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American Chemical Society National Meeting
American Chemical Society National Meeting
The 226th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society took place September 6-11, 2003 in New York. This is a working meeting of the membership, most of who are representatives of the chemical industry and academic research. As a chemistry librarian, I was most interested in the education and information sectors of this large meeting. One of the major concerns of librarians was with the publishing delay by the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) of the biennial Directory of Graduate Research. So far, CAS has given no notice as to when librarians can expect the final publication and delivery. As far as an online version goes, CAS has made no plans for publishing in that format, even though there is serious demand for such a product. At the Education Committee meeting, there was also considerable discussion regarding the Committee for Professional Training (CPT) and its liaison role of CAS with this Committee. Possible strategies were considered to enable the Education Committee to share with CAS issues and concerns regarding access and pricing schedules for smaller academic institutions and undergraduate training on SciFinder Scholar. The Education Committee is concerned that the CAS CPT has not paid attention to the needs of undergraduate curriculum and research training. Librarians can also look forward to having the CINF website live soon.
The Web site will also serve as a resource for containing information about who is involved in chemical informatics as well as be an online archive of instructional question sets as a resource for chemistry informatics instruction sessions. This Web site will be accessible from the CINF divisional Web page. It will be very useful. The Education Committee is planning to sponsor a future symposium on scholarly communication and open access to peer reviewed journals. Topics to be considered are: open access initiatives such as the Pubic Library of Science, electronic journal publishing, the increased cost of science publications, especially chemistry, and the connection between publishing and the culture of tenure-reward structure for chemists. It was proposed that the Education Committee collaborate with one of the other "mainstream" chemistry divisions, such as Organic Chemistry, to maximize the possibility that chemists would attend and contribute to the discussion. Possible speakers could include editors of scholarly publications and focus on their understanding of publishing trends.
The range of programs varied widely. The technical sessions proved to be very interesting. In particular, At Your Fingertips: Use of PDAs (personal digital assistants) in Chemical Information at which session Nicole Henning, MIT, gave an introductory rundown of the different types of PDAs, the various functions, wireless connections, "beaming" of information from one PDA to another, and the "syncing" or synchronization of information between PDA and desktop PC was an excellent orientation to this technology. Besides conducting a brief demonstration of a Sony Clié, she also discussed the future use of PDAs in libraries and research laboratories. Chemists have not been observed to be actively using PDAs in their research, but that will probably change as more software applications become available for chemistry, such as structural libraries and physical property databases. Because of the flexible connectivity and communication among people's wireless PDA connections, more and more people will get involved with the PDA revolution as a critical number will be reached. PDAs will become essential research assistants for librarians and scientists if they want to keep up technologically.
A related session, From the palm of pocket to the point of care or need focused on the how medical professionals are finding that they are relying on PDAs to make health care decisions. Helen-Ann Brown of the Weill Cornell Medical Library shared a wide variety of software and Internet sites that can be loaded or accessed by PDAs while the physician or nurse is near the patient's bedside. Her talk was crammed with evaluated and annotated examples of the software and Web sites available as PDA applications. Although she handed out a long selected list of Web sites and resources, the following two stood out as the most useful or comprehensive:
ePocrates: Rx Pro, Premium Clinical Software Suite. http://www.epocrates.com.catalog.do PDA software – subscription price $49.99 per year (two years for $99.99). Provides information on pharmaceuticals; drug interactions; alternative medicine monographs; infectious disease guides; clinical tables and guidelines; and MedMath clinical calculator. Works only with the Palm operating system and Pocket PC.
Ectopic brain http://pbrain.hypermart.net that has medical applications and support information for physicians interested in improving the use of Palm PDAs in clinical practice. Bluefish Rx prescription writer, reference tools for clinical applications and treatment guidelines, medical calculators (such as body mass index and protocols for emergency treatment) and more. Ectopic brain uses an evidence-based medicine perspective in assisting the physician in making health care decisions, which today is helpful as it complements the present curricula of most post-graduate medical schools.
Information technology and scholarly communication came together as themes in the session, Making online chemical news portable. Melody Voith from Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) spoke about the addition of the electronic version of C&EN To Go, launched in July 2002, as one way to allow readers to download news stories to their PDAs. She was interested in knowing how many librarians and others used this feature for their PDAs, and if this online service with up to date chemical news was useful. She felt that this type of technology was still in the beginning stages as far as usage went. One of the primary reasons for her presentation was to promote PDA access of the online version of C&EN. One of the comments from the audience was that the job postings at the back of each weekly issue probably got the most use, as opposed to up to date news items. It seems to me that the greatest limitation is that the reader has to first have a PDA. However, I know that some of my technologically advanced colleagues are already reading e-books on their PDAs and laptops.
The session, Mobile chemistry: Structure databases in your palm and your pocket reinforced earlier mentioned themes. Advanced Chemistry Development (ACD), a chemical applications software company has been developing tools for the bench chemist for many years. Antony Williams spoke about the portability of a structure library supported on a PDA that includes besides structures, chemical and physical data, spectroscopy calculations, and chromatography applications. Users can customize their database, and input laboratory notebook data, and other information. It is now possible to carry a searchable database of greater than 20,000 structures on an 8 Mbyte Palm computer. This database can be used to produce scannable two-dimensional barcodes connected to structure and other chemical information, making it easier to label chemical supplies in a storeroom, or on the lab bench, integrated with robotic analytical systems. For a practicing librarian, the value of this is the collections implications for this software. Are academic chemists going to expect the libraries' collections budgets to cover this type of material expenditure? In my opinion, I see this type of software application as something that the scientist should purchase her/himself to fit the type or brand of PDA that they own.
