Identifying Mystery Pills with Pillbox

Have you ever found a random pill in your purse, on the floor, or elsewhere and forgotten where it came from and what it is? Luckily, there is a free resource from the National Library of Medicine that can help you identify those mystery pills!

Image 1. Pillbox home page

Pillbox is a website that can be searched by various characteristics of the pill you want to identify, including imprint (letters/numbers imprinted on one or both sides of the pill), color, and shape. Alternatively, you can search by name if you know the name of a drug and want to see what it looks like. You can also search by active or inactive ingredient to see what pills contain certain ingredients, which may be useful in case of allergies.

Image 2. Pillbox record for Prilosec

Search results appear in the form of photographs with the drug name underneath, and clicking on a photo reveals additional information about the pill such as strength and ingredients. Each record links out to drug label information in DailyMed and further drug information in the Drug Information Portal. The website is very easy to use and is a great free alternative to subscription drug information databases or apps.

Emily Gorman, School of Pharmacy Librarian, University of Maryland Baltimore

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Zooniverse – A Citizen Science Directory

Recent posts on STS-l about citizen science projects reminded me of the citizen science site, Zooniverse. Zooniverse is a directory of citizen science projects, organized by broad subject areas such as Arts, Climate, History, and Physics. Obviously not all of the projects included in Zooniverse are being conducted in the sciences, so the meaning of citizen science perhaps needs a little clarification. Citizen science is loosely defined as organized research that includes the participation of laypeople (Heigl and Dorler, 2017). Projects ask people to collect, review or manipulate data, and some just want a donation of your personal computer’s unused processing power. Other newer projects in Europe have undertaken to create new citizen-driven collaborations between scientists, amateurs, and government policymakers.

Like many things involving citizens and science lately, there are some critics of the concept who feel the collected data may be inaccurate or subject to participants’ biases. For the most part, though, science educators have embraced it as a way to engage students and the public in science, and an article in Issues in Science and Technology Libraries shows that academic science librarians are also involved in citizen science projects. What do you think about citizen science?

Additional reading:

Brown, A., Franken, P., Bonner, S., Dolezal, N., & Moross, J. (2016). Safecast: successful citizen-science for radiation measurement and communication after Fukushima. Journal of Radiological Protection, 36(2), S82.

Cohen, C., Cheney, L., Duong, K., Lea, B., & Pettway Unno, Z. (2015). Identifying opportunities in citizen science for academic libraries. Issues in Science and Technology Libraries, 79(Winter 2015).

Gray, S. A., Nicosia, K., & Jordan, R. C. (2012). Lessons learned from citizen science in the classroom. a response to” the future of citizen science.”. Democracy and Education, 20(2), 14.

Heigl, F. & Dorler, D. (2017, November 8). Public participation: Time for a definition of citizen science [Correspondence]. Nature, 551, 168.

Irwin, A. (2018, October 23). No PhDs needed: how citizen science is transforming research [News feature]. Nature, 562, 480-482.

Ottinger, G. (2010). Buckets of Resistance: Standards and the Effectiveness of Citizen Science. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 35(2), 244–270.

Laura Palumbo, Chemistry & Physics Librarian and Science Data Specialist, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, NJ

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5 Levels of Science Communication by Wired

Wired: Five Levels Home Page

Most of us can use help understanding a scientific concept at some point. There are popular quotes attributed to Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman espousing the opinion that if you cannot explain something simply, or to a six year old, you do not really understand it. Even if the words were not uttered by the eminent physicists, I imagine the logic behind them, the value of being able to chunk down a topic into bite sized bits that can be stitched together to form a complete pattern, would not produce much disagreement.

Text: challenged to explain a topic to 5 people

Five Levels is a site with a series of videos that helps helps us to get a better grip on a concept. The videos feature a different academic expert on a topic discussing it with users at five different levels of understanding: 1) primary school child 2) young high school student 3) college student 4) graduate student in the topic discipline 5) an expert in the topic.

Neuroscientist Bobby Kashturi explaining the connectome to a 5 year old

I do not find that it is a difference in explanation that is shown in the five levels. It is more a different conversation: speaking about the subject in different ways,  perhaps gaining more insight as we go along, which is possibly the whole point of the different levels of explanation.

