December 21, 2009

Happy Christmas Lectures 2009

Sue Hartley: Christmas lecturerIf you weren’t able to attend this years Christmas lectures in person, they are being televised tonight in the UK on More4 from 7pm. This year, they are given by Professor Sue Hartley [1] (pictured right) from the University of Sussex. Here is some blurb on the series from the Royal Institution called “The 300 million year war“.

Plants might seem passive, defenceless and almost helpless. But they are most definitely not! Thanks to a war with animals that’s lasted over 300 million years, they’ve developed many terrifying and devious ways to defend themselves and attack their enemies. Vicious poisons, lethal materials and even cunning forms of communicating with unlikely allies are just some of the weapons in their armoury. Using these and other tactics, plants have seen off everything from dinosaurs to caterpillars.

In the 2009 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, Professor Sue Hartley will show you plants as you’ve never seen them before. They are complicated, cunning, beautiful and with plenty of tricks up their sleeve. And what’s more, we humans are dependent on them in ways you’d never imagine. As well as much of our food, our drugs, medicines and materials are all by-products of this epic 300 million year war.

So if you’re festively feasting this holiday, those brussel sprouts, carrots, potatoes won’t look so innocent now. The lectures are aimed at children, but can be enjoyed by kids of all ages (including grown ups). You can follow some of the action on twitter: hashtag #xmaslectures and @rigb_science. Speaking of Brussel sprouts, the related Royal Institution video How Much Methane Does A Cow Produce In An Hour? might also be of interest.

Since it’s the end of the year, happy holidays to you all (thanks for visiting O’Really?) hope to see you again in 2010.


  1. Hartley, S., & Gange, A. (2009). Impacts of Plant Symbiotic Fungi on Insect Herbivores: Mutualism in a Multitrophic Context Annual Review of Entomology, 54 (1), 323-342 DOI: 10.1146/annurev.ento.54.110807.090614

December 11, 2009

The Semantic Biochemical Journal experiment

utopian documentsThere is an interesting review [1] (and special issue) in the Biochemical Journal today, published by Portland Press Ltd. It provides (quote) “a whirlwind tour of recent projects to transform scholarly publishing paradigms, culminating in Utopia and the Semantic Biochemical Journal experiment”. Here is a quick outline of the publishing projects the review describes and discusses:

  • Blogs for biomedical science
  • Biomedical Ontologies – OBO etc
  • Project Prospect and the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • The Chemspider Journal of Chemistry
  • The FEBS Letters experiment
  • PubMedCentral and BioLit [2]
  • Public Library of Science (PLoS) Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) [3]
  • The Elsevier Grand Challenge [4]
  • Liquid Publications
  • The PDF debate: Is PDF a hamburger? Or can we build more useful applications on top of it?
  • The Semantic Biochemical Journal project with Utopia Documents [5]

The review asks what advances these projects have made  and what obstacles to progress still exist. It’s an entertaining tour, dotted with enlightening observations on what is broken in scientific publishing and some of the solutions involving various kinds of semantics.

One conclusion made is that many of the experiments described above are expensive and difficult, but that the costs of not improving scientific publishing with various kinds of semantic markup is high, or as the authors put it:

“If the cost of semantic publishing seems high, then we also need to ask, what is the price of not doing it? From the results of the experiments we have seen to date, there is clearly a need to move forward and still a great deal of scope to innovate. If we fail to move forward in a collaborative way, if we fail to engage the key players, the price will be high. We will continue to bury scientific knowledge, as we routinely do now, in static, unconnected journal articles; to sequester fragments of that knowledge in disparate databases that are largely inaccessible from journal pages; to further waste countless hours of scientists’ time either repeating experiments they didn’t know had been performed before, or worse, trying to verify facts they didn’t know had been shown to be false. In short, we will continue to fail to get the most from our literature, we will continue to fail to know what we know, and will continue to do science a considerable disservice.”

