Dear Colleagues, I copy below the annual report of COMCIFS for the year 2002 for you information. David Brown ***************************************************** Dr.I.David Brown, Professor Emeritus Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada Tel: 1-(905)-525-9140 ext 24710 Fax: 1-(905)-521-2773 firstname.lastname@example.org ***************************************************** Report to the Executive Committee of the IUCr on COMCIFS activities during 2002 Twelve years after being officially adopted by the Union, the CIF standard is now in regular use by the major crystallographic journals and structural databases, with the Union journals setting the pace. CIF is also increasingly working itself into the fabric of crystallographic software. It suffers however from a lack of basic software in the form of editors and browsers that can be used to prepare and validate CIFs, though these are gradually becoming available. Of more serious concern to COMCIFS is the role CIF will play in the coming genomics revolution. It is a well established standard for the archiving of macromolecular structures, and compatible file structures also based on STAR have been adopted by a number of related disciplines. However, the information technology community is developing and supporting a different, though similar, file structure, XML, whose design makes it more flexible than CIF. XML has more available software, though CIF has a more fully developed and integrated suite of dictionaries and is better adapted to a mature discipline such as crystallography where XML's flexibility can be something of a liability. CIF and XML will therefore coexist for the foreseeable future and COMCIFS is working to ensure that the interface between them is as transparent as possible so that crystallographers will be able to exploit the advantages of both systems. CIF software is, however, slowly being developed, and in response to requests from the people doing this work, COMCIFS has prepared and approved a detailed definition of the CIF standard, designed to remove ambiguities from the CIF syntax. Copies of this specification can be found on the COMCIFS page of the IUCr web site. COMCIFS organized both open and closed meetings at the IUCr Congress held in Geneva in August. Those attending the open meeting heard about the 'methods' extensions that we hope eventually to incorporated into the CIF dictionary language, as well as several assessments of the technical problems of interfacing CIF and XML. The closed COMCIFS meeting established two committees, one to make recommendations for defining metadata within CIF and interfacing CIF with XML, and the other to look at ways in which COMCIFS might obtain the full-time services of a person to encourage and coordinate the development of CIF software. Publicity remains an important part of COMCIFS' activities. In the rapidly changing field of information technology, which impacts the work of all crystallographers, one of COMCIFS roles is to assist the users in adapting to the technology as it now exists, while at the same time preparing them for the changes that still lie ahead. The CIF page on the IUCr web site and a regular column in the IUCr newsletter provide both specific and general information about CIF and the activities of COMCIFS and its committees. As this year marks the beginning of a new triennium, the membership of COMCIFS was reviewed and the following members were appointed by the Executive Committee to serve as voting members for the next three years: David Brown (chair) Brian McMahon (secretary) Helen Berman Herbert Bernstein Ralf Grosse-Kunstleve Syd Hall Gotzon Madariaga John Westbrook In addition to the voting members, there are many others who have joined the COMCIFS discussion list but do not vote on matters brought before COMCIFS for approval. Following the approval of the Modulated Structures and Symmetry CIF Dictionaries in 2001, COMCIFS approved the following Dictionary Maintenance Groups: Modulated Structures Gotzon Madariaga (chair) Gervais Chapuis Vaclav Petricek Mitsuko Onada Javier Zuniga Symmetry David Brown (chair) Mois Aroyo Ralf Grosse-Kunstleve Vojtech Kopsky Danny Litvin Gotzon Madariaga A decade of experience in the submission of papers to Acta Crystallographica, and the extension of CIF use to other areas, has shown that the time has arrived for a major review of the Core CIF Dictionary. This review is already under way and will result in the incorporation of many new requested items into the dictionary, and the tightening of some existing definitions. The latter are needed to make the dictionary conform to current practice which has undergone a number of significant changes since the first version of the Core Dictionary was approved. The Magnetic, Electron Density (RHO) and Small Angle Scattering CIF Dictionaries are still in development and COMCIFS is awaiting their formal submission for approval. Submitted by I. David Brown, Chair.
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