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Chemistry Prof Presents at White House

By Kirsten Vannix '15

July 23, 2013

Research in the science world is often done behind closed doors, never seeing the light of day until publication. For Drexel’s Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley, however, this is not the case. In 2006, Bradley, an associate professor of chemistry, coined the term “Open Notebook Science” to describe a way of doing science in which researchers make their work freely available to the public in real time. Last month, the organic chemist was invited to present his work on Open Notebook Science at the White House’s Open Science Poster Session. Chemistry undergrad Matthew McBride, who received the Open Notebook Science Challenge Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry last November, was also in attendance.

Matthew McBride, and Drs. Jean-Claude Bradley and Andrew Lang at the White House

Left to right: Matthew McBride, and
Drs. Jean-Claude Bradley and Andrew Lang

At the Poster Session, Bradley explained how Open Notebook Science allowed him and his collaborators, Drs. Andrew Lang of Roberts University and Antony Williams, founder of ChemSpider, to confidently determine the melting points of substances that could never before be agreed upon.

Embracing the philosophy of free, accessible science and chemical information, Bradley, Lang and Williams created a database of solubility and melting point data that currently contains over 27,000 melting points. The team has used this data to create models that can accurately estimate substances’ melting points, which cannot be experimentally observed.

As might be expected, not everyone is ready to make data available to all at no cost; many companies prefer to put restrictions on the use of their data or limit access.

Bradley, however, follows the simple mantra of “be first or be forgotten.”

“It is only a matter of time before the internet is saturated with free knowledge for all,” he says. “People will remember those who were first.”

Currently, Bradley’s research lab is working to create anti-malarial compounds to aid in the synthesis of drugs to fight malaria. His lab’s work on this project is made available to the public on a wiki called UsefulChem, in which both successful and failed experiments are recorded.