Sunday, June 26, 2005

Open access: a way to find local experts to collaborate on CWB projects?

Here is one which is which open access intersects with planning and funding of the kinds of projects I'm guessing Chemists Withoout Borders would be interested in.

Groups like the United Nations and its subgroups are looking for collaboration in projects for developing countries, I understand. The idea is that the most successful projects will be those that draw on local expertise where the project will be implemented. Perhaps someone with more knowledge than I with working with these U.N. and related groups can provide more details?

Many academic publishers in developing countries are making some of all of their works freely available online. In fact, in my opinion this is an area where the developing countiries are ahead; the profits associated with academic publishing in the developed world are a barrier to change.

In practical terms, what this means is that it's relatively easy to read the works of many researchers in developing countries. For example, the prestigious Indian Institute of Science has an e-print repository with over 2,000 articles produced by their researchers, which can be found at Or, the African Journals Online site at provides free abstracts to 211 African journals, and in some cases, one can read the entire journal online.

Does it make sense for CWB to read or search these kinds of works, to see if this approach might turn up a potential partner? If this approach is of interest, please let me know by adding a comment. There are many more resources, but this post is getting a bit long.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Win-Win Philanthropy and Funding Sources

Bego just sent me this link from C&E News(subscription only):

Take a look, and let us know if you have any ideas for CWB funding sources.


postscript: I will work on getting permission to publish this article or get an open link in the near future. ELMO

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Open Access: Chemistry and the Public Interest

It is great to hear that there actually is a Chemists Without Borders group! Best of luck to all of you. Elmo has already mentioned my query to the SPARC Open Access Forum about Chemists Without Borders. For anyone not familiar with the topic, I highly recommend Peter Suber's A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access, at

Really briefly, researchers are making their scholarly peer reviewed articles - the ones they give away anyways - freely available over the world wide web. OA is a global phenomenon, happening all over the world, in every discipline.

If chemists are wondering how they shape up in the OA movement: I hate to have to say this, but your discipline is a wee bit behind here. The physicists began archiving their preprints in the early '90s, in arXiv. Some areas of physics have almost 100% OA; in chemistry, it's a little closer to O%. But never mind that - you chemists can not only catch up, you can forge ahead by being the first on the gold road! For my theory on this, see Chemistry, Alchemy and the Gold Road at

On a more serious note, please be sure to advocate for PubChem, which ACS is trying to eliminate - for more info, see

Following is another piece of my writing that might be of interest to Chemists Without Borders. Any comments about this post, or about Open Access, are most welcome.

Chemistry and the Public Interest

The public interest in chemistry might not, at first glance, be as obvious as is the case with medicine. After all, a fair bit of chemical information is used by industries for primarily economic reasons.

More in depth analysis will reveal the public interest not only in the minute fraction of chemical information that is relevant to medicine - the realm of PubChem - but rather in all matters chemical, in my opinion.

Aside from medicine, an area of pressing concern throughout the world is fixing our damaged environment and warming climate. Even the chemical information developed exclusively for the for profit, commercial sector is now needed by peoples and governments at all levels throughout the world, to understand what we are dealing with.

A municipal government somewhere in the developing world is, or will be, left with the task of cleaning up some of these chemicals and their byproducts, left behind by industry. They need to be have access to information about the chemicals. They need to be able to hire experts, at rates they can afford. This means that they need to be able to afford to
provide educational programs in chemistry; to do this, they need access to the chemical literature.

This scenario is not limited to the developing world, of course; it it playing out in our own backyards as well, and in the backyards of the poorer states and provinces, not just the backyards of the wealthiest areas with the research libraries that can afford to purchase the largest portion of the chemical literature.

There are answers within chemistry to clean up our environment, and find new and more sustainable forms of energy. The need is urgent; the most efficient means of progress is open sharing of our information; in other words, open access.

Public funding goes into chemistry research, just as it does in medicine. There is funding through granting agencies, and the indirect funding that comes through support of academic institutions and their authors.

Even in the corporate sector, corporations get tax breaks for research and development, right? (This is a complex topic I'll talk about another day. For now, suffice it to say that in this case, delayed publication might be justified, IMHO. Note: even this is not restricted publication; a companydoes not wish its competitors to pay subscription fees; rather, they wish to
keep their secrets for as long as necessary to gain competitive advantage).

The taxpayer has a right not only to view the results of publicly funded research, but also to expect the most effective use of tax dollars.

If people in a faraway land can make use of our taxpayer funded chemical research to eliminate local pollution and restore ecosystems, we, our children and grandchildren will all quite literally breathe easier.

Advocating for PubChem is extremely reasonable. PubChem is outside the core of the chemistry publishing industry; it gives this industry plenty of time to address the more fundamental change that needs to happen.

That is, ultimately all of chemistry needs to be open access. There was a time when publishing in print and distributing to the research libraries that could afford subscriptions was the best means of distributing chemical information. This is no longer true. Electronic, open access is now the best means. The industry needs to adjust to serve the needs of the creators
of chemical information, the researchers, readers and the public alike; not the other way around.


Heather G. Morrison

Flash: no one every died from copyright circumvention. Lawrence Lessig,
Free Culture, 2004.
Open Access version:

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial
License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to
Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Pesticide testing on humans

I just saw this. Pretty disturbing, if true.


Grapefruit makes you smell younger

This is an interesting tidbit:

NEW YORK (AP) — A study of smells shows that the scent of grapefruit on women make them seem younger to men — about six years younger.

However, a grapefruit fragrance on men does nothing for them.

The study by the Smell and Taste Institute (search) in Chicago was conducted to determine what makes a women smell young — but not too young, like pink bubble gum.

Institute director Alan Hirsch said he smeared several middle-aged women with broccoli, banana, and spearmint leaves and lavender but none of those scents made a difference to the men.

But the scent of grapefruit changed men's perceptions. Hirsch said that when male volunteers were asked to write down how old the woman with grapefruit odor was, the age was considerably less than reality.



A recent email from Lynn Geldof, Regional Advisor of UNICEF:

From Lynn Geldof,, UNICEF, 5/18/05:

Right, well to be honest, the NGO (non-governmental organization) world is a different beast and all I know is you have to be a registered charity. What that involves, I cannot say at all. I am sure Chemists without Borders (Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres) will elucidate on all these matters and more. It's a brilliant notion, though.

UNICEF is the world's leading procuring agency for vaccines for kids...if that's of any use to you.

Good luck with it and keep me posted.



Please see Lynn's Tajikistan Diaries, for the background reference on Chemists Without Borders.

This letter is a result of CWB trying to make sure that we weren't duplicating another organization. I've been told that, in Britain, Pharmacists are called "Chemists".... so the translation of the French group "Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres" became "Chemists Without Borders." So I hope we have covered all of our bases here.

By the way, the "brilliant notion" she was referring to is the concept of a Chemists Without Borders. Let's hope others think so too!

And if her name sounds familiar, her brother has been in the news recently, too.


Googling: Others wondering about Chemists Without Borders

I just did a Google search for "Chemists Without Borders," and, although we are not in the results yet (I just submitted both the CWB home page and weblog sites to Google), I found this at the top:

I hope many more of us ask this question (and the Google crawler picks us up soon!)


Senate climate change policy

Here's an article in the Guardian about Senate proposals for energy policy and climate change.

Here's my question:

Do you think "a market-driven, technology-based approach to dealing with climate change without imposing mandatory emission-reduction requirements on industry" will really work?


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

First posting

Please see our homepage for info on Chemists Without Borders: