Today I realised that synthesis questions sort of fall short of a few standards.

Don't get me wrong, I love these questions. Their answers can get pretty conceptual (when it comes,to interfering groups and whatnot), and, I gotta admit, they are fun answering{*}

Regardless, they fall under these two close reasons:

Not constructive: These posts garner radically different answers, of which (almost) all are correct. They should be closed or made CW by standard policy.

Too localized: OK, this one's tricky. No doubt that the question itself isn't really going to be searched for by the People From The Future™. Usually, such questions get closed.

But, the answers to such questions are going to be useful for PFTF™. They may contain a specific step which can be useful in many synths--but, PFTF™ have no way of finding that the step they need is in a particular question--it's pretty hard to Google such stuff. So, the post is nearly useless to PFTF™, since it won't be searched for.


I want to see some good reasons why these should not be closed as per the normal VTC reasons.

* I once spent a few days trying to synthesize as many organic compounds as possible starting from ethanol and all inorganic reagents (I'd read somewhere that all organic compounds can be prepared this way). Pretty helpful to me, and fun as well.

  • $\begingroup$ If there are multiple correct answers, that doesn't mean the questions are not constructive. Not constructive = "subjective and argumentative" (which was renamed due to people thinking it was an "or" condition) = no right answer, not multiple right answers. $\endgroup$ – waiwai933 May 6 '12 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ @wai Makes sense. Any comments about localized? $\endgroup$ – ManishEarth May 6 '12 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ See meta.stackexchange.com/q/4818/89334 for the network policy about "too localized", but basically, if the question is of more value than of not, it's probably fine. $\endgroup$ – waiwai933 May 6 '12 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ @wai awesome :) I'll maybe write up an explanation myself, or you can do it. $\endgroup$ – ManishEarth May 7 '12 at 0:26

too localized:

Questions are closed as too localized when they're unlikely to help any future visitors. But that is certainly not the case for retrosynthesis questions. While the future visitors are unlikely to be interested in actually synthesizing that specific product, a good answer to such a question is interesting and educational.

not constructive:

Questions are not closed as not constructive just because there are multiple possible answers, they are closed for that reason when there are only valid answers, and no way to objectively evaluate them and rank them. A retrosynthesis answer can be objectively evaluated:

  • Is it correct (would the synthesis actually work as written)?
  • Number of steps and theoretical yield (less complex schemes with more efficient reactions are better)
  • Simplicity and time requirements (Easier and faster reactions are better)
  • Elegance (an elegant solution is educational, it will give the readers ideas to apply in similar situations)
  • $\begingroup$ Alright, makes sense. Now I can look at synth questions without twitching towards VTC :) $\endgroup$ – ManishEarth May 7 '12 at 6:16

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