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September 28, 2006

George Porter and Caltech Libraries: Growth of the CODA Repositories

.: George Porter, Technical Reference Librarian at Caltech's Sherman Fairchild Library and sometimes-contributor to this blog, is featured in a recent article in News and Updates from Caltech Library Services. Specifically, his work on the Caltech Collection of Online Digital Archives (CODA). Excerpt:

The Caltech Collection of Online Digital Archives (CODA) has been receiving a lot of publicity in the Open Access Authoring @ Caltech blog site (http://oacaltech.blogspot.com/). This is partly due to the increase of faculty and student awareness and interest in the on-line availability of research material.

When asked to give a brief description of CODA, George Porter, a Technical Reference Librarian in the Sherman Fairchild Library for the last 9 years, first responded that CODA is a number of things. It is primarily a digital collection of all Caltech authored technical reports, books, conference papers, and oral histories from the Caltech archives, as well as a repository for Caltech dissertations and electronic theses (ETD’s). The repository was launched in 2000, and as of 9/5/06 we have 2,884 dissertations on file. It has been mandatory, since 2003, for all graduate students to submit their theses electronically.

September 22, 2006

A Heartfelt Response: Penny Wilson, ICIS Global Editorial Director, Reaffirms ICIS' Commitment To Students

.: In response to previous postings about the sudden disappearance of Chemical Market Reporter, the shortly-thereafter emergence of the new ICIS Chemical Business Americas (ICBA) site, and the lack of available chemical prices therein, I have had two very productive conversations, first with Joseph Chang, Editor of ICBA, and most recently with Penny Wilson, Global Editorial Director of ICIS Publications. From their responses, I think it is safe to suggest that ICIS values its student readers highly, and that issues raised from the aforementioned events appear to be on the road to resolution, with a heartfelt commitment from ICIS to address the needs of chemical engineering and chemistry students, and their instructors around the world. I invited Penny Wilson to respond to my posts, and as with Joseph Chang's earlier letter, I am happy to present Penny's letter in this forum. She raises new issues for consideration, and seeks to involve us - librarians, professors, instructors and the students - in a forthcoming collaboration to create something of value and use to those in the educational setting. Penny writes:

Dear Randy,

Your well-deserved rant about our lack of attention to students' needs when redesigning the CMR website to accommodate our new magazine brand, ICIS Chemical Business Americas, sowed a seed so deep that it has preoccupied many of my waking thoughts. Indeed I have, for the first time ever, welcomed a few traffic jams - encountered on many roads deep in the English countryside - because they've allowed me more time to better form my thoughts on how we could better serve the student community.

It is true that in the whirlwind of a huge rebranding, innovation and change management throughout ICIS in which we have launched many new products and services, and significantly revamped others to answer to rapidly changing global needs, students have fallen off the radar. But I can assure you they have never left the screen. Actually, we're passionate about students because we can all remember what it was like to be one but much more importantly, they are the future generation of readers and users and we have to nurture them.

Your criticisms have spurred us into action but while we have a rudimentary map of what we would like to do, we need your help - and others from around the globe - to help us create a truly meaningful service that is sustainable now, and in the future. Most of all, we need students themselves to tell us what they want and need, harness that information, use it wisely, and deliver in spades.

I thank you wholeheartedly for agreeing to help us draw together an advisory panel, which in my view needs to spread globally to truly reflect needs and wants. This project will take time to bear fruit, and I ask only for patience and as much feedback as possible while we work it out.

Meanwhile, we remain immensely proud of the services and products that we DO deliver today - ICIS pricing, the 24-hour ICIS news, ICIS forecasting, ICIS conferences, ICIS radio, ICIS TV and, of course, ICIS Chemical Business Americas and its sister, ICIS Chemical Business covering Europe, Middle East and Asia. Much of this has been achieved in less than 3 years.

As with every business and rapid innovation, cracks appear and one has to work hard to fill them. Rest assured that we're not glossing over the one you have highlighted.

