Feature Articles

Twenty-five Years After

Wendy Warr & Associates was founded 25 years ago in January 1992; see http://warr.com/15years.html for other momentous events of that year. By coincidence, the spring ACS meeting that year was held in San Francisco, as was the most recent one, in spring 2017. My first public report on an ACS national meeting covered the meeting held in August 1992 in Washington, DC, and if I produce two reports this year, I will be up to issue number 50!

This year also marks a notable 40-year anniversary for me: the very first ACS national meeting I attended was in fall 1977. Recently I posted a historical note or two on chminf-l, and it was suggested that I might like to write an occasional historical item for the Chemical Information Bulletin. I hope to start the venture in earnest with the next issue of the bulletin, but here is a short “taster”, focusing on some events of 1991 and 1992.

Tim Berners-Lee posted the first lines of HTML in 1991, and the first sites appeared on the World Wide Web in 1992. Many individuals active in CINF were allocated email addresses by CAS: mine was waw22@cas.org or waw22@xtrn.org. (A CAS email address had your initials and department number; department 22 was unused internally.) I also had a Bitnet id, but I cannot remember what I used it for.

The early IBM PC read real floppy disks (the ones the mailman could bend). Tetrahedron Computer Methodology, a revolutionary electronic journal, using MDL’s Chemist’s Personal Software Series (CPSS) was issued on these floppy disks. The last issue appeared in 1992, although it was dated 1990 to meet the calendar requirements of a more old-fashioned publishing culture. MDL published its file formats in the Journal of Chemical Information and Computer Sciences in 1992, effectively ending the Standard Molecular Data (SMD) file movement, although the Chemical Structure Association was still supporting SMD into 1993. The term “cheminformatics” was not in common use in 1992.

MDL had a year of uncertainty after the death of Robert Maxwell in November 1991 (see Warr, W.A. After the Fat Man Jumped: The Saga of Robert Maxwell. ONLINE 1992, 16(6), 62-67). My notes on the spring 1992 ACS meeting record that relations between MDL and TRIPOS Associates did not improve after the “unfortunate incident in San Francisco”? Can anyone remember what that incident was? It hardly matters now: both companies no longer exist. In 1992, Bob Massie was appointed Director of CAS, and shortly afterwards, Jim Seals departed.

I am happy to receive comments, corrections and omissions. I will include them in my next column, if health, strength, and the demands of my continuing, busy consulting business permit.

Wendy Warr
Wendy Warr & Associates
wendy@warr.com

The CINF Luncheon

Tradition, tradition… You may find a curious fact that the earliest CINF social event was… a luncheon.

At almost every ACS National Meeting, the division members enjoy having a divisional luncheon, usually on a Tuesday. The tradition was started with the Chemical Literature Group in 1943, long before the division was formed in 1948.

Speakers

Val Metanomski listed the names of the luncheon speakers between 1943 and 1975 and commented, “The speakers represented a broad spectrum of well-informed individuals with great credentials, mostly from within the ACS membership.” Indeed, the early luncheon lecturers were distinguished chemists associated with the society including several future Priestley medalists: Edward R. Weidlein (1848), E. J. Crane (1951), W. Albert Noyes, Jr. (1954), Wallace R. Brode (1960), and Joel H. Hildebrand (1962). Descriptions of the events consistently refer to the luncheon speaker as “the guest of honor.” The first speaker, at the fall 1943 ACS National Meeting in Pittsburgh, was Edward Ray Weidlein, who had been ACS president in 1937. This was the year that the Chemical Literature Group was formed within the Division of Chemical Education, and an intriguing description of that luncheon appeared in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).

Although the attendance at [the] student breakfast was smaller than usual, there was an overflow crowd (about 110) at the divisional luncheon, at which E.R. Weidlein spoke as one having authority and not as a modern scribe or bureaucrat!2

The divisional event attendance of 110 was high, considering that the total meeting registration was 3,537 for that conference. The cost of the 1943 luncheon was $1.65, which was expensive in proportion to the meeting registration fee of $3 for a member of the society.

