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A Global Approach to Nanoinformatics

Since 2008, Duke has led an international consortium of researchers studying how industrial nanoparticles affect the environment. Other scientists are doing the same—and the global effort has produced an enormous amount of valuable data.

Data & the Duke Engineer - Read more about Duke Engineering's ambitious initiatives in data science education and researchBut in such a nascent field, experimental procedures are inconsistent, as are the types of measurements recorded. The resulting data are difficult to merge into a unified set for deeper analysis and insight.

Duke is leading a global charge to unify the field through the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology Nanoinformatics Knowledge Commons—CEINT-NIKC for short. With buy-in from the Environmental Protection Agency and European Union, the center’s goal is to standardize the methods used and measurements taken in nanoparticle experiments.

In addition to building a custom cyberinfrastructure allowing researchers to upload their data in a consistent manner, CEINT-NIKC is creating apps that can sort through the database, pull requested data and run different types of data analytics­—building a one-stop shopping experience for future researchers.

“Nanoinformatics is trying to draw from the wins we’ve been seeing in bioinformatics and other Big Data fields, but adapted for application to a still emerging, relatively immature field,” said Christine Hendren, executive director of CEINT and co-chair of the National Cancer Informatics Program Nano Working Group, which has been vital to the effort’s success. “We’re building a community and providing a path forward to creating depth to our data.”