With kind regards,
Penny

Penny Wilson
Global Editorial Director
ICIS Publications
Tel: +44 208 6523921
Email: penny.wilson AT icis.com

Penny followed up with another e-mail to me, outlining ideas for a "student site" at ICIS. I will share these with you pending Penny's approval at a later date, and promise to continue posting about this new concept as it slowly unfolds. In the meantime, I would appreciate hearing back from anyone who would be interested in participating and contributing to such a student site. If you have ideas and feedback, let's hear from you, and please feel free to contact Penny Wilson and Joseph Chang as well. Finally, my thanks again to Penny, and to Joseph, for taking the time to respond to concerns raised on STLQ about their publication.

September 19, 2006

IUPAC-NIST Solubility Database

IUPAC-NIST Solubility Database, Version 1.0
NIST Standard Reference Database 106

http://srdata.nist.gov/solubility/

The IUPAC-NIST Solubilities Database is an online database containing nearly 70,000 solubility measurements, primarily liquid-liquid systems, derived from 18 volumes (1) of the IUPAC Solubility Data Series.

Data is given for binary, ternary and quaternary systems. Typical solvents and solutes include water, sea water, heavy water, inorganic and organic compounds. There are about 1800 chemical substances with literature references.

A detailed description of the Solubility Data Project, presentation formats, evaluations, quantities & units, nomenclature, and definitions is given in the introduction.

A variety of approaches to searching are listed on the Database Search Menu.

1. The Data Series IUPAC (Volume titles) provides links to the volume contents, e.g.,

  • Volume 60. Halogenated Methanes with Water
  • Volume 62. Carbon Dioxide in Water and Aqueous Electrolyte Solutions
  • Volume 66. Ammonium Phosphates
which can be quickly scanned for systems of interest.

2. Solubility System Name offers a 'pull-down' menu of system names in 'alphabetical' order.

3. One Component System (search) provides search boxes for either CASRN, Chemical Name (either exact or substring) or Molecular Formula (IUPAC for inorganics, Hill for organics) which retrieve systems with the component either as a solute or solvent.

4. Two Component System (search) offers combinations of:

  • Two CAS Registry Numbers
  • Two Chemical Names (either exact or substring)
  • Two Molecular Formulas
  • One CAS Registry Number and One Chemical Name (either exact or substring)
  • One CAS Registry Number and One Molecular Formula
  • One Chemical Name (either exact or substring) and One Molecular Formula
5. Scientific Citation offers author/year searching for literature references.

-----------

1. The IUPAC-NIST Solubilities Database includes the following systems:

  • Acetonitrile Binary Systems
  • Ammonium Phosphates
  • Carbon Dioxide in Water and Aqueous Electrolyte Solutions
  • Ethene
  • Halogenated Aliphatic Compounds C3-C14 with Water
  • Halogenated Benzenes, Toluenes and Phenols with Water
  • Halogenated Methanes, Ethanes and Ethenes with Water
  • Hydrocarbons in Water and Seawater, Part I-II
  • Metal and Ammonium Formate Systems
  • Nitroalkanes with Water or Organic Solvents
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: Binary Non-aqueous Systems
  • Solubility of Gases in Glassy Polymers
  • Ternary Alcohol-Hydrocarbon-Water Systems

September 15, 2006

Joseph Chang, Editor of ICIS Chemical Business Americas, Responds To Concerns About Chemical Price Information in ICBA

.: In response to my criticisms and concerns about the changes to Chemical Market Reporter, and the sudden albeit temporary disappearance of its web site (with the chemical prices!) during the first week of classes, Mr Joseph Chang, editor of ICIS Chemical Business Americas has written the following letter, which is printed here in its entirety, and without comment from me. I had a friendly and productive discussion with Joe on the phone earlier this week, and offered him the chance to respond here if he wished to do so. I really appreciate that he took the time to do so, and note that he is receptive to our concerns. Thank you, Joe.

Letter from Joseph Chang, the Editor of ICIS Chemical Business Americas

I want to offer my sincerest apologies for the great inconvenience the revision of our online price pages has caused. We truly value the academic community and our educational subscribers and we are eager to continue a fruitful dialogue.

Let me explain the rationale behind the changes in our pricing section: Over the years, our magazine has shifted towards more news and analysis, and although prices are an important aspect of our product, they are our editors’ primary focus. As a result, many of the entries in the pricing section had not been updated for years, making them irrelevant or worse.

