Outsell and InChIs

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Having just launched Nature Chemistry we’re keeping a close eye on whenever we get a mention out there in cyberspace, so that we can get some idea of what the big wide world thinks about us.

One story that caught our eye was from Outsell, which, in their words, ‘is the only research and advisory firm focused on the publishing, information, and education industries’. The article was entitled ‘Chemical Bonding InChI by InChI’ and it offered an analysis of how certain publishers were making use of InChIs – those of you unfamiliar with InChIs can go here for a primer.

In addition to covering Project Prospect from the Royal Society of Chemistry, we here at Nature Chemistry also received some attention for how we are using InChIs and other chemical identifiers. Our friends over at ChemSpider also got a few mentions.

The article them moves on to consider whether CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service), which is owned by the ACS, will also embrace InChIs. The conclusion was that we may have to wait a while for that to happen.

So why do you need to know this? Well, the story from Outsell has been withdrawn (on April 8th) – and more than that, in fact, it has been removed from their archives (although the original story is cached on Google and you can find it here).

Whether it is right to completely remove every trace of a story that you withdraw is a discussion for another day – but now all that remains is a brief notice indicating that the original story did not hold up to Outsell’s internal standards.

Outsell now say that the original article wasn’t balanced and that the ‘tone of the piece could be taken to single out CAS as being late in responding to the trends’. Surely readers could make that judgement for themselves?

The great shame is that the whole article has simply been removed and an analysis of how cross-publisher development on an important topic such as the InChI – which may have a significant role to play in chemistry publishing – has been lost.

UPDATE on April 15: it appears that Outsell have now shortened their retraction notice to just say that they have removed the article – and include no reasons why. For further coverage in the blogosphere, see these pieces at ChemSpider, Depth-First and PMR’s blog.


Stuart Cantrill (Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry)

Stu Cantrill

Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature