 0 2008 38 8 0 2009 39 0 0
The most cited articles are presented in Table 5, together with the respective number of citations. Only four reagents have been included in more than one spotlight article: 2-iodoxybenzoic acid (IBX) (Sp 14  and 124  ), ceric(IV) ammonium nitrate (Sp 6  and 143  ), palladium(II) acetate (Sp 4  and 150 [¹0] ), proline (Sp 60 [¹¹] and 168 [¹²] ) and the Burgess reagent (Sp 16 [¹³] and 264 [¹4] ). Obviously, when a Spotlight covered a general class of compounds, for example bismuth(III) derivatives (Sp 31 [¹5] ), the article usually includes a number of individual reagents such as the issue on bismuth(III) trifluoromethanesulfonate (Sp. 67 [¹6] ). Except for the author of this 300th special issue, [¹7] no single author has published two Spotlights.
Table 5 Most Cited Spotlight Articles Times citeda Title/Reagent Author 23 2-Iodoxybenzoic Acid (IBX) and Dess-Martin Periodinane (DMP)5 S.S. Chaudhari 21 Bismuth(III) Derivatives: New Catalysts¹5 S. Vidal 17 DBU (1,8-diazabicyclo[5.4.0]undec-7-ene) - A Nucleophillic Base¹9 N. Ghosh 16 Zirconium Tetrachloride²0 U. Bora 15 Bismuth(III) tris(trifluoro-methanesulfonate)¹6 S. Antoniotti 15 Molecular Iodine²0 S.-Y. Wang a Data up to June 30th, 2009.
Table 6 Simulated Spotlight Impact Factor Year Calculated impact factor (IF) 2001 0.417 2002 0.958 2003 0.563 2004 0.524 2005 0.615 2006 0.618 2007 0.893 2008 0.547
Using the number of citations to each Spotlight, an impact factor (IF) for the Spotlight section was compiled as if this section were a journal. To do this, it was calculated for each year the number of times ISI-indexed journals cited a spotlight article published in the preceding two years and divided this number by the total number of spotlight articles published in those two years. [²¹] As can be seen from the Table 6, the simulated IF reached its highest values in 2002 and 2007 followed by a decrease. In order to avoid misinterpretation of these values [²²] it is important to note that the low number of Spotlight articles and associated citations make any statistical analysis problematic; the sole conclusion that we can draw here is that if Spotlight were a journal then its impact factor would be greater than 0.5. It should be remarked that attaining a high IF was never the goal of the section.
As concluding remarks, the Spotlight section gives young researchers at the beginning of their careers an opportunity to publish information on interesting and relevant subjects. The preparation of a manuscript requires the student to stay connected with recent updates of the literature. Moreover, as the sole author of a Spotlight article, the student actively participates in the peer review process, which commonly involves defending their position, accepting criticisms and finally being judged by the scientific community, without direct interference from supervisors; overall, this process greatly enhances the professional maturity of the student. As a consequence of the publication, theses student-authors usually become part of the journal’s board of referee’s, which can also lead to their professional development.
Furthermore, it is not only the student that benefits from publishing a Spotlight article: some governmental funding agencies (e.g. CAPES - Brazil) have already recognized and highlighted Spotlight publications in the performance evaluation of graduate schools.The Spotlight layout, which is direct and easy to read, allied with the fact that it is freely available through the Thieme/Synlett Internet portal, accounts for its recognition as a first line reference source, as indicated by the number of citations of some articles. This open-access model could also influence the observed geographical distribution of the Spotlight contributors and readership, who generally originate from recent developing countries.
After 10 years, 298 different student authors from 29 countries have published 300 Spotlights covering reagents from the simplest ‘The Electron’ (Sp. 18723) to complex polymers, metal complexes, or systems involving several chiral centers, and received 698 total citations. Today, there are still only three internationally recognized journals that contain sections directed towards graduate students: Synlett Spotlight, Nature’s post doc journal and Mini Review: Green Cluster of Research Journal of Chemistry and Environment. Thus, graduate students all over the world congratulate Synlett and its editorial board for this innovative section and for allowing us to participate in the peer-review process of chemistry.
GoldHJ. Synlett 1999, 159
- For examples of such rankings see:
ButlerD. Nature 2007, 447: 514
TravisJ. Science 2009, 323: 24
ChaudhariSS. Synlett 2000, 278
KumarI. Synlett 2005, 1488
SommermannT. Synlett 1999, 834
DhakshinamoorthyA. Synlett 2005, 3014
NohS.-G. Synlett 1999, 504
VatsPK. Synlett 2006, 329
ParaskarAS. Synlett 2003, 582
LacosteE. Synlett 2006, 1973
BurckhardtS. Synlett 2000, 559
SantraS. Synlett 2009, 328
VidalS. Synlett 2001, 1194
AntoniottiS. Synlett 2003, 1566
BarrosJC. Synlett 2005, 2115
GhoshN. Synlett 2004, 574
BoraU. Synlett 2003, 1073
WangS.-Y. Synlett 2004, 2642
PintoAC. AndradeJB. Quím. Nova 1999, 22: 448
RafieeM. Synlett 2007, 503
Available at http://www.roempp.com/en/products/journals/synlett/access/online-edition/spotlight-reagents-list.html3
Available at http://isiknowledge.com21
Garfield E. Current Contents print editions June 20, 1994, The Institute for Scientific Information® (ISI®). Available at http://www.thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/free/essays/impact_factor/