Although the series run is limited, with only six episodes thus far, the examples may give us ideas on how to approach scaffolding.  Viewing them may give us insight on how  to apply the techniques to our own examples, test and strengthen our arguments, break down themes into basic principles, convey an idea in more entertaining fashion to our students.

Cutting edge topics that are covered (and appear in the screenshots on this post) include CRISPR and the Connectome.

Image of Neville Sanjana with beginning his section on CRISPR

Gavin Paul, User Services and Instructional Librarian, NYU-Tandon School of Engineering

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

In recognition of the advancing hurricanes, I would like to remind everyone of the abundant information available at, the United States Geological Survey, and, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and their many tools for collecting data and keeping watch.

Each significant hurricane has a web page, or go to The National Hurricane Center.  Go directly to the NHC link to see the updated version of the chart below, and the addition of hurricane Joyce (9/14/18). Florence , below, is a recent example.


“Anticipating” Florence, and showing the Atlantic “birthing zone” of depressions to hurricanes:



These first four links are supplied by Geosciences Librarian at Princeton University, Emily Wild, formerly of USGS.

There are 9 major areas in which NOAA is involved: weather, climate, oceans & coasts, fisheries, satellites, research, marine & aviation, charting, and sanctuaries.

There are links to videos, podcasts, ocean facts, news, topics and education, as well as an “About” page that leads you to subscribing to their free seminars. Their navigational tools and information provides Safe and efficient transportation and commerce. NOAA is responsible for Preparedness and risk reduction in the event of hurricanes, flooding, coastal tides, harmful algal blooms and oil and chemical spills. There is a network of underwater parks of > 600,000 square miles. This and other features and centers like the national estuarine research reserves are managed under the auspices of Stewardship, recreation, and tourism.
Recreation, for the calm after the storm, from

There are data services, free seminars for which one can receive alerts:  publications, posters, and flyers. Extreme weather information sheets for 2018 are available online.

Louise Deis, Sci-Tech Reference & Biosciences Librarian, Princeton University

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Latest Thinking home page

Latest Thinking is an open-access video journal that provides summaries of research findings from several branches of academics, including life sciences, physical sciences, medicine, and engineering. The goal of Latest Thinking is to increase the impact of the author’s research and promote transparency of the scientific process. Each video averages around 10 minutes and contains five parts: research question, methods, findings, relevance, and outlook. The videos are based on original research published in another scholarly publication, sometimes a publication with large subscription fees. In the videos of the journal, authors make their research more accessible by explaining their work in language that is easier to understand. Some videos include animations and illustrations that help demystify abstract concepts and unfamiliar terminology. video screen shot

In the accompanying pages for the videos, a myriad of contextual resources are available for users. The videos’ pages contain an abstract and DOI as well as a link to the original publication of the research. The pages also contain information on the authors including a short biography, educational background, academic and professional positions, journal referee experience, grants awarded, and special honors. Each page includes a series of “Beyond” videos where the author is asked to share a scientific revolution, a challenge for society, and a personal reading recommendation. page details

All Latest Thinking videos are shared under Creative Commons Attribution license CC-BY 4.0 allowing users to share (copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially). Latest Thinking enables several sharing options such as embedded video code for inclusion in a course management system or LibGuide, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter, email, and several others. Latest Thinking is based out of Germany and primarily includes researchers working at German universities. With Germany’s commitment to open access, Latest Thinking may continue to be an open resource well into the future.

Samuel Putnam, Assistant University Librarian, University of Florida

Mathematics Genealogy Project

The Mathematics Genealogy Project (MGP) is an online reference tool for mathematicians from all over the world.  Entries list where and when mathematicians received their degree, the title of their dissertation, the name of their advis0r, and the name of all of the students they then advised.  The names of the advisor and the students can be clicked on, which is a great way to follow the intellectual history of ideas in mathematics forwards and backwards through time.

A sample entry from the Mathematics Genealogy Project
A sample entry from the Mathematics Genealogy Project

This is useful for mathematics students who might want to learn more about their advisors or potential advisors (who else they’ve advised, who they were advised by), by historians of mathematics, and by students researching different mathematical concepts.  This tool is great for illustrating the concept of Scholarship as Conversation, from ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy, as it highlights how mathematicians (and others in related fields) have built upon ideas from mathematicians before them.  Students can click on the students in a MGP entry, to see how ideas and perspectives have changed over time.

