Message from Chair

Antony J. Williams

Come April 2013 many chemists will be attending the 245th ACS National Meeting and Exposition. Will you be there? If so, then please be sure to check out the very rich program that CINF will deliver at this meeting. It has been a pleasure to work with the CINF committees to arrange what we believe is an excellent opportunity to hear about the exciting work going on in the domain of chemical information. My hat is off to Rajarshi Guha and the supporting committees for all of the work they did in 2012 and I can only hope that I can perform the duty of Division Chair as well as he did. The role of chair is a one year appointment and, while rather distracted by the work associated with the two national meetings, it is an opportunity to bring our personal passions for chemical information to the community. And, I admit, I am full of it...passion that is...for what CINF can do.

The CINF division has to be one of the most exciting because, let’s be honest, what chemist today is not using computational tools of some type, is not scouring commercial and public databases for data or the Internet for information? More than most, our area of chemistry is one that has grown in importance and impact at an incredible rate. With this in mind I am distressed as to why our membership has declined rather than grown and I am concerned that despite our best efforts we are not necessarily addressing the needs of our members and our community-at-large. Based on my personal experiences over the years we deliver excellent programs at national, regional and local meetings. At each meeting I attend I am gratified by the camaraderie I feel from my colleagues and the collective skills, knowledge and wisdom that we are bringing to bear to extend our domain of practice. That said, as I travel the world meeting chemists, not necessarily chem(o)informaticians (yes...I AM trying to be all inclusive with both variations of spelling), I am rather surprised that some chemists only have rudimentary knowledge around basic capabilities such as structure representation, data exchange, skills in searching for chemical information, etc. Are we failing the chemistry community by not teaching them and spreading the word about what is feasible today? While an organic chemist would likely warn me off from attempting many standard syntheses without a safety net (or at least a fume hood) our domain is different. There is little to lose in trying things out. There is so much to be discovered, so much value to be gained in attempting to model a dataset, so many advantages in understanding how to move your data from platform to platform, from instrument to thesis, from report to online dataset for the world to share in! That said, is any Internet search a dangerous search? Yes, if you intend to use the information out there as gospel...if you don’t care whether the hazard warnings are valid, whether the property data are appropriate and whether the guidance you receive at the end of a query is appropriate to your needs. I say let’s spread the word and, in parallel, drive our membership higher and participation in our division to stratospheric levels! If you are a bench chemist and want to learn more about chemical information and its value to you come and join CINF!

We are at a time of change for how scientists will be measured. The classical measure of a scientist’s activities and impact is based on where they publish, the impact factors of the journals and their citation metrics. But, times are changing, driven by a shift towards more openness in science as represented by open access publishing, open data and open source code for our software. Funding agencies are requesting that data associated with their grants are released via public repositories, open notebook scientists are releasing their data with fully open licensing and the movement of crowd sourcing that resulted in Wikipedia is fast becoming a part of our domain. The majority of these areas of science were just starting a few years ago and are already becoming mainstream. We are in the era of “altmetrics,” some would say new metrics, that measure activities online, track the value of open data set contributions, measure the “conversation” of scientists as their contributions traverse the web. We are indeed living in exciting times and CINF can offer an ideal environment to become immersed in and informed about these movements and the technologies that both serve and result from these efforts.

In the coming year I intend to encourage our division, our members and the community we support to come together to offer each other training, materials, platforms and support so that collectively we can enhance our operating knowledge across the world of chemical information. We will continue our popular webinars initiated at the end of last year and, if the attendance warrants it, we can increase their frequency. We want to give a voice to all scientists if your intention is to educate and stimulate the attendees with travels across the world of chemical information. We will work to deliver platforms for the management of training materials associated with chemical information, as was initiated with the XCITR project (www.xcitr.org). You may have additional ideas!

It is, as ever, going to be an exciting year for our division and for chemical information. Please do attend our online webinars, visit our website, engage with us as members and, should the urge catch you, become an active volunteer and committee member! Bring your voice to bear on the issues of today and help us grow the impact of our division to educate, inspire and drive change across our domain! If you are in New Orleans and have ideas for how CINF can serve you better, please, let’s talk. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool, been-in-it-from-the-beginning chemical information professional then I ask you to encourage those early in their careers to join us in CINF as our efforts will benefit them by having them understand sooner what is possible. Also, let’s reach out across the divisional lines for collaboration, in programming, and in events, and help mash up the world of chemistry for the good of all. With that in mind, and paraphrasing a great man, “ask not what your division can do for you, ask what you can do for your division.” Your participation helps. Sign up, step up and let’s emphasize the benefits of chemical information!

Dr. Antony J. Williams
Chair, ACS Division of Chemical Information (CINF) @chemconnector
Tony27587 AT gmail.com