Jan. 16, 2024 | News

2023 NMDC Ambassadors Spread FAIR Data Awareness in Their Communities

The NMDC Ambassador Program was launched in 2021 to promote cohort-based learning for spreading data stewardship best practices and awareness of the Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) principles. This year, our 2023 cohort of Ambassadors consisted of 13 early career leaders spanning diverse institutions across the United States. 

Headshots of the Ambassadors with their names above their photos. Their institution logos are surrounding the headshots.

The 2023 Ambassadors and their affiliated institutions.

These Ambassadors are familiar with the struggles of reusing microbiome -omics data and are passionate about spreading awareness of FAIR data practices to help mitigate these challenges. Ambassador Jiaxian Shen became interested in the NMDC Ambassador Program after experiencing the difficulties of reusing data for systematic reviews and meta-analyses. In the Ambassador kick-off meeting, Shen said, “I’m really excited to connect with the NMDC and Ambassador cohort to discuss these issues and contribute to making it better.” Ambassador Heng-An Lin added, “I am interested in standards for integrating multi-omics data and how to build out standard pipelines for comparing datasets from different research studies. I want to bring knowledge of these standards to the plant pathology community.”

The 2023 Ambassadors completed training on FAIR data and data stewardship, as well as how the NMDC products can facilitate data stewardship best practices. Their trainings encompassed three focus areas: 

  1. Microbiome data stewardship, data management, and the NMDC Data Portal
  2. Microbiome metadata standards, MIxS templates, and the NMDC Submission Portal
  3. Multi-omic data processing, standardized bioinformatics workflows, and NMDC EDGE

They then tailored these materials to their respective fields to present one workshop or event at larger venues such as the American Society for Microbiology conference, ASM Microbe, and one smaller event, often with their lab groups or institutions. Ambassadors had the option to collaborate on events with each other and NMDC team members, or host events individually. Ambassadors Sarai Finks and Joel Swift teamed up to present a workshop on metadata best practices and multi-omic data processing at the Pennsylvania State University Microbiome Center Workshop. Additionally, Ambassadors Heng-An Lin and Jiaxian Shen worked with NMDC team members Julia Kelliher, Montana Smith, and Leah Johnson to discuss data stewardship with the undergraduates of the National Summer Undergraduate Research Project. Altogether, the 2023 Ambassador cohort hosted 21 events and reached 550 researchers around the world.

Ambassador Joel Swift at the Pennsylvania State University Microbiome Center workshop.

This year, our Ambassadors also contributed towards increasing the accessibility of the NMDC resources by presenting translations of the materials in two additional languages, Spanish and French. Ambassador Thomas Pitot reported, “They [the workshop attendees] were happy to have access to this information in French because English is not the primary language at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi.” Ambassador Josué Rodríguez-Ramos translated his training materials into Spanish to present to his group at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. The training materials in both English and Spanish are available through Zenodo. 

Across all career stages, researchers attending the Ambassador events were interested in leveraging the NMDC products to advance their research, from accessing publicly available multi-omics data through the NMDC Data Portal to adhering to community metadata standards through the NMDC Submission Portal. While example datasets are available for testing out the NMDC workflows, Ambassador Josué Rodríguez-Ramos’ efforts included assisting his group with using NMDC EDGE bioinformatics workflows on their own datasets to enable analysis and dissemination of their work. In addition to learning more about the NMDC products, the workshop attendees discussed how good data stewardship is important for open and accessible science. Conversations centered around FAIR data practices and reflections on how to improve their current approaches for metadata and data management.   

Ambassador Jiaxian Shen discussing the NMDC Data Portal during her workshop at Northwestern University.

Now in its third year, the NMDC Ambassador Program welcomes applications from interested early career researchers across diverse areas of microbiome research, including human- and host-associated and environmental sciences. Applications are open until February 9th for the 2024 Ambassador cohort. For more information about the program, interested candidates can visit the NMDC Ambassadors webpage.


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