To correct the problem, we significantly narrowed the list of chemicals in the pricing section to those we can update on a regular basis. The entries that currently appear consist of 95 chemical prices: 28 commodity chemicals and 67 oils, fats and waxes. These are the prices we are comfortable posting, because we can ensure that they are relatively up-to-date.

We would rather put up a limited price list that is meaningful than a large price list that is suspect. That said, I understand that you would have been better served by some advance notice of the changes we planned, and I regret our failure to provide it.

As Randy Reichardt correctly observes, the students you teach are the future of our industry. We fully recognize this and aim to better serve you needs and interests.

I sincerely hope you and your students find value in our publication ICIS Chemical Business Americas, even with the narrowed—but more accurate--chemical pricing section. We also offer important news, as well as analysis and insights on major trends in the global chemical industry. As you guide your students onto their future paths, I can only hope that they make our publication a key part of their journey.

I welcome any of your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact me at 212-791-4224, or joseph.chang@icis.com

Joseph Chang, Editor, ICIS Chemical Business Americas

September 14, 2006

BioMed Central To Launch New Open-Access Chemistry Journal

.: Knowledgespeak reports today that BioMed Central, under its new initiative called Chemistry Central, "...a new service publishing peer-reviewed open access research in chemistry from BioMed Central", is launching a new journal called Chemistry Central Journal. From the Chemistry Central Journal site:

Chemistry Central Journal (ISSN 1752-153X) is an open access, peer-reviewed, online journal recently launched by Chemistry Central. Chemistry Central, developed by the same team who created BioMed Central, the leading biomedical open access publisher, is committed to ensuring peer-reviewed chemical research is immediately and permanently available online without charge or any other barriers to access.

September 11, 2006

ICIS Chemical Business Americas Replaces Chemical Market Reporter - ICIS Disregards Its Educational Customers

.: I.: I don't know where to begin this time. I'm trying hard to contain my anger. Last week I reported that ICIS brought down the Chemical Market Reporter site, virtually at the same time I was teaching a class of 155 chemical engineering students on, among other things, how to search CMR to find current chemical prices, a major component of one of their assignments. What I didn't realize was that ICIS had brought down the CMR site, and was redesigning it to become ICIS Chemical Business Americas. After learning about this the day after my instruction, the professor and I scrambled to get an explanation to all 155 students; we sent them a note advising that the new site would be up today (Monday 11 Sept 2006). I had hopes that the new site would at the very least return access to the full list of chemical prices. This did not happen.

Instead, in yet another example of a trade publisher's apparent disregard of its educational subscribers (which would include thousands of students studying to become engineers and needing access to these prices for their design courses), ICIS no longer is reporting most of the prices it previously reported on a weekly basis, with the following explanation:

These are chemical price indications based on pricing information obtained from market participants. Posted prices are updated on a periodic basis and do not necessarily represent levels at which transactions may have actually occurred, nor do they represent bid or ask prices. Price ranges, indicated by the two columns, may represent quotations from different participants, as well as differences in quantity, quality and location. Although prices are reported as accurately as possible, they do not carry any guarantees. The prices are intended as a guide for ICIS Chemical Business Americas readers and not to be used as a basis for negotiations between producers and customers.

The volume of prices has been narrowed significantly to those which can be updated on a regular basis. If you have any questions, please contact Editor Joseph Chang at 212-791-4224 or joseph.chang@icis.com , or CSC at 888-525-3255 or csc@icis.com .

This means that prices will only be posted if they change – a price doesn’t change for two years, it won’t get posted until then. My guess is at least 75% of the previously reported chemical prices are gone. If I had any doubts that ICIS did not consult with anyone in engineering education before these changes were confirmed, those doubts have been washed away with the deleted chemical prices.

I checked the Chemical Prices P-S for the week of 28 August - 3 Sept 2006, and counted 209 prices. For the period of 11-17 September 2006, Chemical Prices for the letters P, Q, R, and S total 36 prices, or an 82.% decrease in the typical number of prices previously reported in this alphabetic range.

What is it about trade publishers and their apparent disregard for their educational customers? I know, it's all about the almighty dollar, but good grief - what part of "we’re teaching your future customers” doesn’t resonate in the commercial world?

It doesn't matter that I have a bit of egg on my face from having taught 155 chemical engineering students how to search a site that no longer existed while I was actually teaching them. But there's a larger rub that really angers me.

