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Friday, December 23, 2005

RSS aware chemical research

Here is a way of leveraging a few free resources to automatically alert chemical researchers to new events in their sphere of interest.

1) Start with an open source repository of molecules of interest. For our UsefulChem project the molecules we wish to make or think we need for various syntheses we are contemplating are found here.

2) For each molecule create an RSS feed using an MSN search using a unique molecule identifier. The CAS number is particularly handy to do this. Make sure to put quotes around the number in the search. Scroll down to the bottom of the results page in MSN to find the RSS feed. Unfortunately Google does not yet have RSS feeds for general web searches yet, just for blogs or news.

3) Merge the RSS feeds into a master feed using RSS mix. I actually tried 4 or 5 other RSS merging services and none worked as claimed. There are probably some better ones out there and let me know if you come across a better service. One of the downsides of RSS mix is that it does not seem possible to modify an exising master feed without creating a new url.

For the UsefulChem project the result corresponds to the following master RSS feed, that I can just add to Bloglines. For a look in a normal web page see here.

The use of the CAS number in a general web search tends to pull a lot of catalogue entries, which is one of the most useful pieces of information for a particular molecule of interest. It will also pull blog entries, patents and other goodies usually with few false hits. At this point, this is a far better way to find commercial sources of chemicals compared to Chmoogle. But that may change as they increase their database coverage.

What this effectively means is that, with no further effort, all members of my research team will be alerted when our molecules of interest become of interest to other scientists carrying out open source research or are made commercially available.


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