RSC eScience heroes rewarded through Microsoft prize

05 Apr

A press release from today….I hope to say more after the week at ACS New Orleans….

Last year, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Antony Williams was given the Microsoft Jim Gray eScience Award, recognising his pioneering contribution to ChemSpider, the free chemical structure database.

Now, Tony has chosen to pass on the $20,000 prize money to recognise eight colleagues who have made contributions to eScience through their own research.

Tony explains that, as the first non-academic to win the award, where traditionally the monetary prize has gone to the winner’s institution to invest in research, as he works in the publishing wing of his organisation, this needed a different approach.

Tony says: “I wanted to reward and recognise the efforts of the many people I’ve worked with and whose data, systems and services I have used over the years – every one of them has contributed in some ways to my own work in this area.

“In science you commonly stand on the shoulders of the giants that come before you. In eScience it is very possible to benefit from the efforts of others and implement, and I am fortunate to be able to take advantage of the brilliance of others.

“This is my giveaway in recognition of what they do and my thank you to them.”

One of Tony’s choices is Jean-Claude Bradley, Associate Professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who has pioneered work on Open Notebook Science. Tony Williams is deeply impressed with Jean-Claude’s approach, saying “I believe we will look back at what he’s doing as being hugely important – he really has his finger on the pulse of the future”.

Jean Claude feels equally strongly that a more open approach to science is vital for the acceleration of science and chemical projects. When asked about the importance of receiving the extra financial support, he said: “It’s fantastic, I’m very honoured by the award and certainly we don’t have any government funding for this so it’s very encouraging.

“Crowd funding and these kinds of initiatives, I think there are situations where it really works, so it definitely means a lot.

“ChemSpider itself has been key in the technical components of our work because we use ChemSpider IDs as our primary key for the molecules that we track and it has a lot of useful web services you can use, so working with Tony and the tools available from ChemSpider has been fantastic”.

Another recipient is Professor Martin Walker who, as well as teaching organic chemistry at the State University of New York at Potsdam has worked on improving the chemical compound pages on Wikipedia Chemistry. That work is “incredibly important”, according to Tony Williams. He adds: “Martin came in to work with the RSC for a year, so he’s someone I know and respect hugely. I also worked with him at Wikipedia Chemistry and he’s co-ordinated some incredibly important work”.

In turn, Martin Walker says “I admire Tony Williams immensely, and his award was certainly well deserved. I feel very honoured that he has chosen to recognise my work in this way.”

The award winners are recognised for their contributions as described in Tony’s own words below:

1) JC Bradley –Open Notebook Science: He coined the term Open Notebook Science and has set the vision for its applications to chemistry.

2) Martin Walker – Wikipedia Chemistry. Leads and coordinates many efforts around Chemistry on Wikipedia contributing a significant number of the chemistry articles:

3) Bob Hanson – Jmol: Leads development of the Jmol applet, one of the most useful tools for chemistry on the web:

4) Robert Lancashire – JSpecView: Project lead for the JSpecView Applet, an enabling component to allow for display of spectra data on the web:

5) Egon Willighagen – Open Source Chemistry: A contributor to the world of Open Code for Chemistry, especially to the Chemistry Development Kit and semantics for chemistry.:

6) Igor Pletnev – InChI: the InChI software manager and sole developer of all enhancements to the original InChI software code:

7) Daniel Lowe – Nomenclature conversion and Open Reactions. Daniel managed the development of the OPSIN name-to-structure conversion software for 3 years and has contributed hundreds of thousands of chemical reactions to the world of Open Data.

8) Peter Corbett – Text-mining: Peter developed the OSCAR3 open source package for chemistry text mining and also was the original developer of OPSIN.

Press release online

More information

Edwin Silvester

Media Relations Executive

Royal Society of Chemistry,

Thomas Graham House, Science Park,

Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 0WF, UK
Tel +44 (0)1223 432294, Mob +44 (0)7825 186342



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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