As documented earlier, ICIS removed the chemical prices from the print edition of CMR in April 2005, moved the prices online, and decided to charge something in the vicinity of US$10,000 to access the prices online. After I and others raised hell about that option, Brian Gray reported that he had negotiated with CMR to allow educational institutions access to the most recent twelve months of chemical prices online, at US$415 - something for which we had paid in our print subscriptions in the first place! Later it was confirmed that unlimited access would cost us US$715! So for any of us in universities, colleges, etc., to provide access to the archived weekly chemical prices, we needed to ante up another few hundred dollars for a service that we had received as part of existing subscriptions for decades. Did I mention that these chemical prices are at times critical to an undergraduate chemical engineering student's education?

Now, said unlimited access gives us much less from Sept 2006 onwards. As such, college and university libraries supporting programs in chemical engineering and the chemical industry will need to decide whether or not to continue to pay an inflated subscription price for access to an online product, once extremely critical to undergraduate chemical engineers' education, or to cancel and look for the same information elsewhere.

Perhaps the writing is on the wall, and I'm too dumb to process it: for commercial and trade publishers, maybe future customers don't count until they actually exist.

September 6, 2006

ICIS Puts Chemical Market Reporter On The Bus - Could They Have Chosen a Better Time To Do This?

.: As if the timing couldn't be worse, in a move that further confirms how sadly out-of-touch trade publishers are with their educational customers, the Powers That Be at ICIS have dumped Chemical Market Reporter, and are launching a new title in its place, called ICIS Chemical Business Americas. Apparently it will be available next week. Meanwhile, when you visit the CMR page (the number one site for chemical prices) or ICBA sites, it says is "coming soon."

Dumb question: Could ICIS have done this at any time other than the beginning of fall semester at universities and colleges all over the freakin' planet? Perhaps. Yesterday morning I was extolling the virtues of CMR to 155 students in Chemical & Materials Engineering 200, using previously-designed screen shots to show them how to search for and find a chemical price. Oddly enough, each of them must find a price of a chemical in order to complete an assignment distributed to them yesterday in the class! I learned that CMR wasn't working when I received an e-mail from a distraught CME 200 student this afternoon. The last time I checked the site (a few days ago), it was working fine.

In the spring of 2005, after learning that CMR had dumped the chemical prices from the print version, and was charging something outrageous like ~US$10,000 to access the same information online, I led the charge to have the prices reinstated, or at least made available to educational subscribers at a considerably reduced rate. Read all the posts here if you like. Now ICIS pulls this stunt at the exact same time tens of thousands of chemical engineering, chemistry, business, and who knows what other categories of students are beginning classes, and need access to chemical prices ASAP.

Amazing, astonishing, but I am not surprised. I remember hearing that educational subscribers constitute perhaps 5-7% of CMR subscriptions, and I would expect the same percentage would apply to most trade titles in engineering and related disciplines. Trade publishers cater to their industries, and why not? The for-profit subscribers are their bread and butter. But what trade publishers tend to forget is that those of us at educational locations who subscribe to their publications are also teaching THEIR FUTURE CUSTOMERS. At this point in time, I seriously doubt such a concept has any resonance with them whatsoever, otherwise by now we would have seem some evidence to the contrary.

Sure, the new site might be up on Monday of next week, but even if it is, those of us who subscribe to CMR - er - ICBA, will need to reconfigure our tips sheets, resource guides, catalogue entries, etc etc. Like we have nothing else to do when classes begin. Never mind the additional embarrassment of having taught students in large groups, only to discover the site to which we were referencing has gone buh-bye. I guess it serves me right for using screen shots instead of going live during my presentation...

To put it mildly: ARGH!!! Idiot publishers. That sound you hear is my head banging against my desk.

Rant over.

September 5, 2006

IEE/IET launches new letters journal --Micro & Nano Letters

Micro & Nano Letters has published its first issue, June 2006. The journal is currently available online through the IET Digital Library on the Scitation platform , although it has yet to appear in the IEEE/IET Electronic Library (IEL) of IEEE Xplore. Print issues are reported to be forthcoming although the description online only references the online ISSN 1750-0443. I couldn't find an entry in Ulrich's by title or ISSN.