It’s well worth reading the review, and downloading the Utopia software to experience all of the interactive features demonstrated in this special issue, especially the animated molecular viewers and sequence alignments.

Enjoy… the Utopia team would be interested to know what people think, see commentary on friendfeed,  the digital curation blog and youtube video below for more information.


  1. Attwood, T., Kell, D., McDermott, P., Marsh, J., Pettifer, S., & Thorne, D. (2009). Calling International Rescue: knowledge lost in literature and data landslide! Biochemical Journal, 424 (3), 317-333 DOI: 10.1042/BJ20091474
  2. Fink, J., Kushch, S., Williams, P., & Bourne, P. (2008). BioLit: integrating biological literature with databases Nucleic Acids Research, 36 (Web Server) DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkn317
  3. Shotton, D., Portwin, K., Klyne, G., & Miles, A. (2009). Adventures in Semantic Publishing: Exemplar Semantic Enhancements of a Research Article PLoS Computational Biology, 5 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000361
  4. Pafilis, E., O’Donoghue, S., Jensen, L., Horn, H., Kuhn, M., Brown, N., & Schneider, R. (2009). Reflect: augmented browsing for the life scientist Nature Biotechnology, 27 (6), 508-510 DOI: 10.1038/nbt0609-508
  5. Pettifer, S., Thorne, D., McDermott, P., Marsh, J., Villéger, A., Kell, D., & Attwood, T. (2009). Visualising biological data: a semantic approach to tool and database integration BMC Bioinformatics, 10 (Suppl 6) DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-10-S6-S19

December 5, 2009

Adrenaline: Entity of the Month

XML Summer School, Oxford, U.K.December’s entity of the month at ChEBI is Adrenaline, for all the adrenaline junkies out there. This accompanies ChEBI release 63, containing 536,978 total entities, of which 19,501 are annotated entities and 678 were submitted via the ChEBI submission tool. Text reproduced below from the ChEBI website:

Adrenaline (CHEBI:33568), also known as epinephrine, is a catecholamine that acts as a hormone and neurotransmitter.

It was first isolated from an extract of the suprarenal (adrenal) gland as its mono-benzoyl derivative by the American biochemist and pharmacologist John Jacob Abel in 1889 [1] who later also crystallised it as a hydrate. The pure compound was produced in 1901 by the Japanese industrial chemist Jokichi Takamine [2] and patented as ‘Adrenalin’. Two chemists, Stolz and Dakin, independently reported the synthesis of the compound in 1904 [3,4].

Adrenaline is a potent ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone, which is produced in stress situations. When produced in the body, it leads to an increase in heart-rate, vasodilation and the supply of both glucose and oxygen to the muscles and the brain, thus preparing the body for rapid action if needed. The increase in glucose supply is achieved through the binding of adrenaline to β-adrenergic receptors in the liver. This triggers the adenylate cyclase pathway, which, in turn, leads to increased glycogenolysis activity. On the other hand, adrenaline suppresses both digestive processes as well as immune responses. As such, it can be used in the treatment of anaphylactic shock [5] as well as for the treatment of cardiac arrest and cardiac disrythmias [6].

The biosynthesis of adrenaline is regulated by the central nervous system. It is ultimately derived from L-tyrosine, which is converted into L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) by the action of tyrosine 3-monooxygenase (EC Adrenaline is produced through the conversion of L-DOPA into dopamine into noradrenaline into adrenaline itself.


