Selected Contributions to CHMINF-L

 

1/23/1997 Results of Data Needs Survey

Data Needs of Academic Research on the Internet
 
                        Gary Wiggins
            Indiana University Chemistry Library
                     wiggins@indiana.edu
 
                       Data on the Web
 
"All in all, the chemical data now available on
 the web is in a different class from the data
 found in refereed journals, critical reviews and
 books from reputable publishers.
          -    David Lide (CHMINF-L, 30 October 1996)
 
The above response was one of several received in response
to questions sent to three chemically-oriented discussion
lists in the fall of 1996.  This was in preparation for a
lecture and demonstration delivered at the National
Institute of Standards and Technology on December 4, 1996.
Most of the information in this paper was included in that
presentation.
 
Questions were sent to CHMINF-L, CHEMWEB, & CHEMIND-L in
late October 1996.  They were designed to:
 
    - Gauge the extent of inaccurate data in Web databases
    - Define the characteristics of data on the Web
      >> Sources of data
      >> Need for standardization of data formats
    - Determine the best guides to data.
 
Respondents to the survey noted these problems with the
accuracy of data on the Web:
 
    - Units are frequently omitted
    - Transcription errors are often encountered
    - This leads to a need to find redundant data
    - Very few sources have quality assurance statements
    - Few of the Web data sites give the source of the data
    - If they do, data are likely to be copied from outdated
      sources.
 
                    Other Survey Results
 
Several people commented on efforts or practices that will
likely improve the quality of data on the Internet,
including:
 
    - Standardization efforts:
      >> CLIC, Chemical MIME, CML
      >> Roles for IUPAC, CODATA: certification?
 
      (One person, however, questioned whether standardization
       efforts were worthwhile.)
 
    - Efforts to share data or to cooperatively compile data
      sources
      >> Open Molecule Foundation
      >> Molecule of the Month
      >> Reciprocal Net
      >> Structure and Reactivity Across the Periodic Table
 
    - Provision of a minimal level of auxiliary information
      (metadata)
      >> authorship
      >> units
      >> conditions of measurement
      >> references to primary and secondary sources of data
 
    - Use of standard symbols and terminology
 
    - Guidelines on how to handle special characters.
 
             General Comments on Data on the Web
 
"While some might argue that the Internet is designed to make
information in a single location accessible to users around the
world, the large number of mirrored sites already in existence
points out the Net's inadequacy."
          -    Byte, December 1996
 
There are a number of steps needed to improve the quality of
data found on the Web.  Among them are:
 
    - Mechanisms to synchronize changes made at multiple
      sites
    - Faster access to resources
    - More secure transactions
    - Progress on chemical metadata standards
    - Interoperability of chemical plug-in programs.
 
          Some Goals for Improving Data on the Web
 
    - Assemble the most reliable data available
    - Arrange data for easy retrieval
    - Provide a "SuperIndex" of available data sources
    - Establish criteria for evaluation of data sources:
      >> descriptions of physical theories on which data are
         based
      >> full references to literature
      >> format of the database
      >> search capabilities
 
                    How to Find Data Now
 
A second part of the NIST presentation was a look at how to
find data on the Web today.  One person pointed me
toward Alexander Lebedev's "Best Search Engines for Finding
Scientific Information in the Web"
(http://www.chem.msu.su/eng/comparison.html).  He searched
11 Web search engines and concluded:
 
     - Excite retrieves a comparable number of documents to
       Altavista
     - Metacrawler is the most powerful search engine for SATI
     - Two of the search engines are not being updated.
 
Lebedev  also compared the Web searches to INSPEC
results for 1994 & 1995 on the same topics.  He found:
 
     - Only 5-10 % of relevant information is on the net
     - The Web is particularly good for supplemental
       information:
       >> on authors
       >> on their work and research projects
       >> on foundations supporting them.
 
Besides using search engines, these are some other ways to
find data using the Internet:
 
    - Submit the question to a knowledgeable source
    - Consult lists of sources (guides)
    - Try known sources
    - Try comprehensive chemistry guides.
 
