Forking ONS Challenge Solubility Code on GitHub

May 21, 2009

Recently, Jean-Claude Bradley discussed improvements to the software his group uses to automate the determination of solubility from NMR spectra. The code, written by Andrew Lang, is available for download from the Open Notebook Science site.

Now, there's nothing wrong with sharing source code this way - it's just that there's a much more effective way - with GitHub.

I've created a fork of Andrew's NMR analysis code on GitHub. This accomplishes a number of things:

  • Source code can be easily read - with syntax highlighting - using a Web browser.
  • Search engine friendly.
  • Others who want to make changes can do so easily.
  • I can easily accept changes made to the code by others.
  • With almost no cost, the community, no matter how small it might be, now has a "space" that makes it much easier to attract potential collaborators to this small side-project.

Big projects often evolve from little side projects like Andrew's solubility code. This particular project may or may not develop into something more - only time will tell. What I can say is that keeping a project's source code entombed inside a compressed archive on Wiki server is a sure way to deprive it of the oxygen it needs to grow.

Jean-Claude Bradley and his group are at the forefront of using Web technologies to enable chemical research. In some cases, the tools they have to work with are not the best for the problem at hand. Fortunately, their preferred mode of operation, Open Notebook Science, makes it possible for contributors from diverse backgrounds to pitch in on an ad hoc basis. Tools like GitHub can be used in combination with Open Notebook Science to help on the software side.