Open Access at Abbey Square

Yesterday Jim Downing, Nick Day and I were the guests of Peter Strickland and Brian McMahon at the International Union of Crystallography in their gorgeous offices at Abbey Square, Chester UK
The IUCr is a member of ICSU – International Council for Science and as such acts as a governing body. It has taken a very proactive role over the last 5 decades (and probably more, but I can’t remember) on things like data quality, standards, creating a community. So do all Scientific Unions – such as IUPAC (which recently did me the honour of making me a fellow) – but I hope I’m not divisive in giving the IUCr some individual praise.
I remember IUCr running an community exercise – I think in the 1950/1960 period – where labs were invited to collect data sets from a standard crystal (something like sodium ammonium tartrate, but I forget). That meant that the community could estimate the precision and accuracy that might be possible at that time. The philosophy has continued, and of course technology is much improved so that routine crystallographic data has excellent precision and accuracy. The IUCr has also emphasized the publication of data sets – as part of the scientific record, to check for and with the expectation that future scientists might revisit data sets and re-use them. (For example when I did my doctorate the programs couldn’t model anisotropic scattering from atoms and it would be easy to re-analyse the data. The IUCr has always promoted the publication of the raw data and it’s due to their advocacy that Nick Day has been able to create CrystalEye – WWMM from the supplemental crystallographic data that many responsible scientific publishers mount on their websites. The IUCr had given us some initial support for a summer student – Mark Holt – and we were showing where it had got to. CrystalEye is an excellent model for harvesting data from publisher sites – at least those who don’t try to posses public domain data. More on all of this later.
The IUCr is also a publisher – its flagship journal is Acta Crystallographica (sections A-F). CrystalEye takes data mainly from E, C and parts of B. Acta has a hybrid approach to OA – the cost to authors is 900 USD which is a lot less than most. I think we can expect more developments in this area.

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