Moving (chemical) data around in a manner which allows its (automated) use in whichever context it finds itself must be a holy grail for all scientists and chemists. I posted earlier on the fragile nature of molecular diagrams making the journey between the editing program used to create them (say ChemDraw) and the Word processor used to place them into a context (say Microsoft office), via an intermediate storage area known as the clipboard. The round trip between the Macintosh (OS X) versions of these programs had been broken a little while, but it is now fixed! A small victory. This blog reports what happened when such a Mac-created Word document is sent to someone using Microsoft Windows as an OS (or vice versa).
Posts Tagged ‘Chemical IT’
For those of us who were around in 1985, an important chemical IT innovation occurred. We could acquire a computer which could be used to draw chemical structures in one application, and via a mysterious and mostly invisible entity called the clipboard, paste it into a word processor (it was called a Macintosh). Perchance even print the result on a laserprinter. Most students of the present age have no idea what we used to do before this innovation! Perhaps not in 1985, but at some stage shortly thereafter, and in effect without most people noticing, the return journey also started working, the so-called round trip. It seemed natural that a chemical structure diagram subjected to this treatment could still be chemically edited, and that it could make the round trip repeatedly. Little did we realise how fragile this round trip might be. Years later, the computer and its clipboard, the chemistry software, and the word processor had all moved on many generations (it is important to flag that three different vendors were involved, all using proprietary formats to weave their magic). And (on a Mac at least) the round-tripping no longer worked. Upon its return to (Chemdraw in this instance), it had been rendered inert, un-editable, and devoid of semantic meaning unless a human intervened. By the way, this process of data-loss is easily demonstrated even on this blog. The chemical diagrams you see here are similarly devoid of data, being merely bit-mapped JPG images. Which is why, on many of these posts, I put in the caption Click for 3D, which gives you access to the chemical data proper (in CML or other formats). And I throw in a digital repository identifier for good measure should you want a full dataset.
Scientists write blogs for a variety of reasons. But these do probably not include getting tenure (or grants). For that one has to publish. And I will argue here that a blog is not currently accepted as a scientific publication (for more discussion on this point, see this article by Maureen Pennock and Richard Davis). For chemists, publication means in a relatively small number of high-impact journals. Anything more than five articles a year in such journals, and your tenure is (probably) secure (if not your funding).
A Semantic blog is one in which the system at least in part understands about (some of the) concepts and topics that are in the content. The idea is that this content can be more intelligently (is that the correct word?) and importantly, automatically searched, harvested, and connected to the same or similar concepts found elsewhere in other blogs and the Web as whole. I am writing this blog using Firefox, having added a Firefox extension called Zemanta. As I write, the system offers suggestions for similar themes elsewhere that I could choose to link to the blog (and obviously the more one writes, or the more specific the terms one uses, the more sensible the suggestions become. At this precise moment, it is still offering fairly generic suggestions, one of which I have just chosen to add). My purpose in this particular post is to explore how the very process of writing a blog might be affected by such a product. I am also inferring (but cannot add detail at the moment) that all the (semantic) connections or links to other materials will be expressed in this blog using some form of formal declaration, such as e.g. RDF or RDFa.
Chemistry can be very focussed nowadays. This especially applies to target-driven synthesis, where the objective is to make a specified molecule, in perhaps as an original manner as possible. A welcome, but not always essential aspect of such syntheses is the discovery of new chemistry. In this blog, I will suggest that the focus on the target can mean that interesting chemistry can get over-looked (or if observed, not fully exploited in subsequent publications). Taking a synthesis-oriented publication at (almost) random entitled Synthesis of 1-Oxadecalins from Anisole Promoted by Tungsten (DOI: 10.1021/ja803605m) which appeared in 2008, the following molecule appears as one of the (many) intermediates.
One of the many clever things that clever people can do with the Web is harvest it, aggregate it, classify it etc. Its not just Google that does this sort of thing! Egon Willighagen is one of those clever people. He runs the Chemical blogspace which does all sorts of amazing things with blogs.