Copyright©2008 Antony Williams
The Wikipedia curation project I have been working on has been on hold from my side for the past few weeks as I focused on some other important tasks including some presentations, 5 peer-reviewed papers and articles and a whole series of technical advances on ChemSpider. It’s been good to get a break from eyeball curation but I am ready to start again in mid-March if no new night time distractions show up.
Tonight I was catching up with my Watchlist on Wikipedia for the first time in a long time and noted that a comment had been added to the Wikipedia Project: CAS Validation page. This discussion page was started to have a place to discuss a second validation of my work by other membes of the WP:Chem team and especially to deal with my concerns about CAS numbers not matching the structure drawn in the Chemical Box or Drug Box. Sometimes the CAS number might be for the chloride salt but the structure would be the neutral form for example. So, this was our discussion place. I believe there is general agreement by all participants at WP:Chem that CAS Numbers have value for the users of Wikipedia and chemists is general so the presence of a CAS number in the boxes makes absolute sense and, of course, the correct CAS number for the structure makes sense in an encyclopedia. Therefore, validation and sourcing of CAS numbers has been pursued.
A comment from Eric Shively at CAS can be found here online at Wikipedia. He comments:
“Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) objects to anyone encouraging the use of SciFinder® and STN® to curate third-party databases or chemical substance collections, including the one found in Wikipedia. SciFinder and STN are provided to researchers under formal license agreements, under which the researchers agree to refrain from using these tools to build databases. We urge and expect those researchers to respect the explicit terms of the agreements they have entered into. CAS is a division of the American Chemical Society. Please contact CAS if you have questions. Eric Shively, CAS, firstname.lastname@example.org Eshively (talk) 20:56, 5 March 2008 (UTC)”
It’s an interesting stance. This at a time when there is more focus on facilitating information exchange. In an environment where people are using resources such as Wikipedia to source information one would assume that the availability of CAS numbers would actually be encouraged rather than so blatantly discouraged. It’s been said before that CAS numbers are like the phone numbers of the chemistry world so if they were to be sourced from a vendors catalog would that be acceptable? And how would anybody know where they are sourced anyway? If they were sourced from a bottle of chemicals on the shelf and added to Wikipedia is that acceptable?
Nevertheless, as Mr Shively comments there are legal agreements in place and they are expected to be respected. Question: does every user of Scifinder read the agreement? When a large Pharma company licenses access to Scifinder for their users do they expect people to know the legalities of usage and train their users in such detail? Maybe…
As it is I am not a user of SciFinder…though I’d like to be. I think it’s an incredible resource. So, I don’t have to worry about the legal repercussions of using the system (yet). As it is I will continue my work of curating and I guess there will be a discussion now with the WP:Chem team about what to do about CAS Numbers.Stumble it!