New position / Blog hiatus is over (hopefully…)

Wow, is it really more than half a year since my last post? So much has happened in this time…

The reason for this long silence has been that I have been absolutely busy. I did really like my position as Head of Natural Product R&D at Cyano Biotech, but when I saw the open position for an Assistant Professor for antiinfective natural product research at the University of Tuebingen in May last year, I could not resist but applied for this position. Already in June I had the opportunity to present myself, and I had a lot of work preparing the presentation I gave and also preparing for the talks afterwards. Already in August I received word that the comission has chosen me for the position, and they wanted me to start as soon as possible – which in the end was November. In these few months I had to arrange everything at my old job, had to organize new equipment for the lab in Tuebingen, had to write a first grant application (deadline was even before I took up work at university…), had to find a place to live in, and so on. No time to blog…

Now I have settled down a bit (still have to write some additional grant applications with close deadlines, though…) and will resume blogging now and then, although there is still a lot of work – but I really do enjoy my new tasks.

My new position is part of the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), and from now on I will focus on antiinfective natural products. From my predecessors I have “inherited” a well equipped natural product chemistry lab, a nice actinomycete strain collection, and a library of about 400 natural products mainly isolated from actinomycetes. To this I will add my expertise with cyanobacteria and fungi, making it a nice mix of organisms to be studied. Let us see what we can do to battle multiresistant bacteria, evil viruses, and neglected infectous deseases… 😉

My latest paper and why I am somewhat proud of it

These days my latest paper has been published.

To say it most frankly: This is not big science. The paper reports the isolation and structure elucidation of two compounds from a fungus, and neither is the core structure of these compounds novel nor do they have some remarkable bioactivity. It will be only interesting for a few scientists working in the field, and nobody would have missed the results had I not published them.

But still – I am somewhat proud of this paper for three reasons:

  • I have published this work in an Open Access journal dedicated to Natural Product Research (I have discussed this journal before). I am both a Natural Product and an Open Access freak, so the combination of these two fields is brilliant.
  • The data for this publication comes from my time as a PhD student – they slept on my hard disc for nine long years. No data deserve to be in prison for so long, so I just needed to set them free!
  • I have deposited the complete MS and NMR data in an open repository (figshare), so that everyone interested can download the data and have a look at the raw NMR spectra.

Especially the last point is most important for me. How often have I been frustrated because the NMR spectra shown in the Supporting Information have been only of little help, printed on one page as they are? And to come back to this recent paper: I contacted the authors of a paper discussing similar compounds and asked them for a spectrum to compare with my own spectrum – and the answer I received was “Actually it is a great honor for us to attract your attention in our work. Actually me, as i am the first author of the article, i did not find the charts as i am no longer in Japan now, that paper was during my PhD in Japan, now i returned back home but unfortunatelly i could not find it with my documents here.” What kind of science scrutiny is this?! Had they uploaded their data somewhere…

We have arrived in 2013 – it is absolutely no problem to deposit hundreds of MB of raw data “in the cloud” where anybody interested can download the data free of charge and play with them. I sincerely wish this would become the standard in Natural Product Research, where correct interpretation of e.g. NMR data as well as comparison of data to facilitate structure elucidation are so important.

Funnily enough, the publisher, Springer, makes mentioning this in the manuscript harder than necessary. It has not been possible to write the sentence “Complete NMR raw data are available for download at…” in the Supporting Information paragraph at the end of the paper, as this paragraph cannot be modified by the authors. How strange – the ACS allows writing there freely – why does Springer not? Furthermore, the paragraph dictated by Springer contains the phrase “[Supplementary material] is accessible for authorized users”. How much sense does this make for an Open Access journal? And what kind of access rights does one need to download a Supporting Information file? This kind of stuff has never been behind any pay wall with any publisher (at least as far as I know…).

However, my two main messages for today:

Do not imprison your research data!

Do not only publish open access – also publish your raw data!