For months, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has been on a determined campaign to restrain NIH from developing PubChem, a freely accessible database of small organic molecules, claiming that its existence threatens the financial viability of ACS’s Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) database. In the process, they’ve created a backlash among ACS members who recognize that PubChem is good for science. (See “Chemical Reaction”, Nature, October 2005, pages 807-809.)
PubChem, launched in 2004 as part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research strategy, is a freely accessible database available on the Web (http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/) that is intended to hasten drug development. It provides the chemical structures of small molecules and links these to bioassay data, DNA sequences, 3D protein structures, biomedical literature, and other relevant resources. The purpose of these linkages is to offer researchers an advanced starting point for development of new medications.
ATA believes the American public is well served by continued development and maintenance of PubChem and rejects ACS’s contention that PubChem will unfairly compete with the CAS database. We conveyed these views in letters to House Labor/HHS Subcommittee Chair Ralph Regula (http://www.arl.org/sparc/oa/PubChemlet.html), and his Senate counterpart, Arlen Specter (http://www.taxpayeraccess.org/docs/senspecter05-0621.pdf).
On October 3, ACS president William Carroll responded to NIH Director Zerhouni’s August 22 proposal to resolve the matter. Carroll asked NIH to confirm that PubChem will not “disseminate information on the commercial availability of compounds” and called for “up-front safeguards” to block PubChem data deposits that violate contractual agreements or copyright. He also asked NIH to implement a process that ensures “data are pertinent and derived from established, bona fide sources” before dissemination in PubChem.
NIH is studying the latest ACS letter and has not yet responded. ATA will continue to monitor this and work with members of Congress to ensure a positive outcome.
For the complete ATA Newsletter, see:
SPARC Open Access Forum
Now - back to chemistry projects! Elmo, loved your post on Coal...