Five years later, at the 1949 spring national meeting in San Francisco, the newly-established Division of Chemical Literature marked another milestone on its path towards its 70th anniversary; it organized its first program of three sessions with fifteen papers. The division reported of its social event:

The first meal sponsored by this new division was a luncheon Tuesday noon attended by 43 people. G. Malcolm Dyson of Loughborough, England was the guest of honor. He congratulated the American Chemical Society on the formation of the Division of Chemical Literature, stating he knew of no other chemical organization in the world which had recognized the broad importance of documentation by forming such a sub-division… Membership of the division was at about 300.3

Fast-forwarding along the CINF historical timeline to the notable 1970s, another record of high attendance of 102 people was reported at the spring 1975 luncheon in Philadelphia with a keynote address by Eugene Garfield, the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (now Clarivate Analytics) and the creator of such innovative publications as Current Contents, Science Citation Index, Index Chemicus, and Current Chemical Reactions. At the spring 1976 luncheon, Cyrus Levinthal, an outstanding molecular biologist, was a guest speaker, and the first Herman Skolnik Award was given to Herman Skolnik. In 1977, the division luncheon featured presentations entitled “Chemical Information Scientists are really important to Industry Productivity and Profitability” by William Hanford (spring) and “Personal Computing: a Look at the 1980’s” by Philip A. Greth (fall). In the following spring, Melvin Calvin, who won the 1961 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Prize_in_Chemistry for his research on carbon dioxide assimilation in plants, was an honorable guest presenter. At the fall 1978 ACS National Meeting in Miami Beach, the division tried an experiment where, instead of the usual luncheon speaker, it had a panel discussion on the CINF Tuesday morning’s symposium entitled Retrieval, Analysis, and Indexing of Chemical Reactions, moderated by Robert Fugmann (a future recipient of the Herman Skolnik Award in 1982). According to the program chair’s message, that experiment generated heated feedback comments varying from “how boring” to “it was great; let’s do it again!”4 After a few years, at the fall 1984 national meeting in Philadelphia, CINF had one more unusual luncheon setup with roundtable discussions on topics such as end-user training, office automation, data resource management, copyright, document delivery, full-text searching, and others. (Chemical Information Bulletin, Summer 1984, page 20). Aside from those two experiments, the luncheon kept its typical format, with a guest speaker. Val Metanomski carried on his compilation of the CINF luncheon speakers from 1975-1993, and remarked:

The most enduring tradition, Divisional luncheons at the ACS National Meetings, continued throughout that period, almost always capped with a talk by a knowledgeable, interesting, and often witty speaker. Some luncheons were joint with other ACS Divisions such as Computers in Chemistry, and Chemistry and the Law. The subjects covered up-to-date information on general societal concerns, on some of the ACS activities, on new technological developments in information storage, retrieval, and distribution, and on other ‘hot’ topics.1

Since 1993, there have been a few more CINF luncheons featuring keynote presentations by distinguished chemists, namely: Roald Hoffmann, who shared the 1981 Nobel Prize with Kenichi Fukui for their theories, developed independently, concerning the course of chemical reactions (fall 1994); Helen Free, an awardee of the 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation and a designee of the 2010 National Historical Chemical Landmark for developing diagnostic strip tests (spring 1996); and Richard Zare, a recipient of the 2010 Priestley Medal for lifetime of scientific achievement and service to chemistry (spring 1997). During the 1990s, CINF began a trend of inviting guest speakers from the region where the national meeting was held. Some examples of institutions invited to speak include the following

  • Disney Studios: spring 1995, in Anaheim,
  • Field Museum (a talk about DNA and dinosaurs): fall 1995, in Chicago,
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography (a presentation by Jeffrey Bada on Searching for Evidence of Life on Mars): spring 2001, in San Diego,
  • Environmental Protection Agency (a talk by Ted Smith about sustainability of Great Lakes): spring 2007, in Chicago.

