Conference logo Networked Information in an International Context


9th and 10th February 1996 at the Ramada Hotel, Heathrow, UK


HENRY RZEPA, CLIC Project Director, Imperial College, UK

This account was drafted for this report by The Marc Fresko Consultancy. It is based on notes taken during the presentation, slides used, and text adapted from a WWW presentation on CLIC which is referred to at the end of this account.


Molecular science is both a very visual and "three dimensional" subject, and one that is very rich in precise semantic content and standard definitions. The CLIC electronic journal project has as its objectives the parallel printed and electronic publication of a flagship chemistry journal, that will use some very recent publishing technologies to deliver to the reader the three dimensional visual element along with textual information.


Chemistry is one of the most visual and "three dimensional" of sciences. For many generations, communication of the subject has been rooted on the printed pages of chemical journals, with even colour a rare event. Partially because of such limitations, the subject has evolved a complex and arcane symbolism for its written representation. The complexities of this "chemical nomenclature" in turn result in substantial risk of the propagation of errors and misinterpretation of results. A refereeing system exists to catch both errors of science and transcription errors, but the reality is that referees have few "tools" to assist them to catch errors on the printed page other than then own eyes and minds.

For the first time, electronic tools to allow the cost-effective dissemination of three-dimensional information are now at hand. We can envisage distributing electronic documents which represent three-dimensional objects (molecules), and which allow readers to "manipulate" them to examine the objects from all angles. Electronic publications also allow other features, such as linking and access statistics. This combination of features has created the opportunity which the CLIC project is exploring.


The main objective of this eLib project is to develop parallel electronic and printed forms of the established journal Chemical Communications. An electronic version will provide such information to the reader, with what might be called "semantic integrity" and accuracy of the information. We even envisage providing mechanisms for readers to comment on the individual articles, and thus to interact with the original authors. To this extent, this aim differs from some other electronic journals, where the paramount objective is to achieve what is called "page integrity" with the original printed version. Whilst semantic and page integrity are not necessarily exclusive, to achieve both requires significant extra effort in storing the basic content of the journal, and its presentation to the user. Thus the CLIC project will concentrate on developing standards for storing, transmitting, displaying and applying molecular information.

This is being achieved in three stages:

From March 1997, a number of complete issues of the journal will be available electronically, with some enhancement.

Awareness Raising Objectives

Not the least task is educating the audience to actively participate in this method of information retrieval, and indeed persuading authors to contribute information in the appropriate form in the first place. The CLIC project thus aims to increase awareness in the chemical community of the possibilities and advantages of electronic publications. This is being achieved by:

The project team is particularly pleased to note that a number of chemistry software vendors are now producing freely distributable software for use with the CLIC journal. In general, this is in the form of "cut-down" versions of commercial products, made available for network use by the vendors. One product specifically designed for such an e-journal has recently been announced (Chemscape Chime from MDLI). Another notable success is the popularity of the e-conference: over 15,000 different people have connected to the conference in the last ten months (note that this is comparable to the number of attendees at a major ACS conference, but at a fraction of the cost!)

For more information on these activities, refer to the URL at the end of this account.

Chemical Objectives

The project also has objectives which are specific to the nature of the discipline of chemistry.

Primarily, it seeks to achieve "future-proof" electronic delivery mechanisms. This is problematic, as many necessary standards simply do not exist yet. One approach being investigated is the use of SGML to HTML conversion with chemical DTDs. Another hopeful prospect is the results of the Hyper-G project, namely its distributed servers and index engines. We are also monitoring the progress of the PURL (Persistent URL) initiative.

Another domain-specific requirement is the preservation of chemical semantics. The team is pursuing a number of alternatives including chemical MIME (for the multimedia delivery of molecular content), virtual reality techniques (using VRML), Java and CML (Chemical Markup Language).


The CLIC consortium comprises groups in three university chemistry departments (Imperial College, Leeds and Cambridge Universities) and a learned society (The Royal Society of Chemistry).


At present, the team approaches authors to request electronic copies of their papers; they then convert them and apply the electronic enhancements. The process of preparing and publishing electronic papers is faster than paper publishing, but at the moment both electronic and paper issues are published at about the same time.

One part of the publication process which is easier and faster is refereeing. In one case, a paper was submitted and refereed electronically within eight hours! We are considering "commentable" or "discussable" papers too, but this raises questions about the nature of moderation; the best answers are not yet clear.

The electronic medium is ideally suited to the gathering of access statistics; this can act as a valuable form of peer reviewing.


This presentation, plus more background information including demonstration of some of the special features such as viewing three dimensional molecules, is available at URL: http://www/ch/ic/ac/uk/clic/talk_1.html

Project contacts are:
Cambridge Site of the Royal Society of Chemistry:
David James (Project Manager)

Leeds University:
Ben Whitaker and Chris Hildyard

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine:
Henry Rzepa (Project Director) and Omer Casher

Cambridge University:
Jonathan Goodman and Dave Riddick

Peter Murray-Rust

British Library R&D Report 6250
© The British Library Board 1996
© Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Bodies 1996

The opinions expressed in this report are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the sponsoring organisations.


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It may also be purchased as photocopies or microfiche from the British Thesis Service, British Library Document Supply Centre, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ.

This report of the conference was prepared by The Marc Fresko Consultancy Telephone +44 181 645 0080 E-mail

Converted to HTML by Isobel Stark of UKOLN, July 1996