  1. Abel, J.J. (1899) Ueber den blutdruckerregenden Bestandtheil der Nebenniere, das Epinephrin. Z. Physiol. Chem. 18, 318–324.
  2. Takamine, J., (1902) The isolation of the active principle of the suprarenal gland. J. Physiol. 27 (Suppl), xxix–xxx.
  3. Stolz, F. (1904) Ueber Adrenalin und Alkylaminoacetobrenzkatechin. Ber. Dtsch. Chem. Ges. 37, 4149–4154.
  4. Dakin, H.D. (1905) The synthesis of a substance allied to noradrenaline. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lon. Ser. B 76, 491–497.
  5. ANCHOR, J. (2004). Appropriate use of epinephrine in anaphylaxis The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 22 (6), 488-490 DOI: 10.1016/j.ajem.2004.07.016
  6. Rainer TH, & Robertson CE (1996). Adrenaline, cardiac arrest, and evidence based medicine. Journal of accident & emergency medicine, 13 (4), 234-7 PMID: 8832338

[CC licensed picture of dan wakeham pipe by jeffcapeshop]

December 3, 2009

It’s Snowing (JavaScript)!

You know it’s December when it starts snowing in your web browser. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Or programmatically:

snowStorm = new SnowStorm();

There was a time, not so very long ago when JavaScript snow would have been “best viewed in browser x”. Thankfully now JavaScript much more reliable, the JBrowse [1] Genome Browser provides a nice example of this in bioinformatics. JBrowse is one of many proofs that JavaScript can be used to take some of the computing load off the server, and do it in the client (web browser) instead, while providing more sophisticated applications for users – not just gimmicks like snow.


  1. Skinner, M., Uzilov, A., Stein, L., Mungall, C., & Holmes, I. (2009). JBrowse: A next-generation genome browser Genome Research, 19 (9), 1630-1638 DOI: 10.1101/gr.094607.109

[Creative Commons licensed snowstorm picture by Atli Harðarson, JavaScript SnowStorm code by Scott Schiller, move your mouse around to guide the snowstorm.]

November 24, 2009

Semantic Web Applications and Tools for the Life Sciences (SWAT4LS) 2009, Amsterdam

Snow in Amsterdam by Bas van GaalenLast Friday, the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam hosted a workshop called Semantic Web Applications and Tools for the Life Sciences (SWAT4LS) 2009.

Following on from last year [1], the workshop proceedings will be published at ceur-ws.org and in a special issue of the Journal of Biomedical Semantics, but if you want to find out what happened in the meantime, take a look at the #swat4ls2009 hashtag on twitter. Twitter makes bloggers lazy (they blog less but tweet more), but thankfully Nico Adams has studiously blogged the workshop very extensively.

Disruptive Technologies Director (cool job title!) Anita de Waard from Elsevier was asking what were the conclusions of the workshop. So here is an incomplete summary: Roughly speaking, people agreed to disagree (again). Keynote speaker Barend Mons argued that redundant data should be eliminated through the use of “nano-publications” and micro-attribution in his entertaining but controversial keynote. Some people in the audience disagreed with this. Greg Tyrelle thinks that redundancy is a feature, not a bug, in the Web and we have to deal with it. Alan Ruttenberg argued that semantic web reasoners  are required to clean up and sanity check all the messy and noisy biological data but emphasised the importance of Computer Scientists learning to speak Biologists language.

The good thing about this workshop is its size: small, friendly but internationally attended. Thanks to M. Scott Marshall, Albert Burger, Adrian Paschke, Paolo Romano and Andrea Splendiani for organising another good workshop, hope to see you again next year (if not before).


  1. Burger, A., Romano, P., Paschke, A., & Splendiani, A. (2009). Semantic Web Applications and Tools for Life Sciences, 2008 – Introduction BMC Bioinformatics, 10 (Suppl 10) DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-10-S10-S1 part of the special issue on SWAT4LS 2008

[CC-licensed picture of Amsterdam in the snow by Bas van Gaalen]

November 5, 2009

Artemether: Entity of the Month

ArtemetherNovember’s entity of the month at ChEBI is the antimalarial drug Artemether. This accompanies release 62 of ChEBI, not just yet another incremental release but an increase of more than twentyfold in the number of entities in ChEBI, thanks to merging of data between an updated ChEBI [1] and ChEMBL [2]. ChEBI now (as of release 62) has over 455,000 total entities, compared to just under 19,000 in the previous version (release 61), see ChEBI news for details. The text below on Artemether is reproduced from the ChEBI website, where content is available under a Creative Commons license:

