Next Article in Journal
Acid-Base Initiated Cyclization and Retrocyclization Reactions of Ethyl 2-(3-Acylselenoureido)benzoates, -thiophene-3-carboxylates and the Corresponding 2-(3-Acylisoselenoureido) Derivatives
Previous Article in Journal
General Method for the Preparation of Substituted 2-Amino-4H,5H-pyrano[4,3-b]pyran-5-ones and 2-Amino-4H-pyrano[3,2-c]pyridine-5-ones
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

On the Need for Multiple Lists of Chemical Information

Department of Chemistry, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, CB2 1EW, UK
Molecules 2000, 5(1), 33-36;
Submission received: 14 January 2000 / Accepted: 14 January 2000 / Published: 21 January 2000


Cambridge University Department of Chemistry has a list of University Chemistry Departments and Chemistry-related journals around the world: ChemSites ( This article describes what makes it distinct from other lists, and justifies the existence of more than one such list.


The Department of Chemistry at Cambridge has maintained a list of University Chemistry Departments with WWW servers and of Chemistry Journals with an internet presence, since 1994. This index is called ChemSites and is available on the URL.
When it started, there were only a dozen or so such departments and the task was a very easy one. Now, the list is about two thousand sites. When the Cambridge index was started, the WWW virtual library had an up-to-date chemistry page at UCLA ( [1]. There are now many other useful lists of chemistry departments including Links for Chemists maintained at Liverpool by Michael Barker which has 6250 links (in July 1999) and started in 1995 [2], and ChemDex, maintained at Sheffield by Mark Winter, which started in 1993 and has 4036 links (in July 1999) [3]. There are also many other lists of links around the world.
Is there any reason to continue maintaining ChemSites, apart from habit, as it is just one of quite a large number of such lists?


The case against continuing the ChemSites [4] index seems clear:
it has fewer links than "Links for Chemists" and ChemDex.
maintaining the site requires some effort.
duplicate lists may confuse people.
Despite the strength of these arguments, the counter arguments appear to be stronger.

2. Effort required to maintain the list

Maintaining a list of links requires a significant amount of effort. This may seem surprising, since chemistry departments do not start up and close down very often. The same is not true for their web servers. ChemSites and Chemistry Journals are checked every month, and every month there are a number of links which need to be updated. The number varies from month to month, but is rarely less than 1% of the total, and is sometimes much more. Checking 2000 links by hand would take a very long time, and so most of the work is done by computer, which makes the task a manageable one. However, this always produces a list of suspect links which need to be checked and modified as necessary. The program which does this has evolved with experience, and will probably make different decisions as to whether or not a URL leads to a chemistry site than anybody else's program. It is very likely, therefore, that the reliability of different lists varies quite significantly. The half-life of a chemistry department URL has been surprisingly short.
This has consequences for the possible misuse of the list. The list is available to anyone to access and use, but not to copy and exploit. Copies have occasionally been found on other web servers, with neither permission nor acknowledgement. The rapid updating of the list means that the time at which the copy was made can be ascertained fairly precisely, and the copy is unlikely to be as reliable as the original.

3. Confusion from duplicate lists

There would be advantages in there being one comprehensive, infallible and up-to-the-minute list of world-wide chemistry departments. However, the creation of such a list would be impossible, because of the difficulty of deciding what should be on it, and the challenge of keeping it constantly updated. It would be interesting to combine the lists at ChemDex and at Liverpool with the ChemSites at Cambridge, if permission to do this could be obtained from the administrators of all the lists. Since they contain about 4 000, 6 000 and 2 000 links respectively, how many links would be in the combined list? The answer is certainly less that 12 000 for many departments will be on all three lists. However, it is very likely that the answer is rather more than 6 000, as so many different decisions must have been made about the inclusion and exclusion of different sites.
If a single list is not an achievable aim, then a variety of lists, each with a different emphasis and focus, would seem to be a good alternative.


The best way to index the chemistry world is to have a variety of lists, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The ChemSites list has strengths in its focus on university chemistry departments and chemistry journals, and in the regular checking of the entries in the index. These strengths are not sufficient to make it a dominant index which makes all others unnecessary. The first strength, it may be argued, contains some idiosyncratic choices, and the second is useful, but imperfect. However, they do mean that it plays a useful role amongst the various lists of chemistry links, and this is reflected in the heavy use of the list from all around the world.


I would like to thank everybody who has contributed links to the ChemSites list, who are too many to name here, and the Royal Society for financial support.

References and Notes

  1. WWW Virtual Library:.
  2. Links for Chemists:.
  3. ChemDex:.
  4. Goodman, J. ChemSites. (

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Goodman, J. On the Need for Multiple Lists of Chemical Information. Molecules 2000, 5, 33-36.

AMA Style

Goodman J. On the Need for Multiple Lists of Chemical Information. Molecules. 2000; 5(1):33-36.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Goodman, Jonathan. 2000. "On the Need for Multiple Lists of Chemical Information" Molecules 5, no. 1: 33-36.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop