Copyright©2009 Antony Williams
The logo to the left says it all really. The Royal Society of Chemistry has acquired ChemSpider. Is that a good thing? ABSOLUTELY it’s a good thing. One of the most prestigious, forward-looking, high-quality and innovative societies in the world, who have already demonstrated their commitment to the Chemistry community, have chosen to bring ChemSpider under their wing and give it a home. This is good for us for a number of reasons. Specifically we will no longer have to deal with our very significant resource limitations but more than that it lends credence and validation to the work that we have been doing over the past 2 years. It seems so long ago now but ChemSpider was first unveiled to the world at the ACS Spring meeting 2007. What began then only as a hobby project is now being recognized by the community as one of the primary resources for internet chemistry.
ChemSpider has an interesting story really. It was started to release our creativity on the world of internet chemistry to see if we could deliver value and something more than was already available. It was clear that PubChem was becoming a valuable resource for the world of drug discovery, that Wikipedia was gaining traction for encyclopedic articles and that eMolecules/Chmoogle was out to help people purchase chemicals. It didn’t seem that anyone was going after the challenge of becoming a centralized resource for integrating these resources together (and others of course). The development of a structure-centric platform for the community allowing depositions, curation and annotation and expansion to allow linking to articles, blogposts, wikis and the hosting of analytical data, prediction engines and other software utilities for the community seemed appropriate. And so we began. We were applauded for our efforts by some and dismissed and ridiculed by others. Nevertheless we plodded forwards forming relationships, expanding our network, increasing our visibility and expanding our reach in terms of integrated resources. With a clear focus on serving the community, a passion for quality and an intention to stay in relationship with our users, contributors and supporters we worked hard. Very hard.
Building ChemSpider has not been easy. It has not only been a labor of love but it has been done under duress at times, under severe time and resource constraints and with lots of late night hours. This time was given willingly, not only by our own intimate team but with significant contributions from some of our Advisory Group and by members of the community at large. We thank you all. We had support through sponsorship and this allowed us to cover the costs associated with improving our hardware and purchasing software and covering travel costs as necessary. Members of the commercial chemistry software community provided tools to us to use, at no cost. We were made welcome at conferences and round tables discussing the future of Open Chemistry. We grew our reputation by word of mouth only and by doing what we said we would do. Some of our early critics are now some of our loudest advocates. It’s all been very humbling, incredibly enlightening and genuinely invigorating (while also being very tiring!)
Over the past 2 years we have been approached by a number of organizations to merge/acquire/consume. In all cases things didn’t feel quite right. The experiences and instincts covered a diverse range: we might be acquired and switched off, we might be engulfed by bureaucracy and process that would prevent us from producing at the speed to which we and our users have become accustomed, and we might be offered career paths that could be destructive in terms of life balance (I’ve had parts of my life where I have not seen my own home for almost 3 months because of travel schedules and will not do that to my family again).
When we were approached by the RSC, and engaged in discussions with them about their interest in what we were doing, it was clear that we are like-minded. Our want is to have a positive impact on the flow of data, knowledge and information in the domain of chemistry. We are honest in our relationships and focused in producing results. We are doers and not talkers. We want what we produce to enhance the ability for chemists to access chemistry-related resources and speed up their research. Bottom line we want to help advance the chemical sciences. Do a search on “advancing the chemical sciences” on Google and see what comes out on top. Or don’t..just look below
The_RSC is focused on advancing the chemical sciences and we want to help! In fact, we’ve been destined to do so since ChemSpider went online and when RSC approached us it felt as if this could be a marriage made in heaven. Over the past few months of discussions matching up our interests and ideas with those of the RSC, and then going through the entire due diligence process it became clear that we are indeed well-matched. No, I’ll say ideally matched.
Things will never be the same again. Not just for us but for internet chemistry. We can now TRULY get to work and not worry about bandwidth constraints and how to buy our next disk drive. The community can stop worrying that their investments in time into expanding and enhancing ChemSpider will be lost. There is no need to worry about ChemSpider “going away”.
Watch this space. We will announce the new and improved ChemSpider later in the year but the present version will remain active for everyone for the time-being. We will be migrating the present version to RSC servers for improved performance over the next few weeks. Our long term goal is simple: To deliver the primary online platform where chemists will resource information and collaborate across the worldwide community of chemistry.
Tell us what you think. Please do. If you read this blog and have remained quiet previously please give us feedback about this announcement. We hope you will celebrate this path forward the way we are. It’s going to be just great!Stumble it!