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Finding a Chemist in a Haystack.

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Finding a Chemist in a Haystack
Whether youre looking for a colleague,
a consultant, a source, or simply an
expert on a specialized topic, professional directories are an indispensable
resource. Many scientific societies have
long maintained listings of scientists and
their research interests to facilitate
communication with and between their
members. This data was first published
in print documents, but more recently it
has been incorporated into online databases that can be more easily searched
and updated. In the past few months,
both the German Chemical Society
(GDCh) and the American Chemical
Society (ACS) have released new online
versions of their directories that can be
accessed free of charge.
When the GDCh decided to produce
a revised edition of its Research and
Technology Guide (RTG), which last
appeared in print in 1994, it took the
opportunity to transform the guide into
an online database. The goal of the RTG
is to reveal the breadth of chemistryrelated research being carried out in
German-speaking countries. The Faculty Guide (FG) component of the
database includes information on
chemistry-related programs of study at
universities in these countries.
At present, the RTG contains information on 2098 scientists from 1791
research groups at universities, research
institutes, and companies in seven countries. However, the directory is still in
the development phase. All researchers
working in chemistry-related fields, both
GDCh members and nonmembers
(after registration), are encouraged to
create entries in the RTG. A tutorial (in
German only) provides step-by-step
instructions on the data-entry process.
Universities are also invited to supply
information about their academic faculties and programs of study for the FG.
The ACS Directory of Graduate
Research (DGR) is narrower in scope,
being limited to the academic staff
members and departments of universities with graduate programs in the USA
and Canada. The DGR was originally
created in 1953 to provide students with
information on the types of graduate
research in chemistry and chemical
engineering that could be pursued in
the USA, and new editions have since
been published every two years. With
the publication of the 2005 print edition
of the DGR, the online versions
(DGRweb) of the four most recent
editions of the directory were made
available free of charge.
The 2005 edition of the DGR lists
over 10 000 researchers from 665 academic departments at institutions in the
USA and Canada. The research fields
now covered range from chemistry and
chemical engineering to biochemistry,
materials science, and environmental
science. All of the data in the DGR,
including that for individual researchers,
is supplied by the academic departments
listed in the directory. Information on
how to list a department in the 2007
edition of the DGR can be obtained by
submitting a form on the web site.
Both the GDCh RTG and the ACS
DGR contain similar information about
the researchers and institutions that
they list. However, the search functions
of the two databases are quite different.
For the RTG, three types of searches
are possible (in English and German):
standard and advanced searches of the
directory of researchers, and a faculty
search of the FG. In the standard search
(Figure 1), two strategies can be applied,
either separately or in combination. A
catalogue based on location, university,
company, or research field can be
chosen, and the expandable tree used
to find a particular researcher. Alternatively, a full-text keyword search, which
can be restricted to the categories of
person or research topic, can be performed. The faculty search is analogous;
a catalogue search can be combined
with a keyword search of the FG.
The advanced search of the RTG
allows keywords to be combined using
AND, OR, or NOT for searches in
“person”, “research fields”, or “location” fields. A chemical-structure search
mask is also present on the advanced
search page, but this option does not
seem to be functional at present.
The search options available for the
DGR are more straightforward and
comprehensive. Either a faculty search
for an academic staff member (Figure 2)
or an institution search for an academic
department can be performed on the
1999, 2001, 2003, or 2005 editions of the
directory. In both types of search, keywords can be entered and categories
Figure 1. Standard search mask of the GDCh RTG.
2006 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2006, 45, 3202 – 3203
Figure 2. Faculty search mask of the ACS DGR.
selected in a variety of fields, allowing
very specific searches. For example, the
faculty search page includes the fields
“academic rank”, “state”, “graduated
from”, “year of birth”, and “gender”.
A search of either database results in
a list of researchers or institutions with
links to their complete records. In the
RTG, the information compiled for
researchers is organized into five sections (personal data, career, research
fields, co-workers, and publications),
each in a different frame. Similarly, the
information compiled for academic
institutions is organized into four sections (faculty information, institutes,
addresses, and programs of study).
Unfortunately, many of the records are
incomplete at this stage in the development of the database. Although the
headings have been translated into English, making navigation possible without
knowledge of German, most of the text
in the records is in German only.
In the DGR, the data record for
each researcher (contact information,
degrees received, postdoctoral appointments, research areas, research interests,
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2006, 45, 3202 – 3203
research publications, and theses) or
academic department (contact information, related links, department information, degrees offered, faculty, departmental statistical data) is presented in a
single page. This format provides a clear
visual summary of the person or institution. Although the data records are
generally more complete than those of
the RTG, some entries are also missing
in the DGR.
To test the utility of the two directories, I put myself in the shoes of a
student looking for a potential research
supervisor in the area of molecular
magnetism. Initially, I searched for the
term “molecular magnetism” using the
English version of the standard search
mask of the RTG. Unfortunately, this
simple search yielded no results. I briefly
explored the “research fields” catalogue, but did not find an appropriate
category for this multidisciplinary field.
I therefore tried another keyword
search using the broader term “magnetism”, which produced a list of five
researchers. By viewing the results in
terms of “research topics” rather than
“persons”, I could easily identify that
one of the researchers was active in the
field of “molekularer Magnetismus”. A
subsequent search using the German
term led to two hits. The data records for
both researchers contained their full
contact details, including working links
to web pages, and brief descriptions of
their research interests, but little else.
Using a similar approach, I searched
the DGR by entering the term “molecular magnetism” in the “specific
research” field of the faculty search
page. A list of eight researchers was
returned, and by clicking on their names,
the researchers relatively complete
data records could be accessed. All
contained contact information, as well
as listings of their degrees, research
interests, and publications, but only
one contained a working link to the
researchers external web page.
Despite some minor shortcomings,
both the RFG and the DGR are effective means for locating researchers or
academic institutions. The database
searches provide rapid access to detailed
information (provided the data records
are complete), and if additional information is desired, the e-mail addresses
and links (provided they are working)
contained in the data records can be
used. These directories are particularly
valuable tools for students considering
graduate research, but are also useful
for anyone looking for a contact with
expertise in a chemistry-related field. It
would be a great benefit if, in this truly
international world of science, more
“local” communities would provide similar directories, ideally in English.
Allison Mills
Wiley-VCH, Weinheim (Germany)
DOI: 10.1002/anie.200601545
2006 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
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