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RSC Acquires Chemical Database

Repository offers free structure and property data

by Sophie L. Rovner
May 18, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 20

BRITAIN'S ROYAL SOCIETY of Chemistry (RSC) has acquired ChemSpider, a free database of 21 million chemical structures and associated information including properties, commercial sources, and links to related journal articles. The database is periodically expanded with publicly available chemical information and material provided by collaborators and the public on a volunteer basis.

The association with RSC provides stability and credence to ChemSpider, says Antony Williams, the cheminformatics consultant who was principally responsible for its development. Williams will serve as vice president of strategic development for ChemSpider at RSC. He hopes the resource will become a "central hub for information" for users looking for publications about chemical compounds; for information about synthesis, toxicity, and purchasing; for blogs and Wikis; or for an environment in which to collaborate with other researchers.

From RSC's perspective, ChemSpider furthers the society's mission to "advance the chemical sciences and to disseminate chemistry," says Graham McCann, RSC's business manager for ChemSpider.

The society hasn't yet settled on a business model for funding ChemSpider, but it hopes the acquisition will "lead to a wealth of opportunities for collaboration" with publishers, chemical producers and vendors, and others, McCann says. Through its existing Project Prospect initiative, RSC already provides links between a compound mentioned in one of its journal articles to data about the compound and to other RSC journal articles that mention the compound. "With ChemSpider as a centralized resource for the whole publishing community, that service can now rise up a level" so other publishers can establish similar links in their own journals, McCann says.

Other major databases of chemical compounds include the CAS Registry—the world's largest such database, with more than 45 million substances—produced by Chemical Abstracts Service, a division of the American Chemical Society; and the National Institutes of Health's PubChem database.

"CAS has worked with Williams in the past," CAS President Robert J. Massie notes. "We join everyone who is interested in the advance of chemical information in recognizing his considerable contributions. We are delighted to see that his creativity and enthusiasm will continue to benefit the chemical enterprise."



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