Open Data at the ACS


I spoke on Monday at the ACS “Open Data” session on the Panton Principles. I had to leave after mine because I was speaking in the Education session and my comments on them are based on hearsay and their abstracts. There were only 4 contributed papers.

  • Mine
  • One on a commercial software project (the only OD reference was apparently “it would be nice to have some Open Data”)
  • The Cambridge Data centre arguing that data should be curated and charged for and that this business model had to be maintained. (I should point out that CCDC is the “official” repository of raw data from crystallographic experiments. Half the publishers (Springer, Wiley, Elsevier) do not publish supplemental crystallography and the authors then donate the data to CCDC. If you want the data you either have to subscribe to the database or can only get a handful of data (I think 25 out of 500,000). There is no right of re-use)
  • A paper by the organizer Irina Sens who wasn’t able to come.

In another talk Steve Bachrach reviewed the SOAP report of Open Access. It says – no great surprise – that chemistry is well behind other sciences in OA – estimated at 5 years (I would increase this to 10).

I was told that the ACS supplemental data was now Open. Wow! I was going to jump up and down publicly. There was a JPA (journal publishing agreement on this). (11 pp) It is (I quote claiming fair use, as the document is copyright) “is a result of ACS’ ongoing efforts to provide the best possible publishing experience for our authors”. (I note this awful word “use experience” creeping into the language)…Here’s some more:


The new agreement specifically addresses what authors can do with the different versions of their manuscript—e.g. use in theses and collections, teaching and training,conference presentations, sharing with colleagues, and posting on websites and repositories.

The terms under which these uses can occur are clearly identified to prevent misunderstandings that could jeopardize final publication of a manuscript.

The new agreement clarifies that the transfer of copyright in Supporting Information is nonexclusive. Authors may use or authorize the use of Supporting Information in which they hold copyright for any purpose and in any format.

The new agreement extends key terms of use to an author’s previously published work with ACS—as long as the same conditions of use are met.

Behaviors expected of ACS authors are more fully addressed throughout the agreement.

I haven’t read it all but these seem small positive steps. But I am more interested in what READERS (an archaic term replaced by “end-user”) can do. A reader is a human OR machine who actually wants to do something with the published material. To have an interactive experience. So, with great excitement I turned to the conditions of use of ACS supplemental info:


Electronic Supporting Information files are available without a subscription to ACS Web Editions. The American Chemical Society holds a copyright ownership interest in any copyrightable Supporting Information. Files available from the ACS website may be downloaded for personal use only. Users are not otherwise permitted to reproduce, republish, redistribute, or sell any Supporting Information from the ACS website, either in whole or in part, in either machine-readable form or any other form without permission from the American Chemical Society. For permission to reproduce, republish and redistribute this material, requesters must process their own requests via the RightsLink permission system. Information about how to use the RightsLink permission system can be found at


What’s changed? Here’s the same paragraph about 5 years ago


Electronic Supporting Information files are available without a subscription to ACS Web Editions. All files are copyrighted by the American Chemical Society. Files may be downloaded for personal use; users are not permitted to reproduce, republish, redistribute, or resell any Supporting Information, either in whole or in part, in either machine-readable form or any other form. For permission to reproduce this material, contact the ACS Copyright Office by e-mail at or by fax at 202-776-8112.


Well the “end-user experience” is pretty much the same. You can’t do anything without permission. Oh, dear – and I was so expectant.

Actually it’s worse. The old version meant it was a straight dialogue with the ACS – I carried this out over several years without much response. The new version has:


The American Chemical Society holds a copyright ownership interest in any copyrightable Supporting Information.

This is so wonderfully fuzzy that it guarantees that you will not get a clear response from the ACS as to what it means. (Well, actually, you won’t get a response anyway. I have had one response in 4 years’ of trying. “Let’s discuss it at the next ACS meeting”. Not yes, not no, but classic beautiful MUMBLE.


By contrast two cheers to Chemspider. Chemspider is not an Open resource – it is run by the RSC and the system and content is by default closed. They have collected data and contributed data and some of this is Open. So Tony Williams showed that the Open Data items will be stamped with the OKF button.


Well don Chemspiderman.

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2 Responses to Open Data at the ACS

  1. Steven Bachrach says:

    Just a minor correction: Jan Kuras presented the summary of SOAP.
    As to the ACS license agreement, it does provide more specifically spelled out rights for authors. But you are absolutely correct that the changes are minuscule regarding what readers are allowed to do. I am particularly disturbed by the insistence of ACS in claiming copyright to ANY supporting materials.
    In fact, I may decide to no longer include my supporting material and instead host in on my own site or some other depository.
    Lastly, peter gave a very nice set of talks at ACS on open data and on the green chain!

  2. Peter…thanks for the recognition re. the OKF button. We hope it encourages spectral deposition.
    Steven, I’d be interested in discussing with you whether we could host your Supplementary Data, no copyright transfer of course and it only has to be one copy (of potentially many)!

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