User Research

Would you like to help the NMDC create intuitive, user-friendly, and community-driven products?

Are you interested in making microbiome data FAIR? Are you interested in testing out cutting-edge tools for the community? Do you want to support the future of microbiome research? Do you want to help shape the NMDC by providing critical feedback?

Learn more about our current call for User Research

Current User Research Call

Would you like to help the NMDC create intuitive, user-friendly, and community-driven  products?

We are currently recruiting beta-testers for the geNomad (viruses and plasmids) and metaproteomics workflows added to NMDC EDGE. If you are also interested in running the other NMDC workflows (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, natural organic matter) and would like to provide feedback or report issues, please use the same beta tester form. If you are interested in receiving credit for participating (ORCiD, website, and product publication acknowledgements), please add your information to the respective section in the beta tester form. All of your other answers will be de-identified and remain anonymous across the team. We will close this beta-testing round on October 6.

Additionally, we will be performing user research on all of our workflows to better understand what NMDC EDGE can provide for you, such as additional visualization outputs or workflows. Please contact with any questions about the beta testing or user research processes.

We will be conducting future rounds of user research focused on the NMDC Data Portal to understand how the community interacts with publicly available data and to improve our Data Portal interface. One focus area will be usability testing of the Data Portal to improve accessibility of our studies and data.

The NMDC’s User Research Process



The NMDC employs user-centered design methodology to collect feedback from the scientific community, leading to iterative and ongoing improvement of our products. We acknowledge that we are not aware of all of the pressing data challenges of the microbiome research community and rely on our users to help us identify the most important issues to prioritize. Early and continuous implementation of user feedback ensures that our product initiatives evolve with the changing needs of our diverse user community.


Glossary of Terms

Term Definition
Beta-testing Testing of a product to identify any bugs or issues. Direct reporting of these issues to our team helps us troubleshoot and fix them. 
User Centered Design Methodology in which product design and development are driven and refined by the users in an iterative process. 
User Research Methods such as interviews, usability tests, or surveys that allow us to understand user’s attitudes, motivations, or needs. This information helps us identify the most important issues our users face.
Usability Test A session in which a user performs realistic tasks on an interface and provides feedback to a moderator. This helps us understand how well an interface works for the user and identify features that can be changed, implemented, or improved.


Community insights shape the NMDC

The NMDC products are designed with and for the scientific community. We have engaged in extensive user research through interviews and direct collaboration with the scientific community that have informed the design and development of the Data Portal, Submission Portal, and NMDC EDGE. Our user interviews have thus far generated 185 insights that have led to key features such as the ability to bulk download data from the Data Portal, improvements to our workflows and documentation in NMDC EDGE, and changes to the NMDC website and engagement activities. We work to incorporate as much of your feedback as possible.



Building community 

One of the NMDC’s primary objectives is to encourage a collaborative, community-centered approach. As part of our IDEA strategic plan, the NMDC aims to ensure inclusivity in our opportunities for feedback and participation (See Goal 3.1 and 3.3).

    The NMDC team strongly believes that diversity within microbiome research, in all its forms (racial, gender, sexual identity, class, and more), strengthens research teams and practice, and helps advance science. We seek to build our platform on this belief by incorporating diverse perspectives into our user research. Without diverse input in our user research, we lose valuable perspectives on how our product initiatives can best serve all of the research community. For example, diversity of researchers performing usability testing can help us ensure that our product interfaces are accessible and user-friendly across all groups, and community input is crucial for identifying and overcoming barriers to accessing data and computing infrastructures. We welcome all levels of experience, career stage, educational background, and institution type to participate in user research.





    Participants in user interviews or usability testing will commit to a 45-minute virtual session. Other activities may be performed on your own time once we have connected to provide more details, with the potential for a brief follow-up depending on the feedback received. Key activities include:


    User Research Activities Details Time Commitment
    Usability testing Complete a series of tasks within an NMDC product (NMDC Submission Portal, NMDC EDGE, or NMDC Data Portal) to help our team improve the user interface and features. 45 minute virtual interview
    User Interviews Provide insight into your experiences and research needs to help our team develop the NMDC products to address the research community needs 45 minute virtual interview
    Beta Testing Test bioinformatics workflows in the NMDC EDGE interface Asynchronous, submit form



    We value our NMDC community members’ feedback and time. Our user research participants are recognized through an ORCiD “Service” acknowledgement and also with a ‘shout-out’ on our main website and product pages. Additionally, you will receive an acknowledgement in future NMDC publications. We will also provide a letter of service upon request. All acknowledgements are optional and we will discuss with you which options you prefer before any public release.

    Every piece of feedback that we receive helps us to improve our products. Your participation helps us move closer towards a future of open-science and build a platform that allows researchers to advance microbiome research.

    Our representatives in the Champions program and Ambassadors program are also a valuable part of the NMDC user-centered design strategy. Ambassadors are early-career NMDC representatives that help our team gather community feedback from their learning workshops. Our 2022 Ambassador cohort reached more than 800 researchers and greatly expanded our access to the research community. Our Champions are important advocates for the NMDC and regularly engage in our user research activities. While you are not required to be a Champion to participate in user research, we encourage you to apply to the program!


    Learn more about our current call for User Research

    Thank you for your interest
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