I am still DELIGHTED with Chemspider

A few days ago I applauded (blog post) ChemSpider for releasing their data under CC-SA and I still do. CC-SA is compliant with the BBB defintion/declaration.
There has been some apparent criticism of this  created because I unintentionally posted a private list to my blog. I apologize. to John, Chemspider and other members of the advisory board. The language reflects the type of discussion that a small community uses in private.
John has now blogged this

04:17 10/05/2008, john wilbanks, john wilbanks’ blog
This is a comment I posted on the ChemSpider blog, one of two I tried to post. I’m cross posting here to make sure it’s public. Make sure to click through to the blog, it’s on the topic of using CC licenses on data. I sent an email to a list that got blogged, before I could get a chance to reconcile everything and contact the Chemspider guys. I think they should get complimented for their intentions and that they deserve tea and sympathy, because this licensing stuff is really complicated, and all they wanted to do was share.
In short, it’s a demonstration of how confusing data licenses make the position of data providers essentially untenable. From my perspective, the answer is either go public domain, or don’t. If you don’t, please make the metadata public domain. Anything is simply too confusing to figure out, and it’s going to be worse.
Part of the problem is that we have created a cargo cult around licenses. A contract will come from the heavens and make us free! But in data we’ve got the public domain right there to teach us. All we have to do is look up from the lawyer’s desk and follow the yellow brick road…er, the NCBI’s lead.
I tried to post a comment but don’t know if it got through.
I did not intend for my comments to become public – that was a post to an advisory board list, intended to highlight precisely how this issue demonstrates the difficulty providers have in understanding licensing of data.
Creative Commons licenses were built for cultural works, like this blog or a website or music. They weren’t built for data. Data has different qualities and characteristics and thus requires different licensing approaches.
I would recommend you read the official CC position on this, which is the Science Commons Open Access Data Protocol (http://sciencecommons.org/projects/publishing/open-access-data-protocol/) and that you look at the best available legal tool to achieve the protocol (http://www.opendatacommons.org/odc-public-domain-dedication-and-licence/). These are regimes that facilitate data integration, unlike the CC BY SA license.
Please know that I salute your intent here and don’t want to slander you – you’re trying to share, and you’re confused on how to do so. I do believe that in our conversations I did indeed recommend to you the idea of releasing an RDF dump of your database in the public domain, using only the NCBI approach listed on this very blog. That’s essentially what we recommend at CC, as you’d see in the protocol.
Again, it was not my intent for this to go public before I could reach you, and I’m very sorry for that. It is never fun to make a decision and get pummeled for it, and from my perspective you don’t deserve the pummeling.
I’ll cross post this to my blog to make sure it gets online.

PMR: On the assumption that no lasting harm has been done, some good comes out the the episode:

  • I will take greater care to make sure what I repost
  • As there is very little general understanding of the benefits and disadvantages of licences it is clear that we (SC/OKF) have to work hard with each new community, some of whom have virtually no experience of licencing.
  • We have had the chance to publicize how much we care about getting the mechanics of Openness right and what the issues are. We do not want fuzzy borderlines
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I am still DELIGHTED with Chemspider

  1. Peter, I thank you for the applause regarding our implementation of licensing on ChemSpider. I also acknowledge and accept the apology you have issued publicly to John Wilbanks, ChemSpider and members of the advisory board.
    I believe that some good has likely come out of the conversations over the weekend – maybe a little more confusion, maybe a little more clarification (especially around John’s “data in the public domain” comments) and maybe a few more relationships. This latter part is especially of interest to me as we work on creating a community for chemists.
    Now to the outcome for ChemSpider. ChemSpider went live in March of last year with a “who knows where it will go” approach. From the moment we went live you have paid attention. However, rarely has this been with any sense of support but, rather, a framework of negativity. You have criticized our science and our intent. You have projected your judgments as truths. I have addressed these judgments many times but rarely with acknowledgment from your side. It has been a lot of work for both of us. To be clear, I have judged your efforts around Open Notebook Science for NMR similarly.
    ChemSpider appears to have a center spotlight now in terms of licensing and Open Data. I acknowledge these are significant parts of YOUR agenda and a key part of what you have worked on for many years. I judge your other agendas to be Open Access, Semantic Web and associated technologies. I honor your work in these areas and feel you have contributed and will continue to contribute to the ongoing shifts of Open science prevailing at present. Thank you.
    Our agenda for ChemSpider is different. We are building a community for chemists (Notice the recent shift from the original vision “Building a Structure Centric Community for Chemists” as we expand out of structures only.) At present, we are doing what we can to support the needs of chemists researching structure-based information. We are integrating information. We are more than a “linkbase”. We are actively supporting Open Notebook Science. We ARE listening to our users, the community, our collaborators and our advisory group.We have delivered a valuable solution in the past year with no cost to the users, to the tax-payers, with no grants and based on the hard work of a small dedicated team of volunteers only.
    The past year has been very distracting for us, and me in particular, in terms of your comments and judgments about ChemSpider, and by association, about myself. I have tried to clean up a number of these on the ChemSpider blog (http://tinyurl.com/45acav) but acknowledge you might have different view points. These discussions have been draining and have distracted us from our core mission of serving our users.
    At this point I need to withdraw from the dynamic we have co-created around our relative agenda(s). I honor and acknowledge what you are out to achieve. I wish for the same from you. I do not believe that our intentions are contrary or mutually exclusive to your own. I think that time will prove this to be true.
    I believe that you judge our efforts to be in conflict with those of your WorldWide Molecular Matrix but I doubt that is true. I will respond shortly to some historical posts regarding your call for a structure collection for your eChemistry Project with Microsoft. We are willing to help and I am open to a discussion should you wish to collaborate. I am working with the Wikipedia:Chemistry team to build a validated SDF file for the public domain and we can make this available to you.

  2. Pingback: ChemSpider Blog » Blog Archive » Refocusing ChemSpider on its Mission and Creative Commons Aids Clarity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *