No Technology is a Panacea

Vendors always should mention limitations and caveats in use

By Mark Rosenzweig, Editor in Chief

Stubborn. Rigid. Uncooperative. Those probably are the kinder words I’ve been called after I’ve rejected a manuscript because the author enthuses about the benefits and features of a particular technology and refuses to discuss any situations where it might not be ideal. Yet, we explicitly state in our editorial guidelines that Chemical Processing seeks papers that provide practical, impartial and generic guidance.

An impartial, balanced discussion of choices improves the credibility of any article.

I started my career at a time when the role of an editor on a first-rate trade magazine was purely to serve the reader, to act as a gatekeeper to ensure that only relevant, reliable and reputable material was published, not as a de-facto member of the magazine’s sales staff. I’m not about to change; fortunately, our publishing company, Putman Media, is old-fashioned about the job of an editor.

Getting good articles is hard. Indeed, it’s become even tougher as experts in industry contend with ever-higher workloads. Finding the time to write is challenging, to say the least. Compounding that, many operating and engineering companies used to encourage writing as a worthwhile professional development activity for their engineers that also broadcast the firm’s technical capabilities — but no longer do. In fact, some firms seem to actively discourage writing by making the approval process so tortuous.

So, I don’t dismiss a one-sided draft out-of-hand. Instead, I invariably ask the author for a revision that spells out any limitations or other factors that may work against the option for some applications.

Often, the authors down-deep do understand that providing a balanced view of choices improves the credibility of the article. However, due to marketing or other pressures, they resist noting any disadvantages or caveats in applying their favored technology. Not infrequently, the draft contains ample text describing the limitations of other options but not a word about the drawbacks or concerns posed by the alternative they are promoting.

The risk of biased treatment of technology options certainly is a reason that some of our sister magazines at Putman refuse to consider articles authored by people at vendors. However, I believe that much of the knowledge and expertise about technology resides with specialists at vendors — even more so nowadays given the substantial cutbacks in the ranks of subject matter experts at many operating and engineering companies.

Indeed, Chemical Processing spends a considerable amount of time trying to inveigle experts at vendors to write for us — so long as they are willing to develop manuscripts that provide impartial and generic guidance. The results are mixed.

I clearly — some would say too bluntly — stress that no option provides a universal solution (especially when considering both technical and economic factors) and presenting it is as such is disingenuous. Sometimes, an author never responds to my request for a revision. Sometimes, an author grudgingly includes in a revised manuscript a cryptic note about a limitation; such an addition obviously doesn’t pass muster. Often, though, the revision does contain adequate information to give a reader a balanced view of options, and merits publication.

Rest assured that we will maintain our strict standards so you can trust what you read in Chemical Processing.


rosenzweigweb.jpgMARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's stubborn, rigid and uncooperative Editor in Chief. You can email him at mrosenzweig@putman.net. But be sure to provide a balanced view in your correspondence.

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