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It is a pleasure to introduce this 46th volume of the Specialist Periodical Report in NMR as its new editor. As the volume number attests, this series has been running since the early days of NMR, and the subject, as well as the scientific literature in general, has expanded and changed out of all recognition during this time. Is it still feasible for a single volume to capture the literature in a field which is now so deeply rooted across the physical and life sciences?

This combination of breadth of applications combined with NMR's ever-evolving technical sophistication is a significant challenge for NMR spectroscopists wishing to keep up with an ever-expanding literature. This new volume reworks the original concept of the SPR in NMR as an “index” into the NMR literature. The different chapters summarise annual developments over a broad range of publications, and so complement traditional review articles focussing on individual topics. Authors have used their expert knowledge to provide effective overviews over broad areas, often highlighting non-routine and important publications rather than attempting exhaustive coverage of well-established areas. We hope these new volumes will be especially helpful for instrument managers and early career researchers wishing to engage with the wider literature.

Cynthia Jameson, who contributed her chapter on theoretical aspects of nuclear shielding to this series for many years, is enjoying a well-earned retirement, and I am grateful to Teopold Kupka for taking on the challenge of following in her footsteps in Chapter 1. Previous volumes have included chapters on the applications of nuclear shielding, but these are now so numerous that an annual summary has become impractical, and instead we focus in the later chapters on the different applications of nuclear shielding, e.g. to solids, soft matter and biological systems. We welcome back Jarosław Jaźwiński to provide a consolidated chapter combining theoretical developments (especially calculation) and applications of indirect spin–spin (J) couplings. NMR relaxation is a particularly powerful probe of dynamics, and we are grateful to Jozef Kowalewski for extending his survey of NMR relaxation to cover a wide range of materials from biomolecules to porous solids. I am also grateful to Abil Aliev for continuing to single-handedly cover the increasingly broad range of applications of solid-state NMR. Chapter 5 from Maria Silva Elipe builds on her previous chapter in volume 45 reviewing the applications of NMR in industry. I thank Matthew Wallace and Yaroslav Khimyak for a new chapter on soft matter NMR, which focusses on the different NMR techniques applicable to the broad range of materials that fall between classical solution-state and solid-state NMR. We thank Peter Simpson for his previous chapters summarising developments in the vast literature involved with NMR of proteins and nucleic acids, and I am grateful to Andrew Atkinson for agreeing to take this on this formidable challenge. Finishing in truly biological systems, I am thankful to Malcolm Prior for returning to write his chapter on the NMR of living systems. Finally I must thank the team at RSC Publishing, led by Janet Freshwater, for all their assistance and support.

This volume rests on the hard work of the individual contributors who have read, collated and summarised vast expanses of the literature, over 2000 references in total! I am particularly appreciative given the difficult personal circumstances (including contracting and recovering from COVID-19) that we have all found ourselves in during 2020.

Paul Hodgkinson

Durham, August 2020

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