ACS Presentation – Part II

The first part of my presentation dealt with the technical issues surrounding semantic chemistry. This page contains predictions – they are general enough that you don’t have to be a chemist to appreciate them. I’ll probably try to cover some in the talk but if not, at least Wendy can write them up.
They are not agressive polemics, but statements of what I see as the current and the inevitable.
Chemical informatics and information is broken. It’s expensive, lossy, out of data and restrictive. There is virtually no innovation and no obvious understanding of how the web is changing. I don’t think the future Web (“Web 2.0” or whatever current acronym can co-exist with the closed, inward-looking chemoinformatics community which supports the closed world of pharmaceutical research.
Unless current providers of information and software, and purchasers of these services (pharma) change rapidly there will be a split. The new informatics will be characterised by:

  • biosciences and some sciences adjacent to chemistry (perhaps geosciences)
  • funders who agressively promote Open Access and require their grantees to make their output universally available
  • data providers who wish to build mashups – especially multidisciplinary, combined services, and autonomous processes.
  • the young-at-heart generation who espouse Wikipedia, folksonomies, and social computing. Expect to see a lot of semi-formal semi-voluntary reviewing of information resources such as PubChem and Wikipedia
  • a growing Open Source community based on the Blue Obelisk mantra of Open Source, Open Data and Open Standards
  • publishers with the foresight to see the new opportunities and the value of new products and services

Five years ago I made several predictions about the Semantic Chemical Web. Many have come true in technology (but not always in human uptake). Here are some of the next five:

  • Wikipedia Chemistry will be more accessed than the Merck Handbook or general chemical textbooks
  • Students will bring PDAs into lectures (if they even bother to go) and point out when the lecturer makes mistakes
  • machines will be able to answer some first year chemistry exam questions
  • machines will roam the Open chemical semantic web mashing data against bio- and geo-sciences.
  • PubChem will be more accessed that Chemical Abstracts. Universities will cancel their subscriptions to the latter, which will be increasingly oriented to serve the pharma industry
  • chemical linguistic robots will read Open Chemical papers on behalf of the community and extract data, give guidance on what papers are worth reading, build personal chemical memexes, etc.
  • mashups of Open crystallographic data will become universal and except for historical data searches replace the crystallographic datbases.

There are some unprectible aspects:

  • will the pharma industry continune in its closed approach to information? If it is to be information-driven it has to develop and open supply chain for multidisciplinary information and services
  • will the major publishers react positively?
  • will Google enter chemistry? I’ve been invited to Mountain View next week – very exciting. I expect to get a very different type of audience from the ACS – probably no chemists but many excited young web hackers. Google and the new technology could dramatically change chemical informatics.
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