                  Lists of Sources (Guides)
 
CIS-IU (Chemical Information Sources from Indiana
University)
  http://www.indiana.edu/~cheminfo/ca_accc.html
  http://www.indiana.edu/~cheminfo/ca_ppi.html
 
Databases for Atomic and Plasma Physics
  http://plasma-gate.weizmann.ac.il/DBfAPP.html
 
IOP's Software and Data Page
  http://www.iop.org/Physics/Resources/phsoft.html
 
                        Known Sources
 
NIST Physics Laboratory
  http://physics.nist.gov/PhysRefData/contents.html
 
Sheffield ChemPuter
  http://www.shef.ac.uk/~chem/chemputer/
 
Biocatalysis/Biodegradation Database
  http://dragon.labmed.umn.edu/~lynda/index.html
 
               Comprehensive Chemistry Guides
 
Chemfinder
  http://chemfinder.camsoft.com
 
WWW Chemical Structures Database
  http://schiele.organik.uni-erlangen.de/services/webmol.html
 
SpaceCrunch
  http://www.tripos.com/spacecrunch/
 
                       Other Examples
 
University of Texas's ThermoDex
  http://www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/Chem/info/thermodex/
 
Table of the Properties of 200 Linear Macromolecules
and Small Molecules
  http://funnelweb.utcc.utk.edu/~athas/databank/intro.html
 
Chemical errors found on WWW sites; A discussion of
problems encountered while creating the ChemFinder WebServer
database
  http://www.camsoft.com/chemfinder/errorsfound.html
 
 
                   Internet Demos at NIST
 
CIS-IU ca_accc.html
 
Go to Anal Chem page, then to MS Links at SIS, then Dave's
Math Tables
     www.sisweb.com/math/tables.htm
 
NMR Information Server at U of Florida
     micro.ifas.ufl.edu/
     playing Happy Birthday to You on an NMR Spectrometer
 
Dababase of Core-Edge (Inner-Shell) Excitation Spectra of
Gas Phase Atoms and Molecules
     xray.uu.se/hypertext/corexdb.html
          SEARCH naphthalene
 
Spin trap Data Base
     alfred.niehs.nih.gov/LMB/stdb
          ENTER THE DATABASE doesn't work, but HIPPO does
 
Electron Paramagnetic Resonance at Bristol
     emrs.chm.bris.ac.uk/
          Beautiful background!
          In "About the Database" in the Introduction,
Spectra examples,
          Show the example Cu(II) (nothing else works!)
 
Look at IU Molecular Structure Center's Reciprocal Net
     www.cica.indiana.edu/~recip/
     www.indiana.edu/ReciprocalNet.html
 
Molecules R Us
     molbio.info.nih.gov/cgi-bin/pdb
     Search dehalogenase  (E.C.3.8.1.5)
 
NIST Chemistry WebBook
     webbook.nist.gov/chemistry
     Look for 91-56-5
 
AIRSITE
     ozone.sph.unc.edu
     Has "Environmental Data, but it's "under construction"
 
THERMODEX
     www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/Chem/info/thermodex/
     Search Gibbs Free Energy and organic
 
Chemfinder
     chemfinder.camsoft.com
     Search MEK
 
WWW Chemical Structures Database
     schiele.organik.uni-erlangen.de/services/webmol.html
     Search MEK, then 2-butanone
 
SpaceCrunch
     www.tripos.com/spacecrunch/
 
Molecule of the Month

     www.bris.ac.uk/MOTM/motm.html

 

11/26/1998 Thanksgiving Message

This is the day in the United States when we pause to give thanks for the many blessings that life offers us.  1998 has brought to me and my family numerous reasons for which to be thankful, and one of the things that I give thanks for this holiday is the sense of community and sharing of knowledge that occurs on the CHMINF-L listserv.  When I started CHMINF-L in May 1991, I had no idea that it would become as popular and influential as it is today.  So, I give thanks for the effort that you, the subscribers, have made over the years to keep this a useful forum.
 
Thanks to you all for making CHMINF-L a true virtual community.
 
