User Research

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

Last updated: June 17, 2024

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


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

We are seeking beta-testers in Fall 2024 for NMDC Field Notes, a mobile application under development to facilitate metadata collection and standardization during field sampling. Fill out the volunteer form below and indicate “NMDC Field Notes” under product interests.

Volunteer to participate in User Research! We accept volunteers on a rolling basis and will reach out according to your interests indicated in the form. 

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, NMDC EDGE, and the NMDC Field Notes mobile app. Our user interviews have thus far generated 321 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 Goals 2.1 and 3.1).

    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.


    Thank you to all of the NMDC community members who have contributed their time and feedback to help us improve the NMDC products.

    • Buck Hanson (2024 Ambassador, Champion)
    • Rachael Storo
    • Olivia Asher
    • Brianna Finley
    • Aaron Robinson (Champion)
    • Brett Youtsey
    • Cassie Ettinger (Champion)
    • Jason Rothman (Champion)
    • Josué Rodríguez-Ramos (Champion, 2023 Ambassador)
    • Justine Macalindong
    • Kevin Myers (Champion, 2021-2022 Ambassador)
    • Sarai Finks (Champion, 2023 Ambassador)