The Mathematics Genealogy Project was started in 1996 by mathematician Harry Coonce.  Coonce then worked at Mankato State University in Minnesota. The project moved to North Dakota State University, and is also supported by the Clay Mathematics Institute and the American Mathematical Society. There are over 230,00 entries in the MGP.  MGP is integrated into MathSciNet, where author profile pages link to MGP entries.  

Historian of astronomy Joseph Tenn of Sonoma State University in California is working on a similar project for Astronomy, the Astronomy Genealogy Project (AstroGen).

More information about the Mathematics Genealogy Project can be found in these articles:

  • Allyn Jackson. 2007. “A Labor of Love: The Mathematics Genealogy Project.” Notices of the AMS 54 (8): 1002–3.
  • Castelvecchi, Davide. 2016. “Majority of Mathematicians Hail from Just 24 Scientific ‘Families.’” Nature News 537 (7618): 20.
  • Colm Mulcahy, and Steven J. Miller. 2017. “The Mathematics Genealogy Project Comes of Age at Twenty-One.” Notices of the AMS 64 (5): 466–70.


Emily Gari, Science & Engineering Librarian, University of Colorado Boulder

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Free (and sometimes overlooked) Chemistry Resources

Often when I teach students about our chemistry databases, I will also mention some free chemistry resources, because once they graduate and begin working, they may no longer have access to commercial databases such as Reaxys or SciFinder. In addition to our subscribed chemistry databases, there are many quality chemistry resources that are freely available. Following is a sample of some of these, but the list is by no means exhaustive. If you have any favorites that I haven’t mentioned here, please be sure to recommend them in the comments.

Resources for Properties Data

NIST Chemistry Web Book  The Web Book provides chemical and physical properties data for atoms, molecules, ions, and other chemical species. Searching is available by direct search for a particular substance, or indirectly through related properties data. From their Welcome page, the Web Book provides  “Thermochemical data for over 7000 organic and small inorganic compounds…reaction thermochemistry data for over 8000 reactions…free energy of reaction, IR spectra for over 16,000 compounds, mass spectra for over 33,000 compounds, UV/Vis spectra for over 1600 compounds, and gas chromatography data for over 27,000 compounds.”

PubChem This open database maintained by the National Institutes of Health contains information on “chemical structures, identifiers, chemical and physical properties, biological activities, patents, health, safety, toxicity data, and many others”. It was written about in a previous Inside Science Resources post, for more information please see “Navigating PubChem”.

Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants Formerly Kaye & Laby, now by the UK National Physical Laboratory, this resource is available online for free. Thermodynamic, electrical, mechanical, acoustical data are just some of the types of data. All charts, tables, formulas, and graphs are included (Currano & Roth, 2014, p. 162).

Thermodex This was one of the first resources I was introduced to as a new chemistry librarian. It was compiled by the University of Texas at Austin Library, and it contains links to books and handbooks in their collection. It is a finding aid for thermodynamic and physical properties data, mostly in print. It is a good starting place for suggestions for properties data resources, but you will need to have these resources in your own collection.

More Spectral Data

Know-it-all free software for spectral analysis KnowItAll from Bio-Rad offers academic users free software to “…draw structures, perform IR and Raman functional group analysis, and generate high-quality reports.” It is available for download from the above link.

Spectral Database for Organic Compounds (SBDS)  A database compiled by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), in Japan. Users are requested not to download more than 50 spectra or individual compound information in a single day. Spectra can be found by direct search for compound name, molecular formula or weight, or CAS registry number. IR, NMR, MS, Raman, and ESR spectra are available. Users may also input spectral data to determine an unknown substance.

Resources for Hazards, Materials Safety, and Toxicology

 Materials Safety Data Sheets

Where to Find Material Safety Data Sheets on the Internet is a finding resource that is currently maintained. It lists the number of MSDS available at each site.

Sigma Aldrich Safety Data Sheets is a familiar resource to many, that allows searching by their product number. In addition, there is also web toolbox, structure searching, and “Ask a Chemist” (scroll down to icons in the footer).

Toxicology Resources

TOXNET is the TOXicology Data NETwork. This resource by the National Library of Medicine may be familiar to you, but users may not realize that it is actually a collection of individually searchable databases “covering chemicals and drugs, diseases and the environment, environmental health, occupational safety and health, poisoning, risk assessment and regulations, and toxicology.” A sampling of these databases include:

PAN Pesticide Database is maintained by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) of North America. It is searchable by chemicals, products, poisoning diagnostic information, and chemicals responsible for aquatic ecotoxicity.

