Re: The paradigm shift in data sharing in chemistry and the Blue Obelisk movement
peter murray-rust <pm286@...
2007-06-02 10:45:40 GMT
In reply to both of these posts.
Tobias - this is a useful summary - I think all these points have
been made within the BO list, chemical blogosphere and more generally
within the Open Access and Open Data community. It's worth realising
that whatever we do here will require a lot of work and we have to
make our case carefully. (I have been making all of these points in
different forums for about 5 years and while they are accepted in
some communities - eScience, Digital libraries, etc. they have very
litte traction in chemistry. Indeed Henry Rzepa and I wrote a
"manifesto for Open chemistry" in 2004. Note that NMRShiftDB is not
highly valued by many in the chemistry community. It will be
interesting to see what they think of CrystalEye when we launch it.
One important thing is that we must be *better* than the current
position - free/open is not always compelling in this community. We
have to produce more than arguments - we have to create new things
that people want. I wish it weren't so.
I thin we should restrict our work to mainstream chemistry. Work is
already going on elsewhere. Moreover chemistry is seen in the Open
Access and Open Data communities as an area of darkness so it's a
simple and attractive target to point to. I also think we should
restrict ourselves to data - Open Access is already well worked over
I think we could do the following - but again be warned it's a lot of work:
* collect metadata systematically from publishers. Heather (Remix)
has done this very nicely for some in the biomedical community. For
that we need an agreed list of journals (note that policies vary
between journals of the same publisher). For each we should list:
- publisher details and contacts
- current openly stated license policies
- apparent current practice (formats, etc.). You will see I asked the
blogosphere for some of this yesterday in synthetic org chem
- anecdotes as to whether the license is, in fact, waivable if authors ask.
* prepare a document summarising our views on desirable practice.
This will include some of the points below, some of our previous
manifestos, etc. It will need to be very carefully worded as we
cannot go forward with a substandard document. It *must* refer to
general protocols on publications (e.g. the ALPSP/STM document) which
IMO should induce the publishers to open data but doesn't in
chemistry. We should also collect policies from funding bodies.
* then (or earlier) enlist the help of sympathetic bodies. These
might include SPARC (e.g. on the Open Data mailing list) and Peter
Suber. They will be able to relate our suggestions to other
manifestos, protcols, etc.
* (optional but desirable). Show from our own discipline the value of
Openness. This is not easy as we don't have many examples. We might
also collect examples of negative (anticommons) practice.
Then - and only then - do we have a credible public face to take to
publishers. Remember that many of these have a large data business
(abstracts, databases) and have every reason to oppose us. The
publishers have lobbied the EU to refuse the request t make funded
research open. So it is naive to think that a good argument will carry the day.
What I have written is a lot of work. Until recently I would have
said that it required formal research funding to carry out. But I now
believe in the power of the blogosphere and I think we have an ideal
position. But it has to be done well. And that is work.
We might start with subfields. SPECTRa created a questionnaire for
crystallography, comp chem and spectra. It took a person-year to take
it round colleagues. A person-year is now quite feasible in the
blogosphere - much can be done at coffee meetings, etc.
It is critical that we have a systematic and professional approach to
our interaction with journals and editors. Here is an example of part
of a possible standard letter
Dear (X), Editor of Y
We represent a large group of parctising chemical scientists who are
concerned that lack of access to primary data is holding back
chemistry and sciences that rely on it. We note that bodies such as
CODATA, [funding bodies], provosts, etc. have expressed similar
concerns in science and have argued for... We have summarised a
number of areas where access to data enhance science and lack of
access is harmful. We have prepared a summary of the practices we
feel would be valuable for journals publishing chemistry and ask for
your help in clarifying your current practice and your comments on
All our discussion is hosted Openly and we will publish your reply
verbatim and with attribution. Comments on our site will be factual
rather than judgmental but we may make comparisons with other
publishers. We shall record lack of a reply after [... days] as
"failed to reply".
So if you wish to take up the challenge - and no-one will think less
if you do not - you can see the way that I feel we should take it.
Others may take this up as well and you are unlikely to be without
help. But building a systematic framework is essential and probably tedious.
Unilever Centre for Molecular Sciences Informatics
University of Cambridge,
Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1EW, UK