Artemether (CHEBI:195280) is a lipid-soluble antimalarial for the treatment of multi-drug resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. First prepared in 1979 [3], it is a methyl ether of the naturally occurring sesquiterpene lactone (+)-artemisinin, which is isolated from the leaves of Artemisia annua L. (sweet wormwood), the traditional Chinese medicinal herb known as Qinghao. However, because of artemether’s extremely rapid mode of action (it has an elimination half-life of only 2 hours, being metabolized to dihydroartemisinin which then undergoes rapid clearance), it is used in combination with other, longer-acting, drugs. One such combination, licensed in April of this year by the WHO, is Coartem in which the artemether is mixed with lumefantrine – a racemic mixture of a synthetic fluorene derivative known formerly as benflumetol – which has a much longer and pharmacologically complementary terminal half-life of 3–6 days, allowing the two drugs to act synergistically against Plasmodium.

The molecule of artemether is interesting because of its extreme rigidity, with very few rotational bonds. Unlike quinine class antimalarial drugs, it has no nitrogen atom in its skeleton. However, an important chemical feature (and unique in drugs) is the presence of an O–O endoperoxide bridge which is essential for its antimalarial activity, as it is this bridge which is split in an interaction with heme, blocking the conversion into hemozoin and thus releasing into the parasite heme and a host of free radicals which attack the cell membrane.

Artemether is fully Rule-of-Five compliant and has recently also been under investigation as a possible candidate for cancer treatment [4,5].



  1. de Matos, P., Alcantara, R., Dekker, A., Ennis, M., Hastings, J., Haug, K., Spiteri, I., Turner, S., & Steinbeck, C. (2009). Chemical Entities of Biological Interest: an update Nucleic Acids Research DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkp886
  2. Warr, W. (2009). ChEMBL. An interview with John Overington, team leader, chemogenomics at the European Bioinformatics Institute Outstation of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL-EBI) Journal of Computer-Aided Molecular Design, 23 (4), 195-198 DOI: 10.1007/s10822-009-9260-9
  3. Li, Y. et al. (1979) K’o Hsueh T’ung Pao, 24, 667 [Chem. Abstr., 91, 211376u].
  4. Singh, N., & Panwar, V. (2006). Case Report of a Pituitary Macroadenoma Treated With Artemether Integrative Cancer Therapies, 5 (4), 391-394 DOI: 10.1177/1534735406295311
  5. Wu, Z., Gao, C., Wu, Y., Zhu, Q., Yan Chen, ., Xin Liu, ., & Chuen Liu, . (2009). Inhibitive Effect of Artemether on Tumor Growth and Angiogenesis in the Rat C6 Orthotopic Brain Gliomas Model Integrative Cancer Therapies, 8 (1), 88-92 DOI: 10.1177/1534735408330714

September 18, 2009

Popular, personal and public data: Article-level metrics at PLoS

PLoS: The Public Library of ScienceThe Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organisation committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature freely accessible to everyone via open access publishing. As recently announced they have just published the first article-level metrics (e.g. web server logs and related information) for all articles in their library. This is novel, interesting and potentially useful data, not currently made publicly available by other publishers. Here is a  selection of some of the data, taken from the full dataset here (large file), which includes the “top ten” papers by viewing statistics.

