When it comes to organic chemistry on the web, for substances, there are a variety of useful resources. ChemSpider, Chempedia, and even SciFinder are wonderful for discovering the known behavior of chemical substances. Sadly though, the same cannot be said for chemical reactions, the (arguably) forgotten branch of organic chemistry on the web. While established websites like organic-chemistry.org provide a great deal of information on a variety of organic reactions, their visibility and attractiveness to newcomers to the field (including students) are significant disadvantages. Improving the quality and web presence of organic reactions on the web is still very much an open problem.
When I began working with the editorial board of Organic Reactions to produce condensed versions of OR chapters for use on the web, the question that burned in my mind was: what is the best way to maintain OR‘s authority as a secondary reference work on the Internet, given the desire of web users to engage directly with (read: edit) web content? The answer, I believe, comes in a sort of two-tiered system—literally juxtaposing user-generated content and content from the “experts.” After all, synthesizing knowledge from a variety of primary sources is the goal of any secondary reference work…and in today’s Web 2.0 age, there is no reason why coverage of a topic has to end at the publishing of a review, or with the search efforts of a single individual author. Why not let user-generated content (recent reports from the primary literature, experimental “know-how,” etc.) keep an expert’s review on the cutting edge?
That’s the philosophy behind the OrganoWiki, a new website launched by Organic Reactions in the fall of 2010. Check it out! After registering for an account, you’ll be able to edit the Discussion pages associated with each article. The articles cover organic chemical reactions and are based on Organic Reactions chapters. Some of my personal favorites: