S5: Data Harmonization and Sharing in the Nanoinformatics Community

Data Harmonization and Sharing in the Nanoinformatics Community:  Navigating convergence within the incentive structures of research

Data Harmonization and Sharing in the Nanoinformatics Community, OpenTox USA 2018

Christine Hendren


Duke University


Research Professor


Nanomaterials differ in their properties, interactions, and effects from larger materials made from the same elements. As we harness and engineer them to our benefit, nanoscale materials offer incredible possibilities in applications ranging from targeted drug and agrichemical delivery to computing, renewable energy, and electrical transmission. We also understand now that nanomaterials are ubiquitous in nature, which we began realizing over the past couple of decades as we learned concurrently to make them and to see them.  Thus, there is an enormous breadth of materials, product matrices, life cycles, use patterns, and release environments to be studied to understand and predict their behavior. Once released, complex interdependencies between engineered nanomaterials and their surroundings drive a range of transformations, creating even more possible eventualities. The methods to detect, characterize and test nanomaterials are still being developed. The parameters we must measure to predict their behavior are still being invented, tested and proposed for models. It is self-evident that this puzzle has too many pieces to be solved alone, which means that we need each other’s research to tackle combining datasets across studies. While nanoinformatics remains a nascent field, significant strides have been made toward developing minimum information requirements and standardization of ontologies for data integration, moving toward tools for researcher curation and post-analysis of combined datasets. However, there is much yet to be done to coordinate efforts between research groups, agencies, and geographic regions, and to harmonize the processes necessary to attempt ambitious integration goals at the same time as the parameters, methods and ontologies continue to emerge from within a competitive research environment.

This talk discusses approaches to language, tools and processes taken specifically within the Center for Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT) NanoInformatics Knowledge Commons (NIKC) project. More broadly, this talk presents how an open collaboration and an abundance mentality has been critical within the global nanoinformatics working (NCIP NanoWG), enabling much of their collective progress since 2008 in development of ontologies, tools, and converging vision.