Warren Hunt

In my last post, I spoke about the importance of digital data to realizing the goals of the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) and the challenges that cultivating this data will bring. In my view, overcoming these challenges relies on one critical element: collaboration.

I’ve spoken before about the need for the materials community to be willing and able to break out of their traditional silos and start working together. The heterogeneous nature of materials data will require the materials community to develop multiple small data repositories in a coordinated way. And, openly sharing this data with one another and across sectors will quickly uncover new information and speed up innovation.

Fortunately, the materials community has some promising nuclei available that can serve as the basis for this change:

  • The 2012 report from the “Building the Materials Innovation Infrastructure: Data and Standards” Workshop sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology—a great starting point for establishing the materials data-sharing community
  • Two multi-society sessions (both facilitated by Nexight Group) held at the 2011 and 2012 Materials Science & Technology conferences that brought together representatives from about 20 professional societies to identify areas of common interest and need
  •  The MGI Digital Data Community, and online resource established by NIST and The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS), which serves as “a great forum for advancing the technical conversation surrounding the digital data topics and challenges facing the materials science and engineering field and its allied disciplines.”
  • The Computational Materials Data Network launched by ASM International and supported by Nexight Group , which aims to make information sharing in the materials community easier than ever before, particularly though the facilitation of data-centric projects

While these efforts will help the community, it also needs strong leadership to promote this shift in thinking. Quoting from the above-referenced NIST report: “A cultural change towards a data-sharing philosophy will require leadership to build community-wide support and understanding of the value proposition. This will continue to be a challenge but is vital to the success of the future MII [Materials Innovation Infrastructure].”