Thursday, March 04, 2010

Nature Precedings as an Archiving Tool for ONS Solubility Book

The issue of archiving and citation is a topic that is usually raised whenever I give a talk about Open Notebook Science. We have recently tried to address this using several complementary strategies.

The publication of a book containing a snapshot of all the values obtained from the Open Notebook Science Solubility Challenge has turned out to be a convenient mechanism. By using LuLu, the book can be either downloaded for free as a PDF or ordered as a physical copy for just the printing and shipping charges.

However, Lulu does not have a convenient method of keeping track of different editions of the book and it is unclear how to best cite them.

Nature Precedings solves both of these problems quite nicely. I have uploaded the PDF of each book edition to NP and the versions are automatically linked to each other. In fact if you try to access an older edition, NP pops up a warning that a more recent version is available with the corresponding link (see image below).

Precedings also provides information about how to cite the document, including a DOI for each version. Unfortunately it appears that it can take some time for the DOIs to resolve. Links to different versions can also be formatted like this:
Links to the Lulu version of each book are also provided, which is convenient for anyone who might want to order a physical copy.

At this time Precedings does not accept zip files containing the full archive of the source files for each book version - although a link to the archive is provided in the preface of the book. We have found that our library's DSpace repository is a convenient location for these.

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At 10:15 AM, Blogger Egon Willighagen said...

Nice! Really happy to see how all these things get together!

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Rich Apodaca said...

@Jean-Claude, interesting idea but I have to say I don't quite understand the 'why' part of it.

What do you see as the main advantages of a book like this over a well-crafted Web application? Not a general-purpose database like ChemSpider, but a Web application dedicated to helping chemists find and share solubility data.

A book is essentially a static view of the data. Once published, it's out of date. It can't be searched the way a Web application can. The reader is forced to use your index and can't create their own. The reader has no way of being informed of updates, revisions. Nor can the data contained in a book be filtered or processed with custom queries.

My offer still stands to help you create _the_ Web source for solubility data :). Alternatively, I'd be interested in more detail on the motivation behind the book project - I just don't get it.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Rich - it isn't a question of choosing between a book or a database - we use both. We have a number of ways of querying the database (see top of page) and if you would like to contribute another that could be useful.

The book version has been useful in a number of situations. We keep a copy in the lab and that is often more convenient then doing a search on the computer. The students appreciate something concrete where they are co-authors with accompanying photo and bio which they can take with them.

The book is also tied to a snapshot of all the data and source files, which comes in handy for citing a specific version. If any numbers are corrected or added in the future one can always access the state of the database at the time when the citation was made.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Hiro Sheridan said...


I see two main uses for the book.

First, you can cite it because it has an ISBN, the real-time numbers change every now and again, so here I see the static nature of the book as an advantage.

Second, I see it as part of the archiving project. A permanent record, that will be on our university library shelves.

Your points are of course all valid, that the data is most useful when available from a real-time machine readable web service. I couldn't agree more.

I see the book as complimentary to this.

At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Rich Apodaca said...

@Jean-Claude and Hiro, thanks for the info. I think I'll offer some follow-up questions/comments as a blog post.


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