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Vol. 28 No. 1
January-February 2006

From the Editor

image of Fabienne MeyersTo the public, science is often associated with the brightest ideas and innovations, which make life better. Yet, when these become part of our everyday life, it is too often forgotten that behind a new product there is a lengthy and complex genesis from design to manufacture. In addition, there are a great number of complex, behind-the-scenes technologies, systems, and initiatives that are needed to enable research and innovation. One such under-appreciated initiative has to do with data standards.

While IUPAC is widely recognized for its focus on standardization, it is also an active and important participant in the development of international scientific data format standards. The IUPAC Subcommittee on Electronic Data Standards is a bright spot on that scene and should be recognized for its contribution. Currently under public review are two important recommendations: one covers JCAMP-DX ASCII-based data standards in the area of electron magnetic resonance spectroscopy and the second addresses XML-based standards for thermodynamic property data storage and capture (ThermoML) (see Provisional Recommendations).

JCAMP-DX are protocols for data exchange, which since the early 1990s have been developed with the participation and collaboration of instrument vendors. These cover infrared spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy, NMR, and more. Practically, JCAMP-DX standards are prerequisites for setting up data dictionaries and for developing a chemical markup language in a specific field. ThermoML is an XML-based approach to the standardization of formats, which allows for the communication of thermochemical and thermophysical data.

It is important to appreciate that data mining, longevity, exchange, and archiving depend of these basic standards. Some of theses aspects are illustrated in the feature “The Quest for a Universal Spectroscopic Data Format,” by Robert Lancashire and Tony Davies.

I often think that standards and nomenclatures are somehow alike—tedious disciplines that only a few master, but which benefit the scientific community at large. A graduate student in chemistry, to whom I was trying to explain this, summed it up nicely: “As young researchers we are pushed to think outside the box, but yet we owe big time to those who think inside it and to IUPAC to support these initiatives.”

Fabienne Meyers
fabienne@iupac.org
www.iupac.org/publications/ci


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