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Re: Towards a new version of the World Database of Crystallographers

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <epc-l@iucr.org>
  • Subject: Re: Towards a new version of the World Database of Crystallographers
  • From: Yves Epelboin <Yves.Epelboin@lmcp.jussieu.fr>
  • Date: Wed, 4 Feb 1998 09:31:14 GMT
Before going into details I believe there are a number of basic questions which
must be answered.

- 1 - Contents of the database

From Brian's message I understand that he wants to create a unique database both
for the use of WDC and for the journals. Let us examine this point first.

+ some people publishing in the journals are not listed in WDC and should be.
+ Some people listed in WDC do not publish in the journals.
+ The address of a scientist as listed in WDC may  differ from his/her address
in a paper

These points can be easily solved if the data base contains:
  + postal AND full address for the person as listed in WDC
  + postal address for publication PLUS some other reference.
For instance assume that Howard moves for six months in my lab and that we
publish a paper together. His institution address does not change but on the
paper he will give  a reference  to my lab. This reference is not only made from
the postal address but contains some additional information such as:
URA009 CNRS, Universités P.M. Curie and D. Diderot
because my institution is under the responsibility of these three institutions.
This lengthy reference does not appear in WDC.

===> It means that the database should contain
 + a permanent institution reference
 + a postal address as now listed in WDC
 + an institution reference
 + a postal address
 FOR each paper or that this second part may change from one paper to the next

Each individual is listed with a list of keywords to describe his/her interests.
The journals require that the authors give a list of keywords for each paper.

It would be a good idea to merge both BUT:
 + Assume a newcomer in the database who is registered for the first time
because he is a co-author of a paper. Should his/her interests be reduced to
the list of keywords corresponding to the publication?
 + In other words the list of keywords defining a publication is not the list of
keywords defining the interests of a person. In most cases the intersection is
not zero unless for occasional collaborations on subjects of minor interest
which will not be listed in WDC.


Who should be listed in the database? The straight answer is all individuals
either listed in WDC or/and publishing papers.

There are a few questions:
+ How about occasional collaborations? Should we add in WDC a scientist who does
not really belong to the community, is not too much interested in it but has
been a side collaborator for a paper?

+ How about students who publish papers and then move outside the university.
They would be added in WDC just in time when they are leaving the community and
WDC would contain a number of false references.

- 2 - Updates and new entries

I am now speaking of updates and new entries coming from a scientist, not from
the fact that somebody is publishing a paper. In other words I am making
reference to the problem of updating WDC. In fact I am repeating some of my
questions from a previous mail.

- 2 - Validity of entries

For the moment national editors are responsible for qualifying a person to be
listed in WDC. I know that this is not perfect and they are some curious 
references however most of the entries seem to be valid.

If we skip the national level who will be able to decide that a request has a
meaning or not. Who, in Chester, may have the idea that:
Yves Eepelboin, laboratoire de Patatologie biologique, 5 allée du Parc, 94200
Ivry is a nonsense ( the mail address is good: it is my private address!).

Any french scientist knows that there is no crystallography lab in Ivry. At a
time where the Web is open to everybody I foresee a number of difficulties and I
am afraid that very rapidly WDC will contain a number of unqualified entries.

Altogether most national editors have done a good job and regional editors too.
They could replace national editors when they are not acting and, if not the
best, are still reliable filters. At the meeting I had with them in Seattle, it
appeared very clearly that most of them are willing to continue their job. I am
very reluctant in concentrating the updates in Chester, not only because of the
workload as Peter is afraid, but also because Chester does not seem to be the
most qualified place to validate the entries.

I refuse to move from that view before consulting the National Committees. If
they agree that this responsibility may be moved to Chester, who will be sole
responsible to decide who is listed in a given country I will agree. We cannot
change the process without this agreement.

- 3 - Technical aspects

User interface

The experience with the Web interface for US and France was rather good. However
there have been complaints that the update process was dull: why should an
already registered scientist fill again all the fields. Provision must be made
to show the actual contents of an entry for modification.

Managing the database

The database is becoming a real relational database and should be manipulated
with professional tools. I do not know anything of the YARD database. All I am
aware is that today developments are not made anymore using cgi-bin:
  - lake of security
  - too slow
Today developments are made using a "three-third" system (I am not sure of the
words in English):
   + Web interfaces: not the same for consulting and updating and depending on
the level of responsibility of the user
   + a database
   + an intermediate engine directly coupled from the Web interface to the
database. The engine takes care of security problems as well.


For efficiency purpose I agree that the mirrors should be used to consult the
database. However the database system (YARD + engine + interfaces) can not be
distributed easily:
  + variety of platforms
  + software price
  + difficulties to install
thus WDC has to be an export of the Chester database in a standard which can be
installed on each mirror. However we must be aware that this may need a rather
important work and that the mirrors managers are volunteers. We may have some
difficulties. Should we not consult them before adopting a standard?

Also for efficiency reasons requests for updating should be run from the
mirrors. This adds a difficulty.

There is much more to say but I will stop today on these basic points. I am not
sure we can completly solve this problem by e-mail only.

With best regards,


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