The Jim Gray eScience Award 2012 was presented to ChemSpider founder Antony John Williams last month. ChemSpider is a free online database, which now contains information on over 28 million chemicals gathered from over 400 individual data sources. Williams launched the site in 2007 and it was purchased by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2009, where Williams is now employed. The site relies on Wikipedia-style crowd-based curation and contains a host of information on chemical compounds, including: molecular formulae, systematic names, trade names, structures, molecular weights, registry numbers, and suppliers.
The award ceremony took place during last month's Microsoft eScience Workshop, which was held in conjunction with the IEEE International Conference on eScience 2012 in Chicago, Illinois, US. The Jim Gray eScience Award is an annual prize which recognizes outstanding contribution to the field of data-intensive computing. Gray, after whom the award is named, was a former Microsoft researcher and Silicon-Valley legend, who was lost at sea in 2007. He postulated that e-science is the next evolutionary step in scientific exploration, following the original, empirical phase and the subsequent theoretical and computational phases. This is a sentiment which was echoed by Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research Connections, who presented the award to Williams. "E-science will soon just become known as science," he prophesied. And, there can few researchers who can have been as instrumental in enabling this change as Williams. In recent years, he has released mobile apps allowing users to access ChemSpider from their smartphones or tablets and has overseen integration of the database with tools such as PubMed and Google Scholar. Also a prominent advocate of open-notebook science, Williams allows ChemSpider users to add additional data, spectra, links, videos, and audio to compound records on the site.
In a blog post published the day after receiving the award, Williams wrote that he felt "very emotional" given the calibre of previous recipients of the award and said he was leaving Chicago "proud, tired and looking forward to making an ever bigger impact".
- Andrew Purcell