Along with adding a regional flavor, the presentation topics began to shift from chemistry and chemical information to popular science and entertainment. There are several possible explanations for this tendency. First, the CINF technical program had become fully packed, prompting a desire on the part of the division chair for a leisurely luncheon. Second, there is no fixed honorarium for the guest speaker, who therefore requires easy transportation to the national meeting site. Luncheons in the 2000s and 2010s hosted more diverse guests, including John Reynolds, who spoke on forensic science and weapons of mass destruction (fall 2006); Michael Capuzzo, who recounted tales from his bestselling publication, The Murder Room (with book signing, fall 2010); and Richard Walter, who talked about a notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper (spring 2011). Fortunately for attendees fearing horror stories over lunch, the next series indulged in Chocolate, Food of the Gods by Howard and Sally Peters (with delicious samples and prizes, fall 2011); The Chemistry of Wine by Kirsten Skogerson (with California wine tasting, spring 2012); and Science Comedy by Brian Malow (with jokes and puns, spring 2013). The recent luncheon speakers are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: CINF Luncheon Speakers 2009-2017

237

Spring 2009

Salt Lake City

Sonja Krane

Highlights of the Journal of the American Chemical Society

238

Fall 2009

Washington

Jeremy Berg

One Chemist’s Journey into Informatics

239

Spring 2010

San Francisco

Randy Marcinko

Profitable Publishing: My Journey from Edge Notch to Semantic Edge

240

Fall 2010 

Boston

Michael Capuzzo

The Murder Room

241

Spring 2011

Anaheim

Richard Walter

Jack the Ripper Unveiled

242

Fall 2011

Denver

Howard & Sally Peters

Chocolate, Food of the Gods

243

Spring 2012

San Diego

Kirsten Skogerson

The Chemistry of Wine (slides)

244

Fall 2012

Philadelphia

William Brock

The Case of the Poisonous Socks: Tales from Chemistry

245

Spring 2013

New Orleans

Brian Malow

Science Comedy 

246

Fall 2013

Indianapolis

Katy Börner 

Multi-Scale Maps of Scholarly Activity (slides)

247

Spring 2014

Dallas

Andrew Yeung

Chemistry in Wikipedia: A Personal Perspective

248

Fall 2014

San Francisco

Barend Mons

Data stewardship, Boring or Soaring? (slides)

249

Spring 2015

Denver

David Thomas

19th & 21st Century Malting & Brewing

250

Fall 2015

Boston

Michele Derrick

CAMEO: A Database for Technical Information on Materials in Museums

251

Spring 2016

San Diego

Christopher Tubbs

Dietary Phytoestrogens and Reproduction in Southern White Rhinoceros

252

Fall 2016

Philadelphia

James Voelkel

The Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project and the Chymical Encyclopedia

253

Spring 2017

San Francisco

Andrew Leach

Molecules, Data and Models

Awards

In addition to guest lectures and social networking opportunities for division members, the luncheon provides a venue for award ceremonies. Since its inauguration in 1976, the Herman Skolnik Award has been presented to forty-five scientists for their achievements in the theory and practice of chemical information science. The winners are always invited to the CINF luncheon, although the actual award ceremony has recently been scheduled for the conclusion of the Award Symposium. The Meritorious Service Award, renamed in honor of Val Metanomski in 2010, has, since its establishment in 1992, *recognized sixteen division members for their outstanding services to CINF. In 2006, the CINF Lifetime Award was dedicated to Val Metanomski and then honored two more members for their long-standing, commendable commitments to the division: Guenter Grethe in 2013 and Bonnie Lawlor in 2015. The spring luncheon was also a good time to thank the immediate past-chair of CINF formally with the presentation of the “ACS Past-Chair” commemorative pin. For a short time in 2009-2010, the Best Presentation Award, funded by the ACS Innovative Program Grant, was also presented at a luncheon.