Article level metrics for some papers published in PLoS (August 2009)

Rank* Article Journal Views Citations**
1 Why Most Published Research Findings Are False (including this one?) [1] PLoS Medicine 232847 52
2 Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration [2] PLoS Medicine 182305 15
3 Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature [3] PLoS Medicine 105498 16
4 The Diploid Genome Sequence of an Individual Human [4] PLoS Biology 88271 54
5 Ultrasonic Songs of Male Mice [5] PLoS Biology 81331 8
6 Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology [6] PLoS ONE 62449 0
7 The Impact Factor Game: It is time to find a better way to assess the scientific literature [7] PLoS Medicine 61353 13
8 A Map of Recent Positive Selection in the Human Genome [8] PLoS Biology 59512 94
9 Mapping the Structural Core of Human Cerebral Cortex [9] PLoS Biology 58151 8
10 Ten Simple Rules for Getting Published [10] PLoS Computational Biology 57312 1
11 Men, Women, and Ghosts in Science [11] PLoS Biology 56982 0
120 Defrosting the Digital Library: Bibliographic Tools for the Next Generation Web [12] (w00t!) PLoS Computational Biology 16295 3
1500 Specificity and evolvability in eukaryotic protein interaction networks [13] PLoS Computational Biology 4270 7
1632 Comparative genomics and disorder prediction identify biologically relevant SH3 protein interactions [14] PLoS Computational Biology 4063 10
1755 Folding Very Short Peptides Using Molecular Dynamics [15] PLoS Computational Biology 3876 2
2535 Microblogging the ISMB: A New Approach to Conference Reporting [16] PLoS Computational Biology 3055 1
7521 Probing the Flexibility of Large Conformational Changes in Protein Structures through Local Perturbations [17] PLoS Computational Biology 1024 0
12549 Deciphering Proteomic Signatures of Early Diapause in Nasonia [18] PLoS ONE 0 0

*The rank is based on the 12,549 papers for which viewing data (combined usage of HTML + PDF + XML) are available.

**Citation counts are via PubMedCentral (data from CrossRef and Scopus is also provided, see Bora’s comments and commentary at Blue Lab Coats.)

Science is not a popularity contest but…

Analysing this data is not straightforward. Some highly-viewed articles are never cited (reviews, editorial, essays, opinion, etc). Likewise, popularity and importance are not the same thing. Some articles get lots of citations but few views, which suggests that people are not actually reading the papers them before citing them. As described on the PLoS website article-level-metrics.plos.org:

“When looking at Article-Level Metrics for the first time bear the following points in mind:

  • Online usage is dependent on the article type, the age of the article, and the subject area(s) it is in. Therefore you should be aware of these effects when considering the performance of any given article.
  • Older articles normally have higher usage than younger ones simply because the usage has had longer to accumulate. Articles typically have a peak in their usage in the first 3 months and usage then levels off after that.
  • Spikes of usage can be caused by media coverage, usage by large numbers of people, out of control download scripts or any number of other reasons. Without a detailed look at the raw usage logs it is often impossible to tell what the reason is and so we encourage you to regard usage data as indicative of trends, rather than as an absolute measure for any given article.
  • We currently have missing usage data for some of our articles, but we are working to fill the gaps. Primarily this affects those articles published before June 17th, 2005.
  • Newly published articles do not accumulate usage data instantaneously but require a day or two before data are shown.
  • Article citations as recorded by the Scopus database are sometimes undercounted because there are two records in the database for the same article. We’re working with Scopus to correct this issue.
  • All metrics will accrue over time (and some, such as citations, will take several years to accrue). Therefore, recent articles may not show many metrics (other than online usage, which accrues from day one). ”

So all the usual caveats apply when using this bibliometric data. Despite the limitations, it is more revealing than the useful (but simplistic) “highly accesssed” papers at BioMedCentral, which doesn’t always give full information on what “highly” actually means next to each published article. It will be interesting to see if other publishers now follow the lead of PLoS and BioMed Central and also publish their usage data combined with other bibliometric indicators such as blog coverage. For authors publishing with PLoS, this data has an added personal dimension too, it is handy to see how many views your paper has.

As paying customers of the services that commercial publishers provide, should scientists and their funders be demanding more of this kind of information in the future? I reckon they should. You have to wonder, why these kind of innovations have taken so long to happen, but they are a welcome addition.

