Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Wikifying chemistry

There has been some interest in using wikis to annotate molecules: e.g. the ChemSpider blog where Antony is interested in using a local wiki to annotate entries, chem-bla-ics where Egon is trying to ensure that molecular data on Wikipedia can be accessed like a database, and most recently where PMR has commented on DBPedia.

This idea is already being used in biology. The Rfam database at the Sanger Institute is directly using wikipedia to create annotations for the major RNA families, which each have a page on Wikipedia. The full list of Wikipedia pages seems to be available here. From what I've heard second-hand, interested academics are invited to contribute to the pages on their favourite families. Every day the pages are downloaded and backed up, and the information made available through the Rfam database. All edits are tracked using Wikipedia's own tracking facilities (i.e. watchlists) so that vandalism is easily detected, although apparently this hasn't been a problem.

I'm not sure how much this idea could be used in chemistry (perhaps a database of drugs...?), but it sure is some food for thought...