Posts Tagged ‘XML’
One molecule, one identifier: Viewing molecular files from a digital repository using metadata standards.Monday, September 8th, 2014
In the beginning (taken here as prior to ~1980) libraries held five-year printed consolidated indices of molecules, organised by formula or name (Chemical abstracts). This could occupy about 2m of shelf space for each five years. And an equivalent set of printed volumes from the Beilstein collection. Those of us who needed to track down information about molecules prior to ~1980 spent many an afternoon (or indeed a whole day) in the libraries thumbing through these weighty volumes. Fast forward to the present, when (closed) commercial databases such as SciFinder, Reaxys and CCDC offer information online for around 100 million molecules (CAS indicates it has 89,506,154 today for example). These have been joined by many open databases (e.g. PubChem). All these sources of molecular information have their own way of accessing individual entries, and the wonderful program Jmol (nowadays JSmol) has several of these custom interfaces programmed in. Here I describe some work we have recently done on how one might generalise access to an individual molecule held in what is now called a digital data repository.
- M.J. Harvey, N.J. Mason, and H.S. Rzepa, "Digital Data Repositories in Chemistry and Their Integration with Journals and Electronic Notebooks", Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, vol. 54, pp. 2627-2635, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ci500302p
If you visit this blog you will see a scientific discourse in action. One of the commentators there notes how they would like to access some data made available in a journal article via the (still quite rare) format of an interactive table, but they are not familiar with how to handle that kind of data (file). The topic in question deals with various kinds of (chemical) data, including crystallographic information, computational modelling, and spectroscopic parameters. It could potentially deal with much more. It is indeed difficult for any one chemist to be familiar with how data is handled in such diverse areas. So I thought I would put up a short tutorial/illustration in this post of how one might go about extracting and re-using data from this one particular source.
For those of us who were around in 1985, an important chemical IT innovation occurred. We could acquire a computer which could be used to draw chemical structures in one application, and via a mysterious and mostly invisible entity called the clipboard, paste it into a word processor (it was called a Macintosh). Perchance even print the result on a laserprinter. Most students of the present age have no idea what we used to do before this innovation! Perhaps not in 1985, but at some stage shortly thereafter, and in effect without most people noticing, the return journey also started working, the so-called round trip. It seemed natural that a chemical structure diagram subjected to this treatment could still be chemically edited, and that it could make the round trip repeatedly. Little did we realise how fragile this round trip might be. Years later, the computer and its clipboard, the chemistry software, and the word processor had all moved on many generations (it is important to flag that three different vendors were involved, all using proprietary formats to weave their magic). And (on a Mac at least) the round-tripping no longer worked. Upon its return to (Chemdraw in this instance), it had been rendered inert, un-editable, and devoid of semantic meaning unless a human intervened. By the way, this process of data-loss is easily demonstrated even on this blog. The chemical diagrams you see here are similarly devoid of data, being merely bit-mapped JPG images. Which is why, on many of these posts, I put in the caption Click for 3D, which gives you access to the chemical data proper (in CML or other formats). And I throw in a digital repository identifier for good measure should you want a full dataset.