[More commentary on this post over at friendfeed.]


  1. Ioannidis, J. (2005). Why Most Published Research Findings Are False PLoS Medicine, 2 (8) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124
  2. Kirsch, I., Deacon, B., Huedo-Medina, T., Scoboria, A., Moore, T., & Johnson, B. (2008). Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration PLoS Medicine, 5 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045
  3. Lacasse, J., & Leo, J. (2005). Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature PLoS Medicine, 2 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020392
  4. Levy, S., Sutton, G., Ng, P., Feuk, L., Halpern, A., Walenz, B., Axelrod, N., Huang, J., Kirkness, E., Denisov, G., Lin, Y., MacDonald, J., Pang, A., Shago, M., Stockwell, T., Tsiamouri, A., Bafna, V., Bansal, V., Kravitz, S., Busam, D., Beeson, K., McIntosh, T., Remington, K., Abril, J., Gill, J., Borman, J., Rogers, Y., Frazier, M., Scherer, S., Strausberg, R., & Venter, J. (2007). The Diploid Genome Sequence of an Individual Human PLoS Biology, 5 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050254
  5. Holy, T., & Guo, Z. (2005). Ultrasonic Songs of Male Mice PLoS Biology, 3 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030386
  6. Franzen, J., Gingerich, P., Habersetzer, J., Hurum, J., von Koenigswald, W., & Smith, B. (2009). Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology PLoS ONE, 4 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005723
  7. The PLoS Medicine Editors (2006). The Impact Factor Game PLoS Medicine, 3 (6) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030291
  8. Voight, B., Kudaravalli, S., Wen, X., & Pritchard, J. (2006). A Map of Recent Positive Selection in the Human Genome PLoS Biology, 4 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040072
  9. Hagmann, P., Cammoun, L., Gigandet, X., Meuli, R., Honey, C., Wedeen, V., & Sporns, O. (2008). Mapping the Structural Core of Human Cerebral Cortex PLoS Biology, 6 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060159
  10. Bourne, P. (2005). Ten Simple Rules for Getting Published PLoS Computational Biology, 1 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0010057
  11. Lawrence, P. (2006). Men, Women, and Ghosts in Science PLoS Biology, 4 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040019
  12. Hull, D., Pettifer, S., & Kell, D. (2008). Defrosting the Digital Library: Bibliographic Tools for the Next Generation Web PLoS Computational Biology, 4 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000204
  13. Beltrao, P., & Serrano, L. (2007). Specificity and Evolvability in Eukaryotic Protein Interaction Networks PLoS Computational Biology, 3 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030025
  14. Beltrao, P., & Serrano, L. (2005). Comparative Genomics and Disorder Prediction Identify Biologically Relevant SH3 Protein Interactions PLoS Computational Biology, 1 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0010026
  15. Ho, B., & Dill, K. (2006). Folding Very Short Peptides Using Molecular Dynamics PLoS Computational Biology, 2 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0020027
  16. Saunders, N., Beltrão, P., Jensen, L., Jurczak, D., Krause, R., Kuhn, M., & Wu, S. (2009). Microblogging the ISMB: A New Approach to Conference Reporting PLoS Computational Biology, 5 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000263
  17. Ho, B., & Agard, D. (2009). Probing the Flexibility of Large Conformational Changes in Protein Structures through Local Perturbations PLoS Computational Biology, 5 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000343
  18. Wolschin, F., & Gadau, J. (2009). Deciphering Proteomic Signatures of Early Diapause in Nasonia PLoS ONE, 4 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006394

September 10, 2009

September 4, 2009

XML training in Oxford

XML Summer School 2009The XML Summer School returns this year at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford from 20th-25th September 2009. As always, it’s packed with high quality technical training for every level of expertise, from the Hands-on Introduction for beginners through to special classes devoted to XQuery and XSLT, Semantic Technologies, Open Source Applications, Web 2.0, Web Services and Identity. The Summer School is also a rare opportunity to experience what life is like as a student in one of the world’s oldest university cities while enjoying a range of social events that are a part of the unique summer school experience.

