Calling Out the Synthetics

The dirty truth in the synthetic literature is that reaction yields are inflated. After many long discussions with my synthetic friends, they all admit that the yields reported in their papers or the yields they report to the boss are often the maximum yield they ever obtained. I will admit that when I was a stereotypical synthetic, I too would always report the highest yield during group meeting or to fellow colleagues. Regardless of those acts, it is still wrong and highly unscientific.


It would be far more appropriate to report the average yield obtained for the reaction along with the standard deviation. When would we ever allow our g-chem students to only report their “best” titration for one of their labs? When did reporting the most statistically aberrational data-point become the norm? This behavior has become far too common for synthetics. Reaction yields should not be the yardstick used to measure one’s scientific manliness or ego.

I’m often comforted by my friendly synthetics that if a yield was abnormally high, they would investigate further and probably not trust it. I usually follow up those types of statements with, “do you check to see if that abnormal yield could be q-tested out?” The usual answer I get back, “q-test?”

This rant is meant to respectfully ask the synthetics in the audience to boldly begin reporting the average yield obtained for a reaction along with the standard deviation. By doing this, the stellar yields would still be deducible from this combination of yield + standard deviation, and the new format would be more scientifically meaningful.

Standard Deviation

– Mitch

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