Saturday, July 13, 2019

Standing on the shoulders: but the shoulders are 200 years old

"Houston, we have a problem. We're standing on the shoulders of old scholars, but it feels a bit shaky."

Well, no wonder. While rocket science has clear foundations, the physical laws of nature, for many other research fields it's trickier. We rely on hundreds of years of knowledge and assume (not trust) that work to be true. And that knowledge is seemingly disappearing very fast (remember my graveyard of chemical literature observation). Published literature, generally, is too hard to reproduce to be seen as an accurate capture of research history. In other words, these shoulders are 200 years old, and our support is failing. 

Open Science attempts to overcome these issues. It defines an environment where all research output is important, where every one has access to shoulders, and trust can be replaced by reproducibility. This is a huge transition, ongoing for some 20 years now.

With my work as one of the two Editors-in-Chief of the Journal of Cheminformatics, I try to contribute to making this happy, sooner than later. It's not been an easy ride, and there is so much left to do. And I do not always agree well with the effort put in by Springer Nature here, as clear from this reply.

Figure 1 from the latest editorial.
But I am happy to work with Rajarshi, Nina, Matthew, and Samuel to supporting the Open Science community in chemistry, for example, by allowing publications that describe a piece open source cheminformatics of software (Software article type). We're limited by what BioMedCentral can offer us, but within that context try to make a change.

The journal now exists 10 years, as marked by our latest editorial. We here describe our adoption of GitHub as a free, extra service, where we fork source code published in our journal, and announce our adoption of the obligatory ORCID for all authors.

These things bring me back to those shoulders. The full adoption of the ORCID allows research to be more easily found (more FAIR) and the copying of the source code aims at making the shoulders on which future cheminformatics stands more solid. Minor steps. But even minor steps matter.

Let's see where our journals takes open science cheminformatics.

Oh, and since you are reading this, I would love to see the American Chemical Society be more open to Open Science too. Please join me in requesting them to join the Initiative for Open Citations.