This year, classes and sessions are taught and chaired by:

W3C XML 10th anniversaryThe Extensible Markup Language (XML) has been around for just over ten years, quickly and quietly finding its niche in many different areas of science and technology. It has been used in everything from modelling biochemical networks in systems biology [1], to electronic health records [2], scientific publishing, the provision of the PubMed service (which talks XML) [3] and many other areas. As a crude measure of its importance in biomedical science, PubMed currently has no fewer than 800 peer-reviewed publications on XML. It’s hard to imagine life without it. So whether you’re a complete novice looking to learn more about XML or a seasoned veteran wanting to improve your knowledge, register your place and find out more by visiting xmlsummerschool.com. I hope to see you there…


  1. Hucka, M. (2003). The systems biology markup language (SBML): a medium for representation and exchange of biochemical network models Bioinformatics, 19 (4), 524-531 DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btg015
  2. Bunduchi R, Williams R, Graham I, & Smart A (2006). XML-based clinical data standardisation in the National Health Service Scotland. Informatics in primary care, 14 (4) PMID: 17504574
  3. Sayers, E., Barrett, T., Benson, D., Bryant, S., Canese, K., Chetvernin, V., Church, D., DiCuccio, M., Edgar, R., Federhen, S., Feolo, M., Geer, L., Helmberg, W., Kapustin, Y., Landsman, D., Lipman, D., Madden, T., Maglott, D., Miller, V., Mizrachi, I., Ostell, J., Pruitt, K., Schuler, G., Sequeira, E., Sherry, S., Shumway, M., Sirotkin, K., Souvorov, A., Starchenko, G., Tatusova, T., Wagner, L., Yaschenko, E., & Ye, J. (2009). Database resources of the National Center for Biotechnology Information Nucleic Acids Research, 37 (Database) DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkn741

August 24, 2009

I bet you think this blog is about you, don’t you?

Science Online London 2009Last Saturday, The Royal Institution of Great Britain (R.I.) hosted a conference called Science Online London (#solo09) co-organised by mendeley.com and network.nature.com. The event centred around the fantastic Faraday Theatre which according to the R.I. is a “beautiful, historic theatre [which] has deeply raked seating that creates an intimate atmosphere, even when full to capacity”. Absolutely. Just like last year, this event attracted delegates and speakers from a wide range of backgrounds in science, publishing and communication from around the world. This post is an approximately alphabetically ordered link-fest of some of the people involved. People are, after all, the most interesting thing about any conference. If you’re not listed here it’s not because I don’t like you (honest!) it’s because we didn’t speak or I didn’t listen or (unlike many people) you’re not vain enough [1] to have a have a blog (yet) 🙂

Now I’m told the presentations mentioned above will be on Nature Precedings in due course, which will be good. Thanks to all the organisers, speakers and participants this year that made Science Online London 2009 well worth attending. Hopefully see some more of you again next year!


  1. Carly Simon (1972) You’re So Vain
  2. Geoffrey Bilder (2006). In Google We Trust? Journal of Electronic Publishing, 9 (1) DOI: 10.3998/3336451.0009.101
  3. Matt Brown (2008). Venerable institute gets a refit Nature, 453 (7195), 568-569 DOI: 10.1038/453568a
  4. Matt Brown (2008). Reimagining the Royal Institution Nature, 453 (7195), 595-595 DOI: 10.1038/453595a
  5. Duncan Hull (2009). Slides from the author identity session: Authenticating Scientists with OpenID
  6. Jennifer Rohn and Richard P. Grant (2009). Pre-conference video: Live Roof Surfing at Mendeley Fringe Frivolous
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