Academic research - introducing a commercial license to bring light to grey areas

Posted on January 25th, 2014 at 11:09 am by Alex Allardyce

As you may have noticed we have changed the Academic Package (AcPack) application/update form to clarify certain conditions of the academic package mainly related to Academic research (not teaching) and we have changed the way we handle applications, contacting applicants where there may be commercial research usage. I wanted to explain a little of the background to this and how this led us to create/offer an Academic commercial research license.
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We have been noticing in many cases that the Academic Package licenses have been getting used where they shouldn’t be. This is not related to any change in the Academic Package terms and conditions (they are as they were pretty much as they were since we launched the program in 2004) but more to do with how cheminformatics and academic research are being conducted, where academic is blurring with non academic research and the growing power of centralised data and systems.

About Academic Package
To just cover some basics – the academic package provides almost all ChemAxon technology freely and is intended to promote academic adoption of cheminformatics (through reducing the cost of access for – let’s say – professional tools) and to stimulate and accelerate chemistry in academic research generally.

It is available in 2 flavours; for teaching the license covers all undergraduates within the applicant’s (Professor’s) department; and for research it is a personal license for the individual (postgraduate) researcher. All licenses are issued for 2 years but for teaching we extend upon application and for research we extend if ChemAxon cited articles are added to the application, as required since inception.

So far so good?

So what is the problem?
Well for academic teaching there is no problem but for academic research we see issues, some larger than others and some more tangible or clear cut. It may be outside of the scope of this post to resolve all of these issues but in general we can break it down to some recurring themes:

    Servers and services:
    Well we are increasingly finding research groups that are building server based services and portals supporting postgraduate research programs. This would not be so bad (although specifically outside the terms of AcPack) except that these services are rolling out over all research groups whether academic or commercially funded, whether the ultimate users have AcPack licenses or not. Also we encounter researchers using these systems who do not even know they are using ChemAxon at all (we are integrated in the back end) or that they should be registering to use (and providing citations) to extend. This is not correct.

    Academic research and commercial research are blurring
    This is a tricky area but problems we have seen include;

    • commercial services available at Universities
    • government and NGO institutes, which are not eligible for AcPack as they do not directly grant degrees, affiliated with Universities
    • increasingly direct funding of academic research groups by commercial organisations
    • blurring of definitions of non profit research organisations funding academic research
    • individual researchers incorrectly using functionality for ‘for profit’ consultancy
    • academic researchers taking their licenses into commercial research posts.

    Sharing:
    We think there is a difference between a researcher using databases to gather data they want to mine/analyse etc for their project and a department or institution doing the same. It is quite similar to the reason small numbers of research individuals will stop moving spreadsheets around and start building systems where the data is centrally gathered and shared, like a CVS or ELN/LIMS system. This seems like a good idea but, apart from the fact that it expressly not covered by AcPack terms (Academic Research license is a personal license and not for groups), this also also seems like an architecture for industrial scale/commercial research.

    Money:
    There are very few commercial vendors supporting free academic use with the range of functionality and quality of support (or any support) that ChemAxon does. We like that so many of you enjoy and use our software for your teaching and research and we appreciate your feature requests and bug reports, however supporting the AcPack users costs resources.

    We don’t mind that we lose income from academic users who may have budget so long as it’s within the conditions, but we find that being generally considered as “free” by academia, even in those cases where the AcPack conditions are not relevant, means we are being excluded from consideration for departmental or grant application software budgets. Being punished for doing good seems wrong and sadly this also causes problems downstream where departments only issue training and development budget for softwares which have they a significant investment in!

    Do grant applications = profit?
    Outside of commercially funded research, this is a grey area. I don’t want to suggest grant applications constitute “revenue” but I would say that patents resulting from grant funded academic research can be valuable and increasingly IP exploitation by universities is big business. Because of the grey we would ask you be pragmatic here, but as always – when in doubt ask!

What is ChemAxon doing?
We remain committed to providing the AcPack and do not want to (and have not) changed terms and conditions, our aim with these efforts is to protect the AcPack so we can continue to provide and support it. Apart from the changes to the application form and occasionally contacting applicants we also make changes to the software startup (splash) screens so that users can, at least know the owner and status of the software they are using. Additionally, we are exploring online registration and session permissions and we may also make changes to the application form to clarify applicants expected usage. The aim for these efforts is to clarify and transfer understanding to the applicants so they know the terms and conditions and when AcPack is not relevant.

What if I am using the license when I shouldn’t ….but….

We also introduce an Academic research commercial license to address the cases identified above. The details are below but in short this covers almost all ChemAxon functionality for a single department for E500/user/year up to a maximum of 30 users. We think the low cost of the license and other benefits (single license to manage for a group and removal of license restrictions for server use) will be attractive for those unsure about the legality of their current AcPack usage. Practically, the license will legally and technically enable you to build/deploy custom or off the self systems as good as the industry standards.

We understand research environments are not homologous and so making rules for ‘all’ eventualities is probably counterproductive so we would rather inform the user about their situation, make attractive alternatives available and leave it to individual groups interest to ask questions and decide for themselves.

About the Academic Research Commercial License

What’s included: Almost all ChemAxon products are included, but our product portfolio keeps changing, so you better check the updated list here. Notice KNIME connector nodes do not belong to ChemAxon and are not included. Listing of all products: http://www.chemaxon.com/products/

Whats the cost?: 500 Euro per year per user for up to 30 users. Users must be employed members of a single University department.

What would this let you do:

  • Access and any and all (excluding above) ChemAxon software currently available.
  • License all users with a single or multi-year license (no need for each user to get and maintain their own licenses).
  • Centrally deploy and share data across all users using our JChem for Office, Instant JChem applications
  • Build custom or centralised data systems, using Marvin, JChem or other technologies including compound registration on various databases, using various interfaces to curate, input, generate and report data and chemical structures.
  • Access or build shared systems for discovery functionality (clustering, library enumeration, fragmentation, structure characterization and virtual screening), and integrate within systems via server.
  • Integrate ChemAxon functionality within shared workflow or analysis tools such as Pipeline Pilot, KNIME and Spotfire.
  • Extract and index chemical names from text documents and archives

What won’t be covered with this license

  • Use of the functionality outside of the university or with unlicensed individuals
  • Sharing or distributing large numbers or batches of ChemAxon structure based calculations (Calculator Plugins) to external organisations except in the case where data derived from ChemAxon structure calculation is presented without the contributing ChemAxon data included. The reporting of a small number of ChemAxon structure generated data (approx less than 100 structures) in support of reporting is permitted.
  • email or telephone support – only through the technical support forum
  • Guarantee of feature development

What if the commercial academic package is not good for our use
Well it should be, the license terms are pretty broad, you should discuss with a representative to make sure. However if this is not good for you be aware we do have a standard 50% academic discount from our standard prices which would give a license similar to commercial licensing but at a reduced price.

Any tricks?
None really. We may exclude other products from this offer in the future but we think anything you will want to use will be included.

How to find out if this is relevant to me or our group?
Using the Academic Package for teaching : Unless you are using the functionality outside of your teaching work – you should be fine

Using the Academic Package for research:

  1. You can look at the conditions for the Academic Package (brief description, full conditions) and see if you are working within the terms. If your not sure or have questions then visit this forum topic where this is being discussed or contact sales at ChemAxon to talk it through with a local representative.
  2. If you are exceeding the usage conditions you can buy a license or perhaps approach your project or department leader and explore purchasing a license for all researchers in the department using the functionality incorrectly – the offer is intended for groups and a cutoff makes group purchases potentially less expensive than E500/user.

Find out more: