Advantages and conditions of use

15 February 2006

Inorganic Crystal Structure Database (ICSD) Conditions of Use
"Information retrieved from the database shall not be passed on to third parties not belonging to the group of authorised users.”

The price of the full database ranges from €520 to €4430 for unlimited numbers of academic users at Research Institutes. Prices for commercial companies, groups of laboratories, or whole countries, are available on request to Dr. Alexander Hannemann at FIZ Karlsruhe.

What are the advantages of the WWW interface to the ICSD database ?

  • The WWW interface provides links to on-line electronic copies of the original publications.
  • The WWW interface is designed for non-experts, and should be familiar to any WWW user.
  • It works for all client computers (Windows, Macintosh, Linux etc) and most/all WWW browsers.
  • Nothing need be installed on the client computer, and the latest version is always available.
  • The server software is improved continuously, is the same for all computers, and is easy to update.
  • The full database is available on all machines within a licensed domain.
  • But if you prefer you can also install a server on your own computer, and be totally independent.
  • Or else you can log-on to your home server from anywhere in the world with a personal password.
  • Or you can simply subscribe to the central FIZ server, and have the database maintenance done for you.
  • Some countries have a national ICSD server, that is freely available to all academics in that country.

    Why do I have to pay if my country/laboratory does not have a license ?

    Some scientists ask why access to a database that contains data they themselves helped produce should not be free for all. They usually add that access to electronic journals should also be free. As Frank Gannon, Executive Director of EMBO puts it “Logically, scientists respond to the calls to ‘free the literature’ or advertisements proclaiming the ‘freedom of expression’ with feelings that some of them last felt in the 1960s.” The cost of journals and databases becomes an emotional issue, even though the cost of performing research is very much greater than the cost of publishing it, or cataloguing the published results.

    But as Frank Allen, Director of the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre says, “There is no such thing as a free database1). Creating and maintaining any major international scientific database requires funding. That funding can only come from two possible sources: (a) public funding (i.e. from taxpayers) or (b) by direct charges on the end-user.” 

    Martin Blume, Editor-in-Chief of The American Physical Society says that the same holds for journals. “We could make our complete archives available without charge today, if the institutions that now subscribe and pay fees instead became sponsors, and made an annual contribution equivalent to what they now pay as a subscription fee.

    Martin Frank, Executive Director of the American Physiological Society suggests that instead, authors might be asked to pay the real cost of publishing their papers, a relatively small overhead on the cost of performing the research itself. “For APS journals, we estimated that this would involve a surcharge to authors of $2,500 to $3,000 per manuscript — more with colour figures — to distribute the research content for free to the community.”

    Of course most scientists are not economists, and have perhaps not considered all the possible consequences of alternative ways to finance publishing. Charging to publish scientific papers would reduce publishing by the poorest laboratories, and boycotting journals that did not provide free on-line access would ensure that only the richest publishers survived.

    As Martin Richardson, Journals Publishing Director of Oxford University Press says “If the scientific community wishes publishers to make their online journals available free of charge... this might force publishers to charge higher prices, reducing rather than increasing accessibility to the literature... Whatever the outcome of this debate, someone has to pay...”

    If you are interested in hearing other opinions about electronic access to journals and databases, you will want to read Nature Debates - Future e-access to the primary literature “The topic of this Nature forum — the impact of the Web on the publishing of the results of original research — has, since the emergence of the Internet, filled volumes… We have invited leading representatives of the main groups of stakeholders and observers from the mainstream Internet industries to express their views in 1,000-word articles.”

    All possible alternatives to finance ICSD-for-WWW are offered — individual scientist access fees, laboratory or institute access licenses, or whole country access agreements. But in the real world, there is no such thing as a free lunch1). There are obligations as well as access rights for the use of databases. Please respect these obligations, or the age of the internet will also become the age of anarchy.

    1)"There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch" by Milton Friedman (1975) ISBN 0875483100

    Copying or publishing either the ICSD data or software without written permission is illegal.
    The ICSD database is copyright © 2015 by Fachinformationszentrum (FIZ) Karlsruhe
    The PHP-mySQL WWW interface is copyright © 2003-2015 by Peter Hewat
    The 3D crystal structure visualisation software, xtal-3d is copyright © 1994-2015 by Marcus Hewat
    The PHP-JMOL drawing software is copyright © 2006-2015 by Alan Hewat
    Please report technical problems with ICSD for WWW to alan.hewat[a]neutronoptics.com (Alan Hewat).