Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

A chemistry reference resolver

Editor’s note: The following is posted on behalf of Alex Zhurakovskyi, who introduces us to his search interface for chemistry publications.


Chemistry is fast-paced nowadays. We use online databases to do sub-structure searches, download NMR spectra in just a few clicks, and it no longer takes a whole day in the library to get just a couple of papers. Publishing houses, for the most part, did a tremendous job of scanning and publishing their archives on the web. But finding and downloading a paper for a given citation can still be a cumbersome and time-consuming task.

First, one might google the website of the corresponding journal (although many of us keep numerous bookmarks or have a dedicated ‘links’ page on a group website). Then, one would look for a citation-based search form — and hopefully this is not buried somewhere on the page. If the volume number is absent, screening through the whole archive may be necessary. Depending on a journal, all of this may take quite a while — sometimes longer that the actual reading!

So, I asked myself if I could simplify this process and make it faster? I envisioned a system that would accept a citation in any format (such as the traditional ‘J. Org. Chem., 2010, 75, 4657’, my favourite type of citation ‘joc 2010 4657’, or a simple DOI) and redirect the user to the paper — in a single click. And also be capable of resolving references where only the year is provided and the volume number is absent.

The alpha version of the Organic Chemistry Reference Resolver was developed in early 2010 for private use. Later on, the project was made available on the web at http://chemsearch.kovsky.net under the Creative Commons license.

In addition to the web-interface I have developed a couple of browser extensions (Safari/Chrome/Firefox 3) as well as a tiny widget that can be added to any webpage. Interestingly, it is the widgets on the Japanese chemistry portals Chem-Station and ChemPort that provide two thirds of the users.

In the future, I plan to extend the scope of supported publications, upgrade the extensions, and implement the year search for all titles (now it works with about 70% of journals).

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