Staying true to its mission for supporting students interested in pursuing studies in chemical information and related sciences, CINF has awarded stipends over many years. First, the Student Scholarship Award was established in 1989 and was renamed in 1996 in honor of Lucille M. Wert. Although this stipend is usually mailed to the recipient, there have been several special occasions when it was presented during a CINF luncheon. Second, the Scholarship for Scientific Excellence program was created in 2005, based on generous support from its sponsors: IO Informatics, FIZ Chemie Berlin, Elsevier MDL, Symyx Technologies, Accelrys, RSC Publishing, Springer/InfoChem, and ACS Publications. Since its inauguration, sixty-seven scholarships in total have been awarded via this program, and the scholarship winners are always invited to the division luncheon on Tuesday.

Attendance

Typically, a CINF luncheon gathers about sixty to eighty attendees. The majority of luncheon ticket sales are made through ACS meeting registrations, with the remaining fifteen to thirty tickets sold in person during division social events and given as complimentary tickets to all award and scholarship winners, guest speakers, and sponsors. The available data on ticket sales via ACS registrations and total attendance estimations are listed in Table 2, along with total ACS registrations for each meeting and the price of each ticket.

Table 2. CINF Luncheon Attendance 2010-2017

Season: Spring

Mtg.

Year

Location

Tickets sold by ACS

Attendance estimated by CINF

ACS registrations

Ticket price

239

2010

San Francisco

50

77

18,067

$15

241

2011

Anaheim

44

70

14,022

$15

243

2012

San Diego

Data unavailable

60

16,758

$15

245

2013

New Orleans

Data unavailable

75

15,473

$15

247

2014

Dallas

32

Data unavailable

13,498

$15

249

2015

Denver

53

65

13,958

$15, $20*

251

2016

San Diego

Data unavailable

70

16,310

$20, $25*, $15**

253

2017

San Francisco

52

85-90

18,917

$30

Season: Fall

240

2010

Boston

Data unavailable

75

14,072

$15

242

2011

Denver

51

85

10,453

$15

244

2012

Philadelphia

60

80

13,228

$15

246

2013

Indianapolis

43

Data unavailable

10,803

$15

248

2014

San Francisco

45

Data unavailable

15,774

$15

250

2015

Boston

69

80

13,928

$15, $20*

252

2016

Philadelphia

60

71

12,989

$25

*non-CINF member, **student

Getting close to beating its historical record of over one hundred participants, the latest spring luncheon in San Francisco showed the best attendance, with close to ninety diners. Although, there were likely extra “fans” who came only in order to hear the speaker, Andrew Leach, Head of Chemistry Services at EMBL-EBI (The European Molecular Biology Laboratory - The European Bioinformatics Institute), the larger count was drawn from the highest-ever number of total registrants at an ACS National Meeting, 18,850.

Ticket price

During its first thirty years, the ticket price for the luncheon rose from $1.65 in 1943 to $5 in the mid-1970s. The price increased sharply to $8 at the fall 1977 national meeting in Chicago, which raised concerns among members of the CINF executive committee: “Why if the luncheon for the division was subsidized, was the price still $8, which was equivalent to what the other divisions were paying for their luncheons.” It turned out that this luncheon had been held in a higher-priced hotel and incurred additional add-on costs. In the 1980s, the ticket price increased to $11, remaining under $14 for several years, with the exception of a jump to $18 at the fall 1981 national meeting in New York and to $25 at the fall 1990 national meeting in Boston. During the next decade, the ticket price varied in a range from $16 to $28, and then suddenly spiked to $40 (spring 2000, San Francisco) before reaching its peak of $42 (spring 2001, San Diego). After managing to keep the ticket price for the next three luncheons at $30-34 (fall 2001, Chicago through fall 2002, Boston), the CINF executive committee asked its fundraising chair to try to locate a sponsor in order to keep the ticket price below $30, a goal that was met between 2004 and 2007 thanks to the kind support of MDL and others. In order to keep the ticket price at $30 for the 2008 spring national meeting in New Orleans, the division luncheon was organized off-site in the Rio Mar Restaurant. At that meeting, the CINF executive committee had a special discussion on “The Future of the CINF Luncheon,” reporting that the cost of the luncheon was rising above $30. The ticket price was driven both by the cost of food and the cost of A/V equipment, which was hundreds of dollars, and the location of the luncheon was almost always dictated by the fact that national meeting programming is very tight. The consensus was that CINF needed to raise about $2500 - $3000 in additional funds for each luncheon in order to support a ticket price of $15, which was deemed a reasonable price. CINF achieved this desired outcome, introduced a special price of $15 for the fall 2008 meeting in Philadelphia, and has been able to sustain this price for many years thanks to the following generous sponsors:

