Chemical Informatics Letters

Volume 6, Issue 1; January 2003

Editor: Jonathan M Goodman

The GRID - a scheme to distribute computational power over the world, not just data - continues to attract attention. Java-based GRID software is now being developed, complementing the Globus open standard toolkit.

The US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is developing methods to visualise datasets from diverse disciplines.

Chemistry 2000 (c2k) continues to provide an up to date index to the worlds university chemistry departments and chemical journals. In January 2003, it indexed 2005 chemistry departments and related resources, and 802 journals. Of these, forty three are marked as having failed to register as relevant and accessible sites in the last automated check, so the database should be more than 98% accurate.

XML and MicroSoft Office
Microsoft has announced that it will move towards an XML file format for office applications in forthcoming releases, to enable better data exchange. A complicated XML document is not necessarily much easier to interpret and modify than a binary file, and it is reasonable to ask how open the new format will be. This seems a useful step up from the widely used RTF format.

European Academy of Sciences
This academy is a "non-profit non-governmental, independent organization of the most distinguished scholars and engineers performing forefront research and the development of advanced technologies". Academy membership is considered a high honour, according to the web site. But what is this academy? There seemed to be no members from England at the end of 2002, and the academy appears to have been founded very recently, although the date of foundation is not mentioned on the web site. What level of distinction does membership of the academy imply? At the moment, the answer is not clear.

Free Software Project for Atomic-scale Simulations
A free software project for atomic scale simulation has been set up following a CECAM workshop.

Barnard Chemical Information, (BCI), a Yorkshire-based company, provides specialised chemical informatics software and services to clients world wide.

National Bioinformatics Institute
The National Bioinformatics Institute ( has an impressive-sounding name, and, according to its website, supplies 'two of the world's most respected certificates in the field of bioinformatics'. However, the website gives no names and contact information for people within the organisation. There is molecular informatics information copied from various other institutions, and there is a list of NBI board members. When contacted by e-mail, with a request for more information about the institute, none of the board provided any information about the institute, except the name of the CEO, Arnold S. Dion. Dr Dion explained that the claim for world-wide respect may be viewed as an exaggeration. The NBI has no connection with the EBI (European Bioinformatics Institute), despite the superficial similarity of the names.

Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource. In December 2002, it received a nine-million dollar grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation to launch free-access biomedical journals (Press release). The PLoS will distribute its journals for free, but will charge authors to publish in them.

Open Source Books
Computer programs can be open source - what about books? Prentice Hall, the academic and reference book publisher, is publishing 'open source' text-books, which are legal to copy, modify, and redistribute, unlike most other books. The web site emphasises this, but the Prentice Hall web pages for the books do not.

ChemBrain is a worldwide unique chemical database for three-dimensional molecular structures with integrated artificial intelligence, from ExportSoft, for PCs. The web site provides good pictures, but little detailed information. A free trial of the software is availble.

NSDL is a digital library of exemplary resource collections and services, organized in support of science education at all levels, funded by the Directorate for Education and Human Resources of the NSF. This might be compared with PsiGate, a UK-funded collection of physical science resources, although the NSDL is not limited to the physical sciences. The first funding cycle was 2000-2002, with the inital release in December 2002.

© 2003 J M Goodman, Cambridge
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