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IUCr wins prestigious international award for publishing innovation

The International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) has won the 2006 Award for Publishing Innovation of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP)

The Award, for Data Exchange, Quality Assurance and Integrated Data Publication (CIF and checkCIF), recognises the involvement of the IUCr in the development of the Crystallographic Information Framework and its applications, e.g.
  • standard data definitions for crystallographic information archive and interchange
  • submission format for structure report articles in crystallographic journals
  • standard format for depositing supplementary structural data accompanying publications
  • automated checking of the integrity and self-consistency of crystal structure models (the web checkCIF service)
  • use of checkCIF as a peer review tool
  • dissemination of crystal structural models in online publications and automated visualization.
[ALPSP 2006 award winner]

The judges felt that in developing CIF and checkCIF, the IUCr has established an important example of data quality assurance with potential applications in other scientific, medical and indeed social sciences publishing.

From the Judges' Report:

The crystallographic information file (CIF) and associated data dictionaries allow the seamless transfer of information from experimental apparatus, through computation analysis, to database deposition and publication. CIF also allows the definition of quality standards for data deposition and publication and the deployment of mechanisms for checking compliance with such standards, via the checkCIF web-accessible service. The main features of the standard are its well-defined machine-readable syntax, large collection of individually defined data names and the formalism that allows automatic validation of certain attributes of data. The standard has been extended to assist with routine aspects of editorial checking and peer review, which can now take place with much increased speed and confidence.

The judges were impressed with the way in which CIF and checkCIF are easily accessible and have served to make critical crystallographic data more consistently reliable and accessible at all stages of the information chain, from authors, reviewers and editors through to readers and researchers. In doing so, the system takes away the donkeywork from ensuring that the results of scientific research are trustworthy without detracting from the value of human judgement in the research and publication process.

The development and maintenance of CIF and checkCIF is sponsored by several publishers but it is freely accessible to all. The IUCr already works closely with other related structural science communities and is looking to extend this cooperation.

The IUCr is honoured by the 2006 ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation. The award recognises the hard work and dedication of our publishing staff and academic collaborators, and the role that learned societies can play in introducing novel and valuable contributions to scientific information exchange. The Crystallographic Information Framework owes much to the special nature of crystallography and its relatively compact community of practitioners but we hope that this award will encourage other scientific disciplines to follow similar approaches to integrating research data and literature, and to extending the tradition of peer review more deeply into the supporting data.

Peter Strickland, Managing Editor, IUCr Publications

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