Israel Scholar Communication Scrolls

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May 31, 2005

ACS Unduly Retards NIH PubChem Development. Part 2

"RGRP, Government-funded Free Information for Chemists 'Unfair' Competition for Private Monopolies, Digital Rights Network, May 10, 2005. Excerpt: 'Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), a subsidiary of the American Chemical Society (founded 1909), is unhappy because the Federal Government has funded an open scientific database called PubChem that *might* compete with their service. CAS President Massie stated: It would not only injure us significantly, it would put information for free in the hands of world scientists and do it all with taxpayer money. For me to wake up one morning and find I have to compete with my own government is extraordinary. (The fact that much of the money paying for subscriptions to the CAS come from taxpayer-funded scientists seems to have passed him by). While CAS just contains 'facts' which, at least under US law, don't yet have protection this hasn't prevented ominous talk about copyright and whether the government is overstepping its bounds in its provision of free information to scientists. Perhaps sensing their weak legal position CAS has taken its concerns direct to politicians. For example Ohio Governor Bob Taft has been persuaded to write a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt stating that PubChem threatens the very existence of CAS... This whole situation is rather ironic given that the ACS was orginally a learned society. However with a chief executive on over a $1 million a year it now appears to be more of a publishing conglomerate, jealously guarding its IP rights and more than happy to thwart access to knowledge and the progress of science if it harms their bottom line.

Readers might recall that the ACS also recently threatened action against Google over the use of the term "Scholar" in Google Scholar project claiming this infringed on their product called Scifinder Scholar.'"

Source: Peter Suber. More on ACS v. PubChem. OA News (19 May 2005) [FullText]; Also see: American Chemical Society Unduly Retards NIH PubChem Development. Israel Scholar Communication Scrolls (21 May 2005) [FullText].

"Bernadette Toner, ACS Accuses NCBI's PubChem of Copying Its CAS Registry; Is Compromise Possible?, Bionform, May 16, 2005. Not even an abstract is free online. But Jan Velterop [Jan Velterop blog called The Parachute is available at this link] has posted some excerpts to SOAF: 'Christopher Austin, senior advisor for translational research at NHGRI and a principal leader for the Molecular Libraries implementation group, told BioInform that he and other NIH officials were "flabbergasted" by ACS' claims. "Both the topic and the ferocity with which that has happened has taken us by surprise," he said. "ACS wants us to strictly limit the information in PubChem to only that information that comes out of the molecular library screening centers, and not allow data from any other source to be present in the database," he said. "The problem with that is that it would downgrade the value of the database to the community." Austin noted that all of the 850,000 compounds currently in PubChem have come from publicly available databases --most of them NIH-funded resources-- in an effort to populate it with some chemical information before the first data from the screening centers comes online later this year. "All the compounds that are in PubChem have been in the public domain for years and years," he said. This effort to aggregate disparate public chemical data into a single resource was long overdue, Austin noted, pointing out that if the Human Genome Project had followed a similar model, "[and] you wanted to find the human genome, you would have to go to five different databases to find it, which makes absolutely no sense, and would radically impede the progress of research."' Jan adds this comment: 'Elsewhere, Eugene Garfield has been quoted as saying: "It is remarkable that the same society that accepted millions of dollars in grants from the NSF for establishing the chemical registry system, now objects to the government's use of the data."'"

Source: Peter Suber. More on ACS v. PubChem. OA News (19 May 2005) [FullText]; Also see: American Chemical Society Unduly Retards NIH PubChem Development. Israel Scholar Communication Scrolls (21 May 2005) [FullText].

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