Safety and Community – A winning combination

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Written by

Carmen Nitsche

Posted on

March 3, 2021

A few times in a career, if you are lucky, you get to participate in a project that offers a chance to make a real difference. For me, that has been my involvement with the Pistoia Alliance Chemical Safety Library (CSL). When BMS in 2015 proposed the idea of a community crowdsourced reaction safety database, support and funding flowed in. We were able to launch a serious and sustained effort in collective community safety that continues to this day.

What is the CSL?

The CSL is a free online database made up of reaction incident information shared by companies and individual scientists to advance laboratory safety for everyone. You can look up records via the web interface or request the entire database as a CSV file. We focused on reactions-gone-wrong and near-misses because, unlike individual reagent information, no database brought together actual, automatable reaction incident insights. Imagine, having your e-notebook warn you of a danger right when you put in the details of tomorrow’s planned experiment! It’s been done with the CSL


From concept to reality

As a Pistoia Alliance Consultant, I was there on the ground floor, securing the funding and the project management as the effort moved from idea to a fully funded, pharma-supported project. I was there when the team specified, commissioned and tested the initial prototype, and I was there when they were done, embarking on the conference circuit to enthusiastically announce the CSL launch. And, once the proof of concept was validated, I was thrilled to help negotiate an agreement with CAS, a Division of the American Chemical Society, that would bring them in as a development partner, to launch the new CAS-built platform, for a more user friendly, secure, accessible, and visible CSL.  


Sustaining the effort:

Today, as General Manager at Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre I am on the other side of the fence, a Pistoia Alliance corporate member, still actively engaged in this important community effort. Currently I chair the joint Pistoia Alliance/CAS CSL Advisory Panel, a group of dedicated advocates helping maintain and develop this free and open resource further.   

Along the way I have met so many amazing and helpful people who are dedicated to advancing laboratory safety in every way possible: safety professionals, university faculty and students, database and software developers, ACS executives, chemicals suppliers. Each in their own way have helped to advance this groundbreaking community collaboration.


An example of the results shown in the CSL – a collection of clear, actionable, safety insights from user reports to ensure the safety of other scientists.


Your colleagues need you!

We have all dedicated our energies to the CSL to serve the most important constituency of them all, individual laboratory scientists, working in their academic, corporate and government labs, who struggle to find pertinent, actionable safety information, and who benefit from the experiences of their peers.


This effort does not work without you. Your rich experiences, your misfortune, your acquired wisdom are all needed to make such a community resource work. It takes less than 3 minutes to enter a new incident. You just need to supply a description of the reagents mixed and the outcome, entered into the simple form. Please check out the CSL at, tell all your colleagues, and submit your own incidents, so together we can make safer labs for all.   


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