Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More on Microsoft's OA chemistry project

Richard Van Noorden, Microsoft ventures into open access chemistry, Chemistry World, January 29, 2008.  Excerpt:

Computational chemists have secured funding from computing giant Microsoft to showcase how chemistry can benefit from open access data sharing on the internet.

The two-year eChemistry pilot project represents 'a major test case' for proposed new protocols for sharing scholarly information over the web, said Lee Dirks, director of scholarly communications at Microsoft Research. Microsoft's support is also a boost for the small band of chemists keen to promote open access internet publishing....

Most chemical information on the web is published in closed journals and databases which guarantee high quality but also require a subscription to view. Pre-print servers, collaborative documents, open databases, video sites, online lab notebooks and blogs provide other ways of communicating research. Combining the lot offers the enticing prospect of a vast, free-to-access repository. This could transform the sharing of scientific research if the disparate data sources were machine-readable, so that a search engine could automatically gather data about a particular molecule from a crystal structure, a movie, an online lab book, and an archived article, for example.

The international standards required for this challenge are being developed by the Open Archives Initiative Object Reuse and Exchange Project (OAI-ORE), based at Cornell University, Ithaca, US. Their model protocols will be officially launched on 3 March at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.  

The eChemistry project, Dirks explained, was chosen as an exemplar to show that the new standards are actually useful to scientists....

'It will be a radical change from traditional static databases,' said Peter Murray-Rust, an eChemistry participant and computational chemist based at Cambridge University.  

Dirks would not say how much cash Microsoft is giving to support the project, but he stressed that its discoveries would not be proprietary....So far Microsoft Research has not talked to chemistry publishers about the project, Dirks said, but the company is broadly supportive of open access science.

PS:  For background, see Peter Murray-Rust's blog post on the eChemistry project from last December.