3/18/2000 ACS Governing Board for Publishing: corrections
My apologies for putting out inaccurate information about the ACS Governing Board for Publishing.  A full description of it may be found in the document "Regulations Adopted by the Board of Directors" Section III, Item 17 at:
 
http://www.acs.org:80/bulletin5/reg.pdf
 
The Bulletin 5 home page (http://www.acs.org:80/bulletin5/) contains links to the Regulations, the ACS Charter, Constitution, and Bylaws, as well as links to Supplementary Information and an Index.  The Index has an entry under Governing Board for Publishing.
 
Corrections to my earlier message:
 
Terms are four years (with the possibility of reappointment) for the six non-ACS staff, and the Board meets at least four times a year.
 
Composition of the six non-ACS staff:
 
Two non-ACS members with management experience in the information industry.
 
Two ACS members with executive-level experience (one from industry and one from academia) but who are not members of the ACS Board of Directors.
 
Two members with management experience in the publishing industry, only one of whom may be an ACS member, but not a member of the ACS Board of Directors.
 
The ACS Executive Director serves as Chair of the Governing Board for Publishing.
 
3/17/2000 ACS Governing Board for Publishing
 
Ten people currently serve on the ACS Governing Board for Publishing, which supposedly gives the marching orders to both the ACS Publications Division and Chemical Abstracts Service.  Aside from those that sit because of their ACS affiliation, the members each have a two-year, renewable term.  The board meets approximately 5-6 times per year.  As of July 1999, the membership list was:
 
ACS Members:
 
Chairman of the Board Mr. Henry F. Whalen, Jr. (PQ Corporation:
http://www.pqcorp.com/)
ACS Executive Director John K. Crum
Director of CAS Robert J. Massie
Director of ACS Publications Robert D. Bovenschulte
 
It has been speculated that the remainder of the Governing Board is selected according to the following criteria:
 
2 Members who represent the ACS:
 
Dr. Theodore L. Brown (University of Illinois, emeritus faculty)
http://www.beckman.uiuc.edu/faculty/brown.html
 
Dr. Michael L. Losee (Northbrook, Illinois) (formerly (~1996) affiliated with the ACS Office of Industrial Relations)
 
2 Members with computer expertise:
 
Mr. Joseph P. Bremner (President, Electronic Information Group, Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
This Web site has some interesting information about his book Guide to Database Distribution:
http://www.pa.utulsa.edu/nfais/reports.d/guide_db.html
 
Dr. Carlos A. Cuadra (President, Cuadra Associates, Inc., Los Angeles) For a 1995 biographical sketch, see:
http://www.askscott.com/scott/lis/cuadra.html
Also:
http://www.cuadra.com/general/drcuadra.html
 
2 Members with outside interests:
 
Ms. Kathleen Case (Senior Vice President for Publishing, American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine)
http://www.acponline.org/college/aboutacp/aboutacp.htm
 
Mr. Paul F. McPherson (Managing Director, AdMedia Partners, Inc., NYC; formerly with McGraw-Hill)
 
Here's an old CINF page about the Governing Board:
http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/cinf/art2.html
 
6/19/2002 ACS Governing Board for Publishing
 
As luck would have it, the June 17, 2002 issue of Chemical & Engineering News has an item (p. 8) on appointments to the Governing Board for Publishing.  The article notes that Joan E. Shields, professor of chemistry, Long Island University, C.W. Post campus (Brookville, N.Y.) will serve a three-year term on the Governing Board beginning July 1.  "The board also reappointed Kathleen Case, publisher, American Association for Cancer Research, and Mary L. Good, dean, Donaghey College of Information Science & Systems Engineering, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, to the GBP for four-year terms beginning July 1."
 
The Governing Board for Publishing is the ACS body that oversees the operations of the ACS Publications Division and Chemical Abstracts Service.
 
 
4/30/2001 Consolidated science libraries: summary of responses
 
Several people responded to my recent request for information on new or planned consolidation of academic science libraries.
 
Caltech (Dana Roth)
They consolidated their branch engineering libraries in 1997, and everyone is extremely happy. Dana feels that with campus-wide availability of electronic journals and reference works, one of the major arguments for branch libraries is no longer valid. A second factor is that there simply isn't enough room (or funding) in branch libraries for the sophisticated electronic equipment required for top level research.  In the case of the
Chemistry library at Caltech, Dana thinks that you can still make a very strong case for its location in the department. Although they consolidated the science libraries in the late 1960s, there is so much research funding at Caltech that each research group has its own "branch" library in the lab for the most important journals and reference books. In a general sense, Dana feels that chemists use libraries much diffeently than others. In particular, organic chemists need to consult a wide variety of sources to identify an optimal synthetic method, and moving the chemistry library to a central location discourages them from doing their best work.
 
