The chemical Web at 22 and where it might go.

This post is prompted by the appearance of a retrospective special issue of C&E news, with what appears to be its very own Website: It contains articles and interviews with many interesting people, along with several variations on the historical (albeit rather USA-centric) perspectives and a time-line covers many of the key innovations (again, from a USA-perspective). Some subjects are covered in greater depth, including computational chemistry. The periodic table too gets coverage, but surprisingly that is not of Mark Winter’s WebElements, which carries the impressive 1993-2015 continuous timeline (hence 22 in the title!).  

You can find mention of Tim Berners-Lee at the CEN site (but no interview with Sir Tim), so here I contribute to the historical record by showing the plaque placed in the corridor of offices at CERN where TiMBL and Robert Cailliau worked to set the Web up in 1991.

Click to expand

Click to expand

What is not really given much prominence in the C&E news article is DATA. Which arguably is the reason why TimBL set things going back in 1989! Zenodo is (just like the Web before it) a spin-off from the activities at CERN, but now handling just data. Or Code. Or indeed almost any useful outcome of the research process that might be useful to someone else or to posterity. And to put it into context, it comes in two parts:

  1. The data store itself (which CERN are especially good at, since the Large Hadron Collider generates a great deal of data). They add the A to FAIR (Findable, Accessible, interoperable and Reusable). And also a certain confidence that this store will be enduring, not here today and gone tomorrow.
  2. The metadata describing the data, which in fact turns out is stored somewhere else, at DataCite. This organisation serves to add the F to FAIR.

And to show how this works in practice I can do no better than give this link: which shows how you can benefit from the metadata.

I have already demonstrated the use of Zenodo for archiving some old computer code of mine for calculating kinetic isotope effects, but of course it is so much more than that. If the first CERN spin-out, the Web, is already 22 years old (for chemists), then I am confident in asserting that facilities such as Zenodo will play an increasingly important role over the next 22 years (indeed a much shorter timescale than that). 

A personal souvenir can be seen here.

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