ChemSpider Moves Further Towards Web 2.0

23 Jun

Ah…the cathartic nature of being back on the blog…family vacations and work travel are very distracting….

I’ve blogged previously about the question “What is Web 2.0“. In the list of “what it takes to be Web 2.0 according to Wikipedia I noted that one of the criteria is “A rich, interactive, user-friendly interface based on Ajax or similar frameworks.”

If you’ve been using ChemSpider in the past couple of days you will notice at the Search Screen and the Services screen an improvement in usability. Why? Ajax. With literally a couple of hours of work these screens were ajaxified (if it doesn’t exist I’m using it in scrabble and demanding it gets included into Websters!) and the flow of using the screen improved significantly as ChemSpider took on more of a “desktop feel”. it feels good to have made one more step towards delivering “Web 2.0 compatability”. Truly the excitement is more on the development of the social networking system under development now – when completed it will extend the curation aspects of the database and specifically allow users to add their own data into the system. This should be unveiled in its first state within the month..hopefully sooner.

Back to Ajax and a new feature, “ChemSpider Suggest”. For those of you using the system by typing in a text string to locate a record we have noticed that spelling errors abound. Now, something of these are subtle…asprin instead of aspirin (phonetically correct some would say) while others are dramatic differences mostly driven by linguistic differences….when your first language is not English all spellings are phonetic in nature…and the phonetic result is based on how you pronounce things in your language. A tough situation to deal with. With ChemSpider suggest you can start typing the first few letters of the word you are interested in searching for and it will give you a list of potentials as shown below. Imagine not being sure how to spell prostaglandin or erythromycin…such a tool dramatically helps find the right word to search and the chances of ChemSpider finding what you’re interested in. There are two parameters we can tune at present and we’d like your input – the number of letters to type before a suggestion shows up and the number of rows to suggest. Let us know your thoughts on the blog or directly at Enjoy!

ChemSpider Suggest


About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.
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Posted by on June 23, 2007 in ChemSpider Services, Vision


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