Jim Gray eScience Award from Microsoft Research goes to “a doer”

Occasionally you meet really, really awesome people that confirm that life is worth all the junk we put up with 99% of the time.

A few years ago (2007)  I was introduced to a database that has had a huge impact on me and probably thousands of others..That database, ChemSpider started life in a garage not far from where I now live in North Carolina. Pretty quickly I started to collaborate with it’s founder Antony Williams, which has lead to a number of papers ranging in topic from drug repurposing to data quality and data standards. In all cases we seem to find a problem that has been underexplored and dig into it and find how we can improve things or contribute to what we see going on. In addition we have come up with ideas for websites like scientistsdb and scimobileapps driven by challenges we came up against..We have even co-edited a book! and hugged Bora with silly T-shirts. At every step during these collaborations Tony has been a major influencer, heck he even made me get an iPhone that lead to my interest in cheminformatics apps, introduced me to Alex Clark and well green solvents, ODDT and beyond lead from that.. The other day, Antony Williams, won the Jim Gray eScience Award from Microsoft Research..yes Microsoft..probably this is like a Nobel prize for informatics.

As a collaborator I am really proud of Antony’s achievement and I hope its a foretaste of more to come. I was also really happy because Tony Hey presented the award to him and called him ‘a doer’ – I could not agree more.  I had read The Quantum Universe by Hey and Walters as a teenager and that really inspired my scientific interest and started a parallel Feynman interest, and then that lead to me entering a competition to design an exhibit for a science museum in the UK. I did not win but I met another scientific hero Heinz Wolff at the opening of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester in 1988. I digress..So the point of this is connections. I was introduced to Antony by a mutual friend Ann Richard. That connection has been pivotal to the last 5 years of my scientific research. I am sure I can define other key connections in my network but this is the first award winner that I know.

Even though Antony has been a tireless supporter and promoter of cheminformatics it saddens me to think that the ACS, that fantastic backslapping, award giving machine has yet to present one to this great friend of data quality and chemistry even though he has been nominated by several of us. If contributing so much data and 28 million molecules does not get you an award from the ACS, I am not sure what will. At least Microsoft Research has the foresight recognize him first.

Well done from all of us ChemSpider users!!




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  1. Antony Williams, ChemConnector says:

    Sean..collaborating with you has been a great pleasure and highly productive! We have learned a lot from each other and achieved a lot in a short time. Some people who should be listening don’t. Their loss. The changes are a-coming…..

    Thanks for the nice comments and recognition!

  2. sean says:

    A Pleasure Tony!

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