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Report from IUPAC-Sponsored Symposium

Chemistry and the Internet
25-27 September 1999, Washington, DC, USA

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This conference was the second in a series of annual meetings; the web site is at http://www.chemint.org. In 1999, there were five sessions on electronic ("e-") issues, including e-commerce, e-publishing, education, corporate Internet and intranet strategy, and databases. The first, second, and fourth sessions were followed by lively discussions led by a panel of experts. Bill Town of ChemWeb opened the first session, explaining why so many companies are rushing into e-commerce. Despite the costs (up to USD 40 million to set up a storefront) and the current unprofitability of most ventures, the long-term gains could be tremendous. "E-commerce is not easy, it's not cheap, and it's not optional".

In the publishing arena, first, Chris Parkinson, Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), demonstrated the EMSL Desktop, a new collaborative authoring environment that allows multiple users in different, geographically remote institutions, to read and write multiple documents, on multiple heterogeneous platforms. EMSL Desktop has moved away from applet technology and is now more like a "desktop" on a desktop, allowing "drag and drop", and application launching.

Bob Bovenschulte of ACS Publications answered ten big questions about e-journals:

    • Does electronic publishing reduce costs?
    • Is faster better?
    • How should the electronic archive be maintained?
    • What is the outlook for pricing models?
    • Who should own the copyright to journal articles?
    • Should all the sciences adopt the preprint/e-print model?
    • Should peer review be redefined?
    • Who should link to whom, and how?
    • Will secondary publishers become obsolete?
    • What is the government’s proper role in scientific publishing?

Steven Bachrach of Trinity University gave a progress report on the Internet Journal of Chemistry (IJC). Targets include full incorporation of multimedia, promotion of Internet technologies, low cost, and liberal copyright policies. IJC is peer-reviewed and covers all areas of chemistry. In the education session, Donald DeCoste described web-based homework assignments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Karl Harrison demonstrated the incorporation of multimedia into courseware at the University of Oxford, and Lon Mathias showed how the Polymer Science Learning Center at the University of Southern Mis sissippi web site makes polymer information free and fun. Robert Lancashire's site at the University of the West Indies gets many visitors because it is the home of the JCAMP-DX data viewer for Windows.

Lancashire discussed interactive web page development with Chime and Java. Alan Arnold of the Australian Defence Force Academy talked about MetaChem, a web gateway to international print and electronic sources of chemical information. Sites are evaluated, described, classified, and indexed, and a database of metadata has been set up. Yvonne Martin of Abbott Laboratories was the first speaker in the corporate intranet program. She is developing a web tool that enables bench chemists to discover structure-property-activity relationships. ChemSymphony "Beans", from Cherwell Scientific, are being used. Lewis Jardine, of Cherwell, talked about these Java beans in a later session. Tom Pierce's talk concerned web culture at Rohm and Haas, while Achim Zielesny described the impressive integrated chemistry system that has been built on the Bayer intranet.

On the final day, Stephen Boyer of IBM described an intellectual property "infobank" based on IBM's patent services on the Net; one of them is free, and the other, a "Gold" site, is for paid use by businesses. IBM also offers data mining and visualization tools. Next, Gary Mallard of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) talked about the NIST Chemistry WebBook and the (free) use of chemistry reference data on the web. It was interesting to relate this talk to an earlier one on database protection by Jerome Reichman of Vanderbilt University, School of Law. Reichman is anxious to encourage the "sharing ethos", and he fears that database protection could impede the progress of science and innovation. In the final presentation (coauthored by Wolf-Dietrich Ihlenfeldt and Frank Oellien at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg), Marc Nicklaus of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) demonstrated the enhanced "CACTVS" software for browsing the open NCI database.

A free Internet system, called Erlangen/Bethesda Data and Online Services, offers sophisticated facilities, including chemical structure handling, and 3D pharmacophore search. The conference attendance was not so large as to discourage networking and audience participation, yet countries from East and West and from both hemispheres were represented. A detailed record of the Proceedings, with links to related web sites, is available at http://www.warr.com/chemnt99.html.

Chemistry and the Internet (ChemInt2000) will be held again 23—26 September 2000 at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA (see http://www.chemint.org/).

Dr. Wendy A. Warr
Wendy Warr & Associates, Cheshire, England, UK
Chairman, IUPAC Committee on Printed and Electronic Publications (CPEP)

> Published in Chem. Int. 22(5), 2000

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