In the current spirit of Openness I’m appealing to the chemical blogosphere for help. Jim Downing and I are writing a grant proposal for UK’s JISC : supporting education and research – which supports digital libraries, repositories, eScience/cyberinfrastructure, collaborative working, etc. The grant will directly support the activities of the blogosphere, for example by providing better reporting and review tools, hopefully with chemical enhancement.
The basic theme is that the Chemical Blogosphere is now a major force for enhancing data quality in chemical databases and publications, and we are asking for 1 person-year to help build a “Web 2.0”-based system to help support the current practice and ethos. The current working title is “Agents and Eyeballs”, reflecting that some of the work will be done by
- machines, as in CrystalEye – WWMM which aggregates and checks crystal published structures on a daily basis.
- humans as in the Hexacyclinol? Or Not? saga. Readers may remember that there was a report of the synthesis of a complicated molecule. This was heavily criticized in the blogosphere, and indeed the top 9 hits on google for “hexacyclinol” are all blogs – the formal, Closed, peer-reviewed paper comes tenth in interest.
“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” – Eric Raymond. In chemistry it is clear that the system of closed peer-review by 2-3 humans sometimes leads to poor data quality and poor science. We’ve found that in some chemistry journals almost every paper has an error – not always “serious”, but … So:
“Agents and eyeballs for better chemical peer-review”.
Not very catchy but we’ll think of something.
It’s unusual to make your grant proposal Open (and we are not actually putting the grant itself online, especially the financial details). But there are parts of the case that we would like the blogosphere to help with. If you have already written a blog on any of the aspects here, please give the link. You may even wish to write a post
- showing that the blogosphere is organised and effectively oversees all major Open discussion in chemistry. I take Chemical blogspace as the best place for a non-chemist (as the reviewers will be) to start.
- show that the Blogosphere cares about data. Here I would like to point to the Blue Obelisk and the way Chemspider has reacted positively to the concerns about data quality
- show that important bad science cannot hide. I would very much like an overview of the hexacyclinol story – which is still happening – with some of the most useful historical links. Anything showing that the blogosphere was reported in the conventional chemical grey literature would be valuable.
- Open Notebook Science.
We have three partners from the conventional publishing industry – I won’t name them – who have offered to help explore how the Agents and Eyeballs approach could help with their data peer review.
You might ask “why is PMR not doing this, but asking the blogosphere?” It’s precisely because I want to show how responsive and responsible the blogosphere is, when we ask questions like this.
There is considerable urgency. To include anything in the grant we’ll need it within 36 hours, although contributions after that will be seen by the reviewers. I suggest that you leave comments on this post, with pointers where necessary. Later I suspect we’ll wikify something, but it’s actually the difficulty of doing this properly and easily that is – in part – motivating the grant.