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Last day at the Royal Society of Chemistry – So long and thanks for all the spuds

01 May

Today is my last day of employment for the Royal Society of Chemistry. It will be almost six years since I joined RSC when ChemSpider was acquired. While ChemSpider was initially a “hobby project” and attempt to create a disruption in terms of access to chemistry data, crowdsourced contribution and data validation, it has gone from strength to strength and now serves ca. 40,000 unique users a day from around the world. It won three awards in the first few months that we joined RSC and was catalytic in RSC winning three grants to allow us to participate in the Open PHACTS project, the PharmaSea project and become the host of the UK National Chemical Database Service. Based on the feedback I have received over the years ChemSpider is much-loved and appreciated as a contribution to the scientific community and is recognized as one of the key players in the free chemistry resources arena. I am proud to have been associated with it.

We also got to set up the ChemSpider SyntheticPages micropublishing site and tried to get the community sharing syntheses that would likely not make it into mainstream papers but were still of value to science.

During my six years at RSC I have been involved with many discussions regarding the following areas of work, study and research and how they would benefit publishing, the society and, of course, the chemistry community at large. The list includes, in particularly random order:

  • Chemistry databases – both commercial and free- and how to best mesh, commercialize and license data
  • Data quality in publications and databases and development of tools for data validation
  • Open Data, Open Access and Open Notebook Science
  • Text-mining of the RSC archive to extract & mark up compounds, reactions, property data and analytical data.
  • The potential of semantic web applications to scientific publishing
  • Encouraging the use of Open Identifiers – especially ORCID and InChI
  • The future of Micropublishing in the chemical sciences
  • Analytical data and building an open spectral database for the community
  • Social networking approaches to build online profiles – especially for young scientists

There are many, many more things of course but these are the big ones and, for me, bring clarity to what my interests are – chemistry data and making it available to the appropriate communities. It is with this in mind that I am excited to join the Environmental Protection Agency next week in the National Center of Computational Toxicology.

With every move forward into a new job we leave behind our old one. And I leave RSC with some sadness that I am leaving and excitement for the new opportunities. I have had the chance to work with so many good people at RSC, to engage with collaborators such as ACD/Labs, Mestre, NextMove, EBI, ChemAxon, Accelrys (as they were then), iChemLabs, Dotmatics and on and on. Apologies if you are not named but the list is very long. Thanks to everyone for your support, encouragement and opportunities to engage. It has been a blast.

And for everyone at RSC who catered to my strange diet of potatoes only…so long, and thanks for all the spuds.

 

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 (www.chemspider.com). 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 (http://www.openphacts.org), 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 (http://cds.rsc.org/) and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project (http://www.pharma-sea.eu/) 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 https://comptox.epa.gov, 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.

One Response to Last day at the Royal Society of Chemistry – So long and thanks for all the spuds

  1. George Dionne

    June 23, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Good luck to you at the new place, new environment, with new colleagues, new challenges! Hope to hear more from you.

     

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