Duke/Vanderbilt (Kitty Porter)
Kitty moved from a branch library at Duke to a consolidated science library at Vanderbilt.  She says: "At Duke I was totally committed to the branch libraries for a lot of reasons.  I think times have changed a bit and, with a bit of different experience under my belt, my thoughts have changed too. The way I see it, the movement of chemistry - and engineering, physics, and math as well - is towards the life sciences.  Everyone is doing something with proteins, for example.  The individual science branches don't function as well in this environment."  Duke combined the Engineering and Math/Physics/Astronomy Libraries last summer by moving the latter into the former, despite serious space consequences.  At Vanderbilt, all the sciences except Engineering are connected to the library by hallways; chemistry, by an elevator.  They have the whole range of materials including some overlap with medicine, and the medical library is very close to boot.  Kitty feels that the best thing about her new environment is the multiplicity of staff.
She used to work in a two-person operation, and it was always a problem to fit in vacation, meetings, etc., and there was never time to be sick.  That problem has disappeared with 5 other reference librarians.  It's nice to have others to interact with all day too.  Another argument against consolidation is that, in these days of increasingly available electronic information, location of the library isn't so important.  Some people don't come into the library much anymore.  However, there are more students who are looking for a place to study and work in groups.  A facility with small group study rooms complete with network ports, slightly larger rooms for small classes, comfortable seating areas, a lecture/media room, a coffee shop, and lots of computers would bring people in by droves.  New uses of the library but still part of a mission to make the library the center of the intellectual life of the campus. Branches can't really meet this need.  Kitty would love to have a place here where they could have regular coffees/teas so faculty from different disciplines could get together and hash out collaborative projects.
 
ETH Zurich (Bert Zass)
They have just taken a major step towards consolidating departmental libraries into a larger unit. This is related to the move of the entire chemistry dept. into the second campus of ETH Zuerich (they have a downtown Campus "ETH Zentrum", and one at the outskirts of Zuerich, "ETH Hoenggerberg", cf. http://www.ethz.ch/search/orientation_en.asp).  Up to now
at ETH, there existed besides the Central Library
(http://www.ethbib.ethz.ch/index_e.html), covering all fields of SciTech and being the largest library of this kind in Switzerland, independent departmental libraries in Chemistry (http://www.infochem.ethz.ch/), Biology, and Physics.  The Biology Library will join them physically and organizationally to form the new "ETHZ Informationszentrum Chemie Biologie," with one head, and one budget. This information center will be part of a "virtual" Science Library that also incorporates the coexisting Physics
Library and the branch of the central library on the Hoenggerberg campus (this branch was so far used as an archive, with very limited public access; it will in the future hold all Chemistry, Biology, and Physics holdings of the Central Library, and act as the central "server" for print). The "branches" of the new Science Library will have their own budgets, but cooperate closely in procurements/licensing, and they are controlled by a common Board consisting of the branch heads, representatives of the three departments, and of the Central Library.  The "ETHZ Informationszentrum Chemie Biologie" will keep its monograph collection in a systematic, user-accessible shelving (the central library will be mainly a magazine library for lending internally and externally, with limited direct access), but most of the printed journals will be eliminated, being replaced by user stations for access to electronic journals/databases, and microfilm readers/copiers for the older, non-electronic stuff; i.e., the user will still have the choice of the medium for journals, but no longer in every place: electronic at his bench or in the "ETHZ Informationszentrum Chemie Biologie", microfilm in the "ETHZ Informationszentrum Chemie Biologie", and print (if still desired) via loan from the central library holdings direct
on campus.  The emphasis will be even further on services and advising, consulting, training, teaching users, and less on holdings.  All databases and electronic journals are now licensed centrally at  ETH, and in the very near future by a Swiss consortium that was established recently
(http://lib.consortium.ch/index_e.html)
 
University of Kentucky (Maggie Johnson)
They are planning for a combined Science/Engineering Library. The library is in the university list of capital projects, but has no funding yet. Right now the plan is to move in to the old "main" library after renovation in 2008.  One reason for combining is the interdisciplinary activities in the sciences.  Kentucky has a strong materials science group that crosses engineering, chemistry, physics. Also, they try to get as much as they can electronically so the actual site of the materials is becoming more irrelevant.  The after-hours use of keys has gone down since they got ACS and other journals online. Maggie has also sensed less resistance from the departments perhaps due to the fact that the combined library is only 50 feet from the chemistry/physics building.
 
