Copyright©2007 Antony Williams
Over the past few weeks I have had a few discussions with a member of the ChemSpider Advisory group regarding a concept to create WiChempedia. I’ve enjoyed these conversations with Alex Tropsha (professor and Chair in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products in the School of Pharmacy, UNC-Chapel Hill.) We are like-minded in a number of ways but specifically in what can be done to facilitate delivery of quality information to the chemistry community.
As you will notice if you frequent this blog I am rather a stickler for accuracy and quality (1,2,3). I think it’s important (4). Over the past few weeks I’ve spent more time looking at the quality of data on Wikipedia and trying to figure out the best way to bring together our efforts on ChemSpider to enhance the capabilities of integrated information and to support the quality efforts being made by the WP:CHEM team and help them. I also intend to facilitate the development of our own Wiki environment for chemistry and to generally enhance the tools available to chemists not only for Wikipedia type annotation but also to support Open notebook Science.
Now, I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Wikipedia has a lot of what is necessary in terms of being a known system, a following of people and committed supporters in the WP:CHEM team. What I have been hoping for was a shift around structure and substructure searching on the MediaWiki platform but I know that is a tough request as the platform is not built for that type of thing, The InChKey holds some promise for exact structure searching but does not offer an opportunity for substructure searching without a lookup across a larger database. I want to facilitate information and data sharing further. I do want to provide the type of service that Wikipedia does in terms of general information but also layer cheminformatics tools onto that knowledge and information, allow addition of analytical data, analysis tools, real time predictions and analysis ultimately. This platform should certainly be wiki-enabled.
Decision made. Our intention is to deliver wiki-capabilities in ChemSpider and to use the Open Content associated with chemicals and drugs on Wikipedia inside the system. We will then provide an environment for people to continue to add to, enhance and curate the Wikipedia content as well as add their own. Last night (and well into the early morning) I spent some time talking to Martin Walker from WP:CHEM regarding my concerns that we might offend the Wikipedians with our efforts and that I did not want them to feel that we were ripping off their hard work but rather have our efforts seen as supportive and enabling. My intention as we work through downloading the data and to check, validate and correct what is sitting on Wikipedia directly for benefit to the community. Also, we will of course need to leave all Wikipedia content under the appropriate licensing for others to use. Martin commented that there are tens of mirrors of Wikipedia out there ripped purely with the purpose of exposing and getting ads revenue. We are not working from that model….our intention, as usual, is to build a structure centric community for chemists and with so much excellent work done on Wikipedia I want to take advantage of it and give back also by the work we will do.
Two domain names have been grabbed for this project : WiChempedia, for compatibility with Wikipedia, and also WeChempedia, to emphasize the community aspects of the project.
If you frequent this blog you will recall that we have made a commitment to Microsoft Sharepoint as our future platform for wiki’ing ChemSpider. That is where we believe this work will be done ultimately but we don’t have the platform in our hands yet.
The Xmas vacation is going to be full of holiday movies and manual examination and curation of the Wikipedia data. Wish us luck!Stumble it!