  • Thieme Chemistry (spring and fall 2009)
  • Elsevier/Reaxys (spring 2010)
  • Bio-Rad Laboratories, CambridgeSoft, and Thieme Chemistry (fall 2010)
  • RSC Publishing (exclusively, spring 2011)
  • Bio-Rad Laboratories and RSC Publishing (fall 2011)
  • RSC Publishing (exclusively, spring 2012-spring 2017).

Recently, the luncheon ticket price has started increasing again. Luncheon tickets at the last three national meetings cost: $15 member/$20 non-member (spring 2016, San Diego), $25 (fall 2016, Philadelphia), and $30 (spring 2017, San Francisco). Within a decade the ticket price had once again reached $30, despite the sponsors increasing their contribution to $4,000. Without this additional support, the ticket price would be $40 - $50, as seen for other ACS divisions and committees. Currently, very few ACS divisions organize their luncheons at national meetings; aside from the Division of Chemical Information, the following technical division luncheons were listed in the program for the ACS spring 2017 national meeting:

  • Division of the Chemistry and the Law, Drug and Power Luncheon: $40, off-site
  • Division of Chemical Education, High School-College Interface Luncheon: $45, on-site
  • Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry, Luncheon: $45, on-site.

Overall, the cost of social events at official ACS national meeting venues has become so outrageously expensive that CINF has discontinued all food services for its long committee meetings on Saturday, paused the traditional “Harry’s Party” on Monday, and adapted to a buffet-style luncheon on Tuesday. Erin Davis, the division chair, has been actively exploring off-site venues and joint collaborations with other ACS divisions for social events. She is in favor of mingling opportunities at receptions; for example, she made arrangements with the Computers in Chemistry division to hold a lively joint reception in Jillian’s Bar on Saturday night in San Francisco. The CINF luncheon has been a division tradition for seventy-four years, but what is its future? Your feedback is welcome!

Luncheon Photos

CINF Luncheon SpeakerCINF Luncheon SpeakerCINF Luncheon SpeakerCINF Luncheon Speaker

Sources consulted

  • “50 Years of Chemical Information in the American Chemical Society 1943-1993”
  • Brenda Philpot, Lead Program Associate, ACS Meetings & Expositions Services
  • Michael Qiu, CINF Social Events Coordinator
  • Chemical & Engineering News
  • Chemical Information Bulletin
  • CINF E-news
  • CINF Executive Committee meeting minutes.

References

  1. Metanomski, V. 50 Years of Chemical Information in the American Chemical Society 1943-1993. http://web.stanford.edu/group/swain/cinf/50years/html_index.html (accessed May 26, 2017).
  2. Fall, P. H. Chemical Education. Chemical and Engineering News, 1943, 21, 1520.
  3. Casey, R. S. Chemical Literature. Chemical and Engineering News, 1949, 27, 1310-1311.
  4. Revesz, G. S. From the program chairman’s desk. Chemical Information Bulletin, Fall/Winter 1978, p 3.

Svetlana Korolev
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

CINF Councilor

skorolev@uwm.edu