Michigan State University (Jim Oliver)
They are finishing a new building called the BioMedical Physical Sciences building. It will house the departments of physics, microbiology and physiology. It is physically between and connected to the biochemistry and chemistry buildings. The Chemistry Library and the Physics Library will merge into the new building creating one new library.
 
University of North Carolina (Zari Kamerei)
The subject of consolidating science libraries has come up in Carolina for the past 10 years.  A 1998 report can be found at
http://www.physics.unc.edu/sciencecomplex/content.html.  On the content list go all the way down to "Expended Sub-Committee Reports" to see the report for the consolidated science library.  An earlier report of 1994 can be found at http://www.lib.unc.edu/scilib/.  They are looking at consolidation of the physical sciences libraries rather than all of the science libraries.
Apparently, the health sciences library is going to absorb the life sciences library.  Brauer library (math, physics, computer science, statistics and operations research) and the chemistry library are going to be one physical sciences library.
 
Ohio Wesleyan University (Deb Peoples)
Although not a research university, they are beginning construction on a multidisciplinary science building.   They will consolidate two branch science libraries into one larger science library.  The current design calls for completely wired tables and carrels, but they are considering a wireless network within the library.
Other features: circulating laptops and flat, liquid crystal monitors in the "OPAC" area to decrease bulk. All of the "OPACs" will also be scholar's work stations. There is also lots of compact shelving.  The teaching area will be designed for multiple uses and will have laptops instead of larger machines so they can be put out of the way for meetings or whatever. There is also space for Friday afternoon cappucino service and lots of casual seating areas to facilitate cross-pollination.
 
Princeton (Patty Gaspari Bridges)
They are just beginning to plan for a Science Library that will incorporate the Geosciences, Biology and Chemistry Libraries' collections.  They currently have 8 science branches, each in the same buildings as their departments (until last summer when the Biology Library was asked to move to accommodate a new faculty member who required additional lab space). The Biology Library is now sharing space in the Math/Physics Library.  The Geosciences Library is looking for interim space because of building renovation/addition.  The Math/Physics and Astrophysics libraries would be adjacent to the Science Library and likely accessible via interior corridors.  A new Engineering Library is at the end stage of construction. The Psychology Department wants to retain its departmental library in its current building.  Plasma Physics is the 8th science branch and located at Forrestal Campus, about 5 miles away.  The estimate is about 4-5 years for the completion of the Science Library at Princeton.
 
University of Western Ontario (Peter Galsworthy)
The University of Western Ontario (about 25,000 students with Ph.D. programs in most subject areas and professional schools in medicine, dentistry, nursing, health sciences) has a consolidated science library, the Allyn and Betty Taylor Library.   Although the Health Science Library was "amalgamated" into the Science LIbrary 20 years ago, the Engineering Library was absorbed only two years ago.  When a library is closed, the researchers feel deprived....that they have lost their library that was providing unique services tailored to their needs.  These reactions decrease with time as more and more resources become available online and the need to walk across campus to a library is not a regular occurrence.  The Engineering faculty adjusted to the loss of the Engineering LIbrary much more quickly that the basic medical science faculty did when the Health Science Library was closed.  
 