Chemistry's first periodic table digital database calculator was a good example of new technology development in the subject area. Dr Bert Ramsay, a chemist from Eastern Michigan University, shared his patented invention. Many an undergraduate student has spent time agonizing over chemical calculations to determine reaction amounts, balancing chemical equations and consulting the Periodic Table of the Elements to determine molarity/molality and chemical equivalents. His calculator has been designed to take the frustration out of chemical calculation. Using the Periodic Table as the "keyboard," calculations can be easily made, running it under the Palm operating system. Dr Ramsay's big question is, "Would you let your students use this calculator?" Many chemistry teachers (and chemistry librarians) are reluctant for students to short-circuit their learning process. So much chemistry and chemical principles can be learned by making calculations "by hand." When demonstrated, this calculator did make figuring out chemical reactions and chemistry in general easier. I can see the strong possibility that professional chemists and graduate researchers (especially inorganic chemists) will use this portable database to make their research easier, and within a generation, this tool will be used in the general chemistry classroom.
Resource development was the theme of the session, Building the Virtual Chemistry Library: E-books and E-journals where "Get dynamic!" – E-education tools and e-services to reach the users was explored. Martin Braendler of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Switzerland spoke on service aspects of the virtual library, how the ETH library went from print to one print copy only for their system. He noticed that despite the increase in the use of electronic journals, most users do not read the electronic texts on screen. The librarians at the ETH were hoping to maximize service opportunities with the library putting more information on their Web site, and having reference linking between many databases at the same time, they looked into the possibility of online tutorials to teach the use of online information resources. They worked on using training modules to teach research skills incrementally. Librarians at ETH could anticipate that the homepage and the Web portal to their OPAC will probably merge. They have promoted user personalization of database links, e-links e-books and news into folders and current awareness links. With electronic services increasingly important, Braendler envisions that content and services will be combined, forming a matrix that intersects services and user needs. I see that right now, libraries have not yet reached an interactive dynamic space where service is totally virtual. But it is coming to a library near you.
The session in which I participated, Using a chemistry subject Web page as an information marketing tool allowed me a chance to share my experiences in using my recently updated Chemistry subject pages at the University of California, Irvine Libraries at www.lib.uci.edu/online/subject/chem.html I described how I promote databases and chemistry resources to faculty, students and library staff. One of the keys to let patrons know that this information is available, since it is not immediately obvious at first glance at the libraries' home page, is to know the content, be willing to make changes and additions and to make opportunities to share the information collected. Grace Baysinger, chemistry librarian at Stanford University commented afterwards that she found the information practical, useful and down to earth.
Building on Web-based resources, work done at Purdue University was addressed in the session, Confusion or convenience: How can the librarians help the library users to access electronic journals? The librarians in the Chemistry Library there realized that their users were not finding the information they wanted easily. They realized that library patrons needed training to use the online index databases. To help users solve the problem of locating online chemistry journals, the librarians decided to compile a Web-based database listing chemistry and chemistry-related online journals. This made it easy to find the journals the patron (or librarian, or library staff ) was looking for easily in one place. The librarians offered "ice cream seminars" to bring faculty and students in for orientation and training sessions. Free food is always an incentive. In my opinion, it never hurts to have information in more than once place. The list of chemistry online journals is a good idea, not only to make it easier for the Chemistry faculty and graduate students to locate the journals they want, but it makes it easier for the chemistry bibliographer to keep tabs on the electronic collections.
Digital Library developments are common themes at almost every information-based conference and the session, Federated searching and academic libraries. One size fits all? Demonstrated how Cornell identified a product that would support a digital library management for proprietary resources. The Cornell libraries used the functions of the ENCompass Oracle platform to implement federated searching (searching a keyword across multiple indexing databases at once). What Ms. Chandler and her colleagues discovered was that keyword searching had its drawbacks for each database. Boolean searching could not be guaranteed to be effective because of database functional differences. Usage logs analysis supplied statistics to keep track of the level of expertise of those using the system. Apache Web log, MS Access connected with Perl script bridged the two applications. The information was exported to Excel for statistical analysis. Over a ten-week test period the findings logged pointed out the top three most heavily used databases. Despite limitations to the analysis, implications for future usability of the federated searching function could be determined and modified. The function "Find Databases" was used by those with searching expertise, whereas the "Find Articles" was used more often by the novice. This is an example of a library working to implement technology to make article database searching easier for the user to search and for librarians to capture use data and statistics which could be useful later on in times of cancellation projects.
Use data for electronic resources is a basic library expectation these days. Even though librarians are demand it and are drowning in data it was interesting to learn how the ACS is treating this. John Ochs, of the American Chemical Society described COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources). This was the first international initiative organized to try to combine the work of various information initiatives to create an internationally accepted, standardized Code of Practice that will allow publishers to provide usage statistics in a way that everyone involved can trust to be consistent, credible and compatible. For further information on Project COUNTER go to www.projectcounter.org/about.html Many publishers have already agreed to follow the standards and have worked to solve problems regarding inter-publisher security, to maximize sharing among publishers, librarians and users. A federated searching function is a condition of the online license agreement. Future access to numeric databases is being considered. The goal is to make it easier to gather and view usage statistics, to have one standard place for all online publishers. Having a centralized location for all usage statistics is a logical step in electronic publishing.
It is clear that the ACS Annual Meeting is an enormous opportunity for chemistry librarians to learn about the latest in technology applications as it pertains to the subject of chemistry. I look forward to future conferences and a chance to meet with other chemistry librarians and learn about their new ideas and applications.
April Love (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Chemistry & Earth Systems Science Resource Librarian at the University of California, Irvine Libraries.