More Free Chemistry Databases

64 Free Chemistry Databases This blog post by Rich Apodaca, PhD, was published in 2011; and 58 of the 64 database links are still active (however one resource is no longer free). There are links provided to specialized databases, some mentioned here, and they contain physical and spectral data, biological activity, drugs, pesticides, and biochemistry, to name just a few of the kinds of information covered.


Apodaca, R.L. (2011, October 12). 64 Free Chemistry Databases. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Biorad. (2018). KnowItAll Academic Edition – Free Chemistry Software. Retrieved from

Currano, J., & Roth, D. (Eds.). (2014). Chemical information for chemists: a primer. Royal Society of Chemistry.

Interactive Learning Paradigms Incorporated. (2018). Where to find MSDS and SDS on the Internet. Retrieved from

Kegley, S.E., Hill, B.R., Orme S., & Choi A.H. (2016). PAN Pesticide Database, Pesticide Action Network North America.

Kim S., Thiessen P.A., Bolton E.E., Chen J., Fu G., Gindulyte A., Han L., He J., He S., Shoemaker B.A., Wang J., Yu B., Zhang J., & Bryant S.H. (2016). PubChem Substance and Compound databases. Nucleic Acids Research, 44(D1), D1202–D1213.

Lindstrom, P.J. & Mallard, W.G. (Eds.). (2017). NIST Chemistry WebBook, NIST Standard Reference Database Number 69. Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute of Standards and Technology. doi:10.18434/T4D303

National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. (2018). SDBSWeb. Retrieved from

Sigma Aldrich. (2018). SDS Search and Product Safety Center. Retrieved from

University of Texas Libraries. (2018). Thermodex. Retrieved from

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). TOXNET. Retrieved from


Laura Palumbo, Chemistry & Physics Librarian/Science Data Specialist, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

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The Open Access Directory

the logo for the Open Access Directory OAD

Need some good examples of addenda that authors can use to make their work open access? Is your institution considering providing an open access publishing fund and you want to get an overview of what others are offering? Need some suggestions for researchers looking for advice on where to make their documents or research data open?

The Open Access Directory launched in 2008 and is a collection of lists and information related to open access to science and scholarship. Content is overseen by an editorial board of prominent members of the open access community.

While not a science or technology specific resource, it contains useful information for members of the science and technology library community. The table of contents of the directory contains 46 categories spanning the open access landscape. Here I will highlight four of them.

Data Repositories:  a list of repositories and databases containing open data. The list is organized by discipline, many of which are specific to science/technology (for example, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Energy, Environmental Science, Geology, Geosciences, Marine Science, Medicine, and Physics)

Disciplinary Repositories:  this is a list of discipline specific open repositories containing primarily texts instead of data. This list contains 45 disciplines, many of which are science and technology focused.

Open Access Publishing Funds: a list of funds given by various institutions in support of authors publishing in open access journals, books and other types of publications.

Author Addenda: provides a list of copyright transfer agreements from various institutions. These addenda allow authors to retain certain rights to their scholarship, specifically allowing them to make their work open access.

These are just a few examples of the categories of information found on the Open Access Directory. Keep this resource in mind as a possible place to turn to as open access related questions or concerns come up in your work, which seems increasingly likely as the open access movement continues to expand.


Eric Snajdr, Associate Librarian, University Library, Indiana University – Purdue University, Indianapolis

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FDA Drug Information Resources

As is evident from their name, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for overseeing drugs that are researched, marketed, sold, etc. in the U.S. As a result, they maintain a host of databases for looking up various types of drug information, most of which can be found on their Drug Approvals and Databases page. I would like to highlight a few of the resources here.

Drugs@FDA: This database contains drugs (brand name, generic, and over-the-counter) approved by the FDA from 1939 onwards and can be searched or browsed. There is also a tool to generate a list of drug approvals for a specific month, which can be useful if you would like to keep up to date on new approvals each month. There are also free Android and Apple apps for this database!

FDA Online Label Repository: This repository contains drug label information submitted to the FDA. You can search by name, ingredient, company name, and more. Note: This database may not work well in Google Chrome.