Suggestions.  The consolidated library works because they provide on campus or remotely the electronic resources needed ... Ovid Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, Biological Abstracts, Minerva Crossfire, SciFinder Scholar (5 seats with substructure searching), Web of Science(1990 -2001), Inspec on Axiom, Compendex etc. Provision of online access to journals is essential; the more that a researcher can do from office or home, the less the resistance to a central library.  Provision of interlibrary forms that can be filled out and submitted on the Web also help.  Provision of SDI services is another way
that specific needs can be met.   Finally, the need for the library as a study space is increasing, and Peter predicts that as time goes on they will be moving more of their older journal volumes to remote storage in order to free up the space for more student study spaces.  He sees distinct advantages to a consolidated science library.   One example is the chemistry student or professor who needs information in the interdisciplinary subject area of environmental chemistry and environmental engineering;  all the information is in one place. Additionally, a pharmacology graduate student may want to use SciFinder Scholar and access chemical information on a compound and can find the necessary journal information, whether in print or online, in one place.  Finally there are the staff savings in reducing service points as well as increased flexibility in how staff are deployed.
 
--Gary Wiggins, Indiana University Chemistry Library
 
5/4/2001 The consolidated science library question (addendum)
 
I apologize for having left out Andrea's response in my April 30 summary.
Gary Wiggins
 
-----Original Message-----
From: Andrea Twiss-Brooks [mailto:atbrooks@midway.uchicago.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2001 3:28 PM
To: wiggins@indiana.edu
Subject: Re: The consolidated science library question
 
4.. If you were building a Multidisciplinary Science Building on your campus right now, what new or improved services, new ways of delivering information, or new equipment would you envision being there?
 
I wasn't going to respond until this last question, because the other topics weren't pertinent here.  Given that destruction phase of the new ARB (or IRB, depending on who you ask), interdisciplinary science research building is imminent here, this is a question very much on our minds.  We are looking at all ways of expanding electronic access to a variety of information resources, including more electronic reference resources (dictionaries, handbooks, encyclopedias, etc.), more electronic backfiles of journals, and current awareness/I&A and other "finding" services.  We are also moving document delivery services to an online environment as quickly as possible, including interlibrary loan article delivery as well as some commercial services.   We are just beginning to look at various "live" web basedreference services.  We continue to develop web based guides, and library subject pages and other user aids.  We may begin to offer delivery of library materials to departmental mailboxes (but not for free, modest fees will be charged).
 
Andrea
 
9/13/2005 Need for a statement on the tone of CHMINF-L messages
 
I am willing to accept that certain people were motivated only by a desire to have civil discourse as the norm on CHMINF-L when calls for guidelines on the appropriate tone in CHMINF-L messages are heard. Indeed, in my long tenure as CHMINF-L listowner, there were a few times when I had to personally intervene to squelch flame wars.  However, when such calls are linked to submissions about PubChem, and especially now that they are juxtaposed with the arrogant decision to curtail open discussion of PubChem at the ACS meeting, it is easy to conclude that this might have been a veiled attempt at censorship.
 
I personally resent the fact that it was under some pressure on June 6, 2005, that new CHMINF-L Listowner Brian Winterman felt compelled to write:
 
"The strength of this list is that it has long been a valuable shared resource for professionals to exchange knowledge, ideas, and opinions on matters regarding chemical information sources. 
 
However, I have recently heard concerns that the tone and nature of the exchange has compromised the collegiality of our discourse.  In the spirit of preserving the productive and progressive nature of the list, please ensure that your posts and responses are constructive, succinct, and respectful. 
 
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message with me or the rest of our community."
 
Yes, express your views in a respectful tone, but do not attempt to suppress the discussions on CHMINF-L or in other forums on any topic.
 
May 13, 2005 Open Access, ACS Archives, PubChem, and the CAS Registry File
 

Dennis P. Curran, coeditor of Organic Syntheses, writes in the May 9,

2005 Chemical & Engineering News (pp. 3-4) that Organic Syntheses provides a model for free open access.  Since the Web version of that well-respected tool at http://www.orgsyn.org can be accessed by anyone at no cost, his comments have some bearing on the current debate on open access, not to mention the threat of a lawsuit by the American Chemical Society (ACS) against the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for creating PubChem.

 

Curran attributes the capability to give away Organic Syntheses to the fact that the nonprofit corporation was so successful in selling the product throughout the years, "primarily to libraries," that the board of directors decided to give it away.  He says, "In essence, the revenues of yesterday help bankroll the operations of today."  He labels this the "endowed publication" model.

