Chemical Information for Chemists

Currano, Judith N., Roth, Dana L., eds. Chemical Information for Chemists; A Primer.  RSC Publishing, Cambridge, UK, 2014: pp. 1-306 + xv, ISBN 978-1-84973-551-3 (softcover), (GDP 24.99) ($54/34 Amazon)

This book is an essential resource for chemical information for chemists and other researchers as well as an up-to-date reference, and teaching tool, for science librarians and information specialists.  Multi-authored by experts in their fields, it covers a wide scope of topics.  Both “classical” (i.e. print) and digital/electronic sources are discussed and access methods are described.  Resources that are free are distinguished from those that are fee-based.  References are at the end of each chapter, and an index to all material concludes the book.

Leading off is the introduction by Leah McEwen.  The nature and history of chemical information is outlined.  The importance of quality information is stressed, including the need for archiving and information professionals as well as for searching and reading by scientists.  Dana Roth begins the Primary Literature Section with a chapter on the non-patent literature of chemistry.  Journals, abstracting and indexing resources, open access, current awareness, impact factors, and gray literature are described.  Michael White opens the next chapter, Chemical Patents, with an excellent, concise description of patents in general, exemplary for chemical patents and sources for chemical patent information.  Intellectual Property in general is discussed, and the frustrating variability in both author and organization names is extensively described.

The Secondary Literature and Search Techniques Section begins with Andrea Twiss-Brooks’ chapter titled Searching Using Text: Beyond Search Engines. She describes the insufficiency of the latter, as well as basics like precision, recall, word variants, nomenclature, author names, and citation.  Judith Currano’s chapter on structure and substructure searching is quite comprehensive and covers a number of resources with SciFinder and Reaxys highlighted.  Detailed strategies for a number of search topics are presented.  Ben Wagner next thoroughly describes physical properties and spectra.  The wealth of sources of such data in both print and electronic formats is listed and described.  Dana Roth follows with another excellent chapter on commercial availability, safety, and hazards (including toxicity), with detailed descriptions of the information resources on these topics.

Donna Wrublewski not only describes sources of information and data on polymers, but she also begins with an introduction on polymers in general.  Judith Currano follows with another excellent chapter on chemical reaction searching, again with an emphasis on SciFinder and Reaxys.  Diane Rein concludes with a chapter titled A Practical Primer to BLAST Sequence Similarity Searching.  I have never done this type of searching, so I must assume this chapter covers the topic well (which I am sure it does).

The need for well stocked and staffed chemistry libraries is obvious given the extent of valuable sources available only by purchase or subscription.  The chapter material in several cases has evolved from teaching done by the authors.  Where applicable, the emphasis is on SciFinder and Reaxys, to meet the anticipated needs of the intended audience.  In a few cases, comparisons are made to chemistry files on STN, but the power of STN for several kinds of searching, including patents and polymers, is not described.  Polymer description and searching is even more complicated than is discussed in Chapter 8. While the authors’ affiliations are listed, there is no mention of their credentials like educational background or professional experience. Some readers will certainly be familiar with the authors and their authority on these topics, but other readers such as those are not science librarians and chemical information professionals may not.

These are minor quibbles and the book is highly recommended for chemists, chemistry students, and their teachers.  It should be available in all chemistry libraries as well as personal libraries of chemists and as a text for chemical information courses.

Disclaimer: although I know or have met the majority of the authors, this reinforces my perception of their expertise and has not unduly affected my review.

There are discrepancies in the listings for this book.  The RSC website listed the publication date as Feb. 1, 2013, since corrected to 2013.  The Amazon posting is Oct. 22, 2013, but the title page on my copy is 2014.  According to the RSC site, it is included in the RSC eBook Collection.

Bob Buntrock
Orono, ME