The question is, which project will survive…Will ChemSpider Stick Around…

12 Sep

Recently I posted some statistics regarding traffic to the ChemSpider website examined using various tools…our own and the Alexa Rank engine. Peter Schneider has commented on the performance of the various rank engines. He also asked an interesting question: “But the real question is: Does emolecules generate more income with an Alexa Rank of 400 000? It is not the question, if a site has more visitors or not… The question is, which project will survive…” It

s definitely worth commenting on!I am looking into the Alexa Toolbar issue and if Peter is correct in his judgment of its bias we will likely take it down. What we are looking for is accurate representation. We are now tracking google analytics and have signed up on as he suggested so only time will tell now.I think Peter is right in that there needs to be some standard way to compare sites. Certainly ChemSpider is not out to “beat” eMolecules or PubChem, or any of the new systems which might come online in the near future. I believe we all share the same space and bring value in our own ways. I have great respect for what Klaus and the group are up to. I collaborated with the team directly while I was at ACD/Labs – integrating ChemSketch into Chmoogle (as it was then), arranging exposure at Reactive Reports and then again with the logP donations working with the PhysChem product manager at ACD/Labs .Does eMolecules generate more revenue than ChemSpider with a lower Alexa rank. I would hope so…they are a business! I am not sure of their business plan but it does include exposing companies catalogs through their site (for revenue I should expect. – see example with a NCH skin on top of eMolecules engine at I have also heard that in certain cases that compounds sold via the website results in a percentage going to eMolecules. I don t know it is true but it is rumored to be that way. (By the way..I suggested to Klaus that we exchange our relevant structure collections and index each others structure collections and link between the sites but haven’t got a response yet. This type of exchange/integration is what Joerg is talking about here.)ChemSpider, on the other hand, is a passion project. Until about a month ago it was non-revenue generating …more bank account draining 🙂 All computer software, hardware, ISP fees etc were paid for out of our bank accounts. Yes, we founded a corporation to do this…we re an overly “litigious society”.Recently I chose a period of personal sabbatical so now I am the non-revenue generating member of the household (but a great chauffeur for the children). I am happy to say that now we actually have sponsors for the site. We did try the Adsense approach but the $2.50 per day wasn’t worth the reputation ding and the annoying screens. We’ve added “Buy me a Coffee” to the blogs…but so far we haven’t had one. So, we are depending on the kindness of our sponsors to keep the site going at present. If you look at the home page you will note that Waters was kind enough to sponsor the site and is a gold-level sponsor based on the magnitude of their support. We have recently received support from one of our other collaborators and their logo will post soon.

I can confirm that in my downtime I am looking for additional funding to the keep ChemSpider going in whatever way it comes: sponsorship, anonymous donations, grants, collaborations, begging, borrowing (no stealing…). ChemSpider can continue to move while there are free cycles to support it and enough income (or family monies available) to keep it exposed. If there is no way to create a revenue stream from the system it will certainly suffer in terms of the pace it moves when those of us working on it now get tired and some of us “go back to work” and have new career objectives to distract us. ChemSpider IS still a passion project. The intention is that there will always be an Open Access ChemSpider for chemists to use. I see no reason that everything you have access to now will ever be taken away. The majority of what we have in our development plans is for the good of all. I don’t know how else to commit to a deeper level of permanence for the site. We are not yet done with the conversations about Open Sourcing the code in the future.

So, thanks Peter for asking the question about “which project will survive”. If any readers have thoughts about garnering financial support for the system through sponsorship, grants, collaborative work etc please contact me at the usual address (antony.williams AT chemspider DOT com) and open the discussion. What we want is for ChemSpider to be around for many years to come..and I believe we can make that happen even in our spare time. That said, with dedicated effort the reach of this project can be truly massive…





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 September 12, 2007 in Vision


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