 

That reminded me of an argument I made some years ago when complaints about access to SciFinder Scholar by small academic organizations were much more in evidence than they seem to be today.  I suggested that Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) allow the larger academic institutions of the world to subsidize the smaller schools by purchasing additional seats that would be pooled and shared by the small schools.  If enough of the large schools bought into this, the less-well-endowed schools, in effect, could have had "free" access to SFS.  Of course, we are in a different budget era now, and I am sure that with the new options available from CAS for small schools to license SFS, there is surely little need for such altruism (and even less ability of the large schools to afford it), right?

 

Bill Carroll (an Indiana University alumnus, adjunct professor, and current President of the ACS) was in Bloomington when he was running for office.  He took the opportunity to hold a couple of open forums in order to gain more input for his three-year stint as President-elect, President, and Past-President of the society.  At one of those, I raised the issue of free access to the ACS journal archives after the initial costs had been recovered.  Bill's answer should have been anticipated, given what I know about the overall funding of the ACS.  He tied the revenue from the Publications Division to society programs in general and justified the continued charge on that basis.  [I'm sure that everyone on this list knows that in a normal year, the combined income from the CAS and ACS Publications Divisions exceeds their operating expenses by several million dollars, all of which goes into the general income flow of the society.]

 

My point to Bill and one that I would like to share with you is that chemistry has an opportunity to join the bioscience community in making a statement about the general good of sharing scientific knowledge with all people in the world.  I believe that the tarnished image of chemistry among the general public has not improved significantly in spite of efforts to show that we are really good guys who just happen to have had a few unfortunate past events (Bhopal, Love Canal, Hanford, etc., etc.).  What better way to say to the world that we believe chemistry, like the life sciences, exists for the benefit of humankind than to put the public record of that science on the Web for all to see?

 

There is a past cost, and likely to be a substantial ongoing cost to continue the ACS archive (and other journal archives).  As members of the ACS who are most knowledgeable about the difficulty of obtaining continued funding for scientific materials, librarians ought to be able to advise ACS on the best route to fund the ongoing costs of publication-related expenses.  Tacking the costs of the archive on to the current subscriptions is the only option that makes sense to me.

 

Wouldn't it be interesting if ACS, like the producers of Organic Syntheses, priced this surcharge in such a way that would allow them to say to the world some day, "Those who buy our publications believe strongly that chemical knowledge belongs to everyone and they, by renewing their subscriptions each year, give to the world the access to the backfiles of the world's premier chemical journals, those published by the American Chemical Society."  Maybe such a line of reasoning might even be followed by another major division of the ACS concerning at least a portion of its product line, thus sparing us as ACS members the cost of a protracted lawsuit on the one hand and as taxpayers the cost of the construction of a service with public funds that some would claim is a major threat to the existence of the society as a whole. 

 

Why is PubChem such a threat to the American Chemical Society?  Because there is no "free" Registry File.  Because we as ACS members have acquiesced over the years in allowing the major publications of the society to fund ACS services to such an extent that the income from the ACS Publications Division and Chemical Abstracts Service is now indispensable.  My old mentor, Herb White, used the phrase "ingratiated irreplacability" in other contexts.  Maybe it is appropriate here as well.

 
 
 
 
9/13/2005 ACS, CAS, and PubChem
 
Following the recent American Chemical Society national meeting, at least two people, myself included, have resigned from the ACS Joint Board-Council Committee on Chemical Abstracts Service.  The event that finally pushed me to take this action was a decision by ACS governance to disallow discussion of the PubChem issue in the context of the Open Meeting of CCAS on Monday, August 29.  Instead of permitting discussion in the room where the Open Meeting was held, we were told that those interested in the PubChem issue should move into the hall to speak with ACS's designated spokesperson, Brian Dougherty.  To my mind, this action violated the spirit of a unanimous resolution of the CCAS voting members that is reproduced below.  This resolution was passed on Friday, August 26, read at the August 31 ACS Council meeting as part of the oral report by CCAS chair Andrea Twiss-Brooks, and thus will eventually appear in Chemical & Engineering News.  The resolution reads:
 
"The Joint Board-Council Committee on Chemical Abstracts Service (CCAS) strongly believes that the NIH PubChem Initiative is one of the most significant and potentially harmful challenges ever faced by CAS, and thus, the ACS as an organization.  CCAS strongly supports the ACS in its efforts to resolve these issues.
 
