Honored to be a Recipient of the Jim Gray eScience Award from Microsoft Research

10 Oct

Last night in Chicago I was awarded the Jim Gray eScience Award. I didn’t know Jim personally but I know I benefit from the fruits of his work. Before Tony Hey gave me the award he played a video about the previous award winners. To be recognized for my contributions and to join scientists of the caliber of the previous winners was, to say the least, very emotional. My entire career has been focused on doing what I thought was the right thing for the role I was charged with. And when I didn’t want the role I was in I would move on. That’s migrated me through various roles in science from lab manager in academia, in industry, to start-up cheminformatics company product manager, through marketing, through sales, to community website for chemistry, to where I am today at RSC, a publisher. If I had been asked to map out my career path there is no way I would get to here…but which of us would be able to really?

Last night I presented on “The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Internet-Based Chemical Data”. I talked about how much data I have generated in the lab over the years that is now lost. And how we can change this moving forward for the existing generation of scientists. I talked about the history of ChemSpider from hobby-project to present day as one of the web’s primary sites for chemists. I talked about how scientists should PARTICIPATE in annotating and curating data online…how data sites specifically should enable commenting to capture issues. I talked about the measure of scientists and how efforts including ORCID and ImpactStory will be important to deal with the impact and notability of scientists. I hope I was able to share my view that while technology will continue to improve in terms of allowing us to contribute that it is personal choice to make a difference that is crucial in terms of correcting errors, annotating data and continuing the journey of creating improved resources for the chemistry community (and of course other branches of science).

I also announced our intention for RSC to create a Global Chemistry Hub (a topic for a separate post) and to “data enable the RSC archive”…extracting chemicals, reactions, data etc from our archive going back to the 1840s. We do not have all of the technologies, the processes or the approaches yet defined. But we have the intent and the courage to go for it, learning as we go and producing beneficial outcomes in an iterative manner. It’s an exciting time for the RSC cheminformatics team and it is my privilege to work alongside a great team of individuals to create a step change in terms of how we manage and deliver chemistry data to the community.

I have had a lot of trusted advisers over the years and last night I acknowledged a list of those closest to me in recent years. They include: Jean-Claude Bradley, Sean Ekins, Lee Harland, Gary Martin and Martin Walker. The closest to me however is Valery Tkachenko. I was happy that Valery was able to be at the conference with me. So much of what has been achieved to data with ChemSpider (as well as MANY projects we worked on together while at ACD/Labs) rests squarely on his shoulders. The future technical implementation of the cheminformatics projects we are undertaking at RSC is under his guiding hand. I am glad to have such a great “partner in crime”….

My thanks to Microsoft Research, to the judges for selecting me for the award and to the community who has chosen to embrace some of the fruits of my work. I am leaving Chicago proud, tired and looking forward to making an ever bigger impact with some of our new projects.




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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3 Responses to Honored to be a Recipient of the Jim Gray eScience Award from Microsoft Research

  1. Robin Martin

    October 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Congratulations Tony!!!


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