Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Profile of the Blue Obelisk

Peter Murray-Rust, The Blue Obelisk, A Scientist and the Web, September 8, 2006.  Excerpt:

Chemoinformatics and much chemical computation is seriously broken. The formats are 30 years old, the producers compete against each other, there are no validated data resources, programs and no communal agreed knowledge. Each producer sees themselves at the centre of the universe and caters only for their own requirements, leading to a forest of ďstovepipesĒ in the antipattern jargon. There is no sign of positive reaction to the developments on the web. Neighbouring disciplines such as bioinformatics sigh meaningfully and then go ahead and create the Open chemical resources they need....

Chemical software used to be free. It wasnít interoperable, but that is because machines werenít. Even if you used a single language (FORTRAN) there was a lot of work to transport it....

This mess persists. But about 10 years ago a number of small initiatives took place to create Open alternatives - a real labour of love because theye were generally not innovating, but playing catchup. They werenít taken seriously. For the most part they still arenít. But itís changing. There is now a critical mass of developers in mainstream chemoinformatics - not enormous, but sufficient to create a usable, useful system. That is growing rapidly....

We discover each other by cyber-methods - mailing lists, IRCs, etc. The best known of the IRCs is freenode cdk. So people become cyberfriends. Before the ACS meeting in san Diego 2 years ago we decided to meet in Horton Plaza - by the Blue Obelisk. Amusingly there are two so we nearly didnít manage it. But we did, and the name stuck. I wrote a short summary of our communal aims and aspirations and itís taken off from there. Weíre meeting again in San Francisco next week.

The Blue Obelisk now has its own mailing list and many members including me have blogs. You can find it all [here].