CCAS is seriously concerned that the current communication strategy is not reaching ACS membership.
 
Therefore CCAS strongly recommends that the ACS:
 
1.   Devise a more effective communication strategy to fully and accurately inform the ACS membership on this significant issue.
 
2.   Involve the membership in appropriate dialog concerning this issue.
 
CCAS encourages the communication strategy to utilize the strengths of the Society which include the Members, the Council, Local Sections, Technical Divisions, the Board and their related publications both written and electronic."
 
I believe that tactics aimed at restricting open discussion will do far more harm to the ACS than any perceived or real threat to CAS by
PubChem.  Surely a compromise can be found that will permit both the ACS and NIH to continue the development of their respective products in a synergistic manner.  Frank and open discussion cannot damage the chances of that happening.
 

7/10/2007 Project Bookshare

 

Bob Michaelson's note on Project Bookshare prompted a lot of memories for me.  I served on the Project Bookshare subcommittee of the ACS International Activities Committee in the early 1990s.  ACS decided to contract with an organization called Books for the World (now CHEER Inc. http://www.cheerinc.org/index.htm) to distribute the donated materials to sites around the world.  BFTW was a charitable effort founded by the president and owner of the Mississippi Chemical Company and run out of one of their warehouses in Yazoo City.  An ACS delegation (Dwayne Eubanks, Lucy Eubanks, ACS staffers Dr. Joyce Torio and Dr. John Malin, and I) paid a site visit to Yazoo City to check it out.  BFTW got the contract, which I think paid them around $25,000 per year. 

 

I later learned that the BFTW organization was somewhat overwhelmed by the flood of materials that came their way, both the backlog of inventory that was moved there from Project Bookshare's original home (at Bowling Green State University?) and further shipments.  They were used to acquiring donations of large amounts of a single out-of-print textbook title and passing that rapidly through the warehouse to a needy recipient.  The materials from ACS, on the other hand, contained many different single volumes of book titles and a lot of sets and journal runs (including multiple copies of Chemical Abstracts and Beilstein).  A 2005 article in the ACS Western Carolina section described a procedure that was apparently implemented by ACS to bypass in part the BFTW operation:

 

"If you are interested in making a donation to Project Bookshare, you are asked to submit a list of publications to be donated to the ACS Office of International Activities, listing each book by title, author, and date, and journals and magazines by title and issue date. Books should be no more than ten years old, except for "classic" titles.

Donors are asked to cover the costs of shipping to U.S. addresses.

Whenever possible, Project Bookshare staff try to match donors and recipient institutions to save time, money, repacking, and excessive handling."

http://membership.acs.org/w/wca/Meetings/2005Announcements/Christmas%202005.html   

 

Shortly after ACS contracted with BFTW, I arranged for the donation of the bibliography manager software ProCite to BFTW and made another trip to Yazoo City to train people to use it.  The folks at the BFTW operation worked valiantly to inventory the collection and keep up with additional materials that came their way.  However, I am not aware that the ACS distributed a single catalog of the warehoused materials to any prospective recipients.  Sometime during 2005, I got a call from Barbara Ricks, current CHEER Inc. president, who said that they were still maintaining the ACS inventory on the original ProCite software and computer that I had installed it on in the early 1990s!  She was afraid that the computer would soon die and all records would be lost.  I contacted ACS to see if they would at least buy them a new computer and some modern software.  In so doing, I might have inadvertently contributed to the demise of Project Bookshare by bringing it to the attention of ACS.  Maybe the folks at Powell's Technical Books ought to investigate to see if the treasure trove of materials that I last saw in the 1990s still exists.  The material may still be sitting in the warehouse, but more likely it was disposed of after the project was terminated, especially since  Mississippi Chemical was bought by Terra Industries at the end of 2004.  For some reason, this reminds me of the Tsar's Library that is supposed to be buried somewhere beneath the Kremlin walls; it supposedly contained a wealth of Latin and Greek manuscripts that were squirreled away there after the fall of Constantinople.