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National Data Service kickoff

Creating an infrastructure supporting data from across all disciplines of science, engineering, and humanities so that researchers can easily find, reuse, and publish data in a world where researchers generate immense amounts of it daily was the focus of the kickoff meeting for the National Data Service (NDS).

More than 70 representatives from organizations across the United States and around the world gathered in Boulder, Colorado, in June to begin turning the vision into reality. Organized by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the NDS consortium is an international federation of data providers, data aggregators, community-specific federations, publishers, and cyberinfrastructure providers brought together to turn the concept of an infrastructure supporting data from across all disciplines of science, engineering, and humanities into an operational system.

The effort builds on the data archiving and sharing efforts already under way within specific communities and unifies them with a common set of tools to eliminate data and computational bottlenecks and advance discovery across all fields. It will be open source, free, and available to all.

Building a global data service will require collaboration among consortium members. Participants at the kickoff meeting discussed the key capabilities of a national infrastructure and the issues surrounding them. These included how the NDS can fit into the publishing process and provide the links necessary to connect literature and data. They also looked at how the NDS can connect to and build on the data infrastructure already in place within specific communities. Most importantly, they discussed what projects could be taken up to build up the NDS functions in the next year.

Pilot project announced

So great is the need, however, the NDS announced its first endeavor a week after the kickoff. The Materials Data Facility for the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) is being established as a pilot program under the NDS and will provide a repository where scientists can preserve and share materials research data, produced by both simulations and experiments. The MGI is a multi-agency effort to transform materials science research in the United States through a national infrastructure. Sharing in the NDS vision, the Materials Data Facility will push the MGI’s goals of doubling the pace of development of advanced materials research.

“This will be the first online facility to build on the objectives of the National Data Service by providing open access to a broad a range of materials science data. This is a terrific opportunity to accelerate materials discovery and advance manufacturing, by deeply connecting research, data, and publication activities,” says NCSA Director Ed Seidel. Through the facility’s cloud-hosted data publication and discovery services, materials research projects will have an essential platform for rapid data sharing, discovery, and analysis that will accelerate the process for bringing new materials into industrial use.

Future meetings

The next NDS meeting will be Oct. 23-24 in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Learn more about NDS and how to become involved at

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