Nanotechnology has the ability to solve global challenges by generating and applying new multidisciplinary knowledge of nanoscale phenomena and engineered nanoscale materials, structures, and products. Data underlying this new knowledge are vast, disconnected, and challenging to integrate into the broad scientific body of knowledge. The NKI NSI was initiated in 2012 to leverage and extend existing and emerging resources, programs, and technologies to support the broader goals of the NNI by creating an infrastructure to accelerate the vetting of new knowledge and to enable effective data utilization. The goal of this initiative is to coordinate the nanoscale science, engineering, and technology communities around the fundamental, interconnected elements of collaborative modeling, a cyber-toolbox, and data infrastructure that will capitalize on American strengths in innovation, shorten the time from research to new product development, and maintain U.S. leadership in sustainable design of engineered nanomaterials.
Agencies participating in the NKI NSI recognize that the development of a robust and functional informatics infrastructure will require broad communication and collaboration among the various nanotechnology communities. As such, the participating agencies engage, leverage resources, and collaborate with vibrant groups from the nanoinformatics community—including the National Cancer Institute (NCI) National Cancer Informatics Program (NCIP) Nanotechnology Working Group, the European NanoSafety Cluster’s Databases Working Group, and the U.S.–EU nanoEHS Communities of Research—to build and manage the nanotechnology knowledge infrastructure. Agencies participating in the NKI NSI have engaged with the nanoinformatics community by organizing and participating in a wide range of relevant events, such as an NSI-hosted symposium at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference, a Town Hall Meeting on the National and International Materials Data Infrastructure at the Materials Science and Technology 2014 conference in collaboration with the Materials Genome Initiative, and the 2013 U.S.– EU: Bridging NanoEHS Research Efforts joint workshop. NSI participants were also on the steering committee of the Nanoinformatics 2015 workshop, held in January 2015.
The NKI NSI is working with NNI-funded collaborators to examine data sharing needs and mechanisms within the research enterprise. A critical component of sharing data among researchers and technology developers is a common nomenclature for describing and understanding the maturity and quality of the data. Toward this goal, representatives from the collaborating agencies developed a Data Readiness Levels (DRLs) discussion document in 2013. Analogous to Technology Readiness Levels, the DRLs provide a shorthand method for conveying coarse assessments of data from experiments or model predictions for use in improving analytical methods and validating or calibrating models, and for comparisons with legacy datasets. That draft document was intended to engage the broader community regarding key issues critical to achieve the NKI NSI’s goals.