FDA Drug Shortages: This database contains information about drug shortages and discontinuations, and is updated daily. You can search the database by name or active ingredient, or you can look at specific treatment categories such as Analgesia/Addiction, Anti-Infective, Oncology, etc. Clicking on the “New and Updated” tab allows you to see the newest shortages and their statuses. This database has apps as well!

These three databases are just a few of the many helpful drug resources provided by the FDA. Be sure to explore all of them when you get a chance!


Emily Gorman, School of Pharmacy Librarian, University of Maryland Baltimore

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The Linda Hall Library

Portrait of Linda Southall Hall
Linda Southall Hall.

The non-profit, privately funded Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri, houses scientific, engineering, and technology resources from the United States and some international works from the 15th century to the present. The library presents technical programs, has digital displays, allows researchers to study there, and provides fellowships for scholars using the collections. It also provides regular library services, such as an online catalog, reference services, and interlibrary loan. It is also a United States Patent and Trademark Resource Center.

Portrait of Herbert Hall
Herbert Hall. Credit:

Grain merchant Herbert Hall and his philanthropist wife, Linda, amassed a fortune but did not have any direct heirs. In their wills, they stated that their home be used as a library that was open to the public and that it be named after Linda Hall. Since the wills did not specify what type of library should be formed, the Trustees, who were five business men, decided to hire a national library consulting firm. The consultants recommended a scientific library and named Joseph Shipman, a librarian and former chemist, as the first director in 1945.

Portrait of Joseph C. Shipman.
Joseph C. Shipman. Credit:

Mr. Shipman studied the holdings of other nearby libraries and determined that Linda Hall Library should not collect works on business, clinical medicine and dentistry. Three important acquisitions increased the collections of the Linda Hall Library:

  • the 1947 purchase of scientific resources of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences of Boston, which was founded in 1782
  • the 1985 transfer of serials and other works by the Franklin Institute from Philadelphia
  • the 1995 transfer from Manhattan of the Engineering Society Libraries that included serials, monographs, and conference proceedings from AIME, IEEE, ASME, ASCE, and AIChE

Because of the growing collections, more space was needed besides the original mansion. The Main Library was opened in 1956, with two significant additions in 1995 and 2007. The History of Science Center and offices were moved to the original library building. In 1964, a new History of Science Center was built on the site of the original mansion; the new Center includes architectural pieces from the first library.

The Linda Hall Library offers lectures, exhibitions, and borrowing privileges for residents near its facility. Other researchers may travel and do research; the History of Science Center requires advance notice.

Online resources include: catalog, exhibitions, search engine for “difficult to find engineering papers”, and digital collections site. Scholars can apply for fellowships who use this library’s resources for their research or who are interested in the History of Science.

The Library continues to grow its collection. There are 48,000 journals and about 500,000 monographs. Besides engineering, physics, and chemistry, the library also has important works in aeronautics, astronomy, earth science, environmental science, infrastructure studies, life sciences, and mathematics.

Lisa Browar, President of the Linda Hall Library, writes in the 2015-2016 Annual Report “where the future of other libraries is in electronic information, the Linda Hall Library’s future remains secure as a print based library of contemporary and historic scientific literature. The Library continues to augment its print holdings with scientific serials and other research materials once held by the libraries that have had to remove them to make way for repurposed learning environments. The Linda Hall Library’s retention of historic printed information will assure its continued survival and use for generations of scholars to come.

The Linda Hall Library similarly finds opportunity in a world challenged to promote science literacy among adults.”

The references listed below provide more details about this unique library.


About the Library. . Accessed 10 March 2018.

Browar, Lisa. “Letter from the President.” Biennial Report of the Linda Hall Library Trust and Affiliates 2015-2016. . Accessed 12 March 2018.

Christiansen, Donald. “What Happened to the Engineering Societies Library?” IEEE*USA InSight. 20 April 2017. . Accessed 12 March 2018.

History of the Linda Hall Library Research Guide. . Accessed 10 March 2018.

Shipman, Joseph. “Linda Hall Library.” College and Research Libraries, vol. 16, no. 2, 1955, . Accessed 10 March 2018.


AIChE – American Institute of Chemical Engineers

AIME – American Institute of Mining Engineers

ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers

ASME – American Society of Mechanical Engineers

IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers


Isabel Altamirano, Engineering and Chemistry Librarian, Georgia Institute of Technology

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