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2003 Herman Skolnik Award: In Memoriam - Frank Allen

The Herman Skolnik Award of the ACS Division of Chemical Information, recognizing outstanding contributions to and achievements in the theory and practice of chemical information science, will be presented at the Fall 2003 ACS meeting in New York to Dr. Frank Allen. Dr. Allen has driven the development of much of the software for data acquisition and validation, and for the retrieval and analysis of information in the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD), and has also pioneered many of its research applications. His success during his career at the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) is attested to by the widespread and increasing use that is now being made of the CSD, which is distributed to over 50 countries world-wide and to more than 100 commercial organisations, principally pharmaceutical and fine chemicals companies in the USA, Western Europe and Japan.

Biography - Frank Allen

Allen was born in Reading, England in 1944, and obtained BSc and ARCS degrees (1st class honours) in Chemistry at Imperial College in 1965. He stayed there for a DIC and PhD in chemical crystallography (awarded in 1968) and then spent two years at the University of British Columbia as a post-doctoral research fellow. He moved to the embryo CCDC in 1970, first as a Research Associate and then Senior Research Associate. He was promoted to Principal Scientist in 1989, and Scientific Director in 1997, where he has had overall responsibility for the scientific development of the CCDC. He becomes Executive Director of the CCDC in October 2002.

Allen's scientific contributions are detailed in over 200 publications that cover three major research categories: chemical crystallography, chemical information science, and data compilations and handbooks. The influential nature of his published output is evidenced by a recent analysis of highly cited publications emanating from the CCDC. Six of these publications by Allen and co-authors were in the area of chemical information science and described the Database and its associated software systems, which have pioneered many of the 2D and 3D searching facilities that are now taken for granted in packages for chemical information management. These six papers attracted no less than 3573 citations from 232 different journals covering chemical crystallography and chemical information science as well as inorganic, medicinal, organic, organo-metallic, pharmaceutical and physical chemistry, and the biosciences in general. A further two papers co-authored by Allen, on data compilations derived from the CSD, attracted a further 3172 citations in the same analysis. Also worthy of particular note is his close involvement with the CIF (Crystallographic Information File) format, which has become the lingua franca for the exchange of crystallographic information, his continuing work on the electronic submission and validation of experimental data, so as to ensure the integrity of the structural information in crystallographic databases, and the formal links he has helped to establish between the CCDC and many of the world's primary scientific journals.

Allen's achievements have been widely recognised. Much of his work is concerned directly with crystallography, and he has been the Editor of Acta Crystallographica B from 1993-2002, and held a range of senior positions in the British and European Crystallographic Associations and in the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr). He has helped to organise many microsymposia, meetings and conferences on behalf of these organisations, and was Co-Director of an Erice Crystallography School in 1998. His broader contributions to chemistry have been recognised by a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in 1992, the award of the RSC's Prize for Structural Chemistry in 1994, appointment to the Editorial Board of Chemical Communications in 1999, and a Visiting Professorship at the University of Bristol, UK in 2002. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Protein Data Bank (RCSB, USA) and has done much to promote the scientific value of all of the crystallographic databases in the international arena.

Obituary - Frank Allen

Frank Allen video interviews -  available on YouTube  
part 1 -- Frank talks about the early years at CCDC 
part 2 -- Frank talks about staff and visitors to CCDC 
part 3 -- Frank describes the CSD and the research which has developed from it 
part 4 -- Frank speaks about the origins of Gold and other software products from the CCDC
Part 5 -- Frank describes how the CCDC was financed
Part 6 -- Frank talks about some of the diverse ways in which the CCDC was housed in Cambridge
Part 7 -- Frank describes how computer resources used by CCDC evolved over time
Part 8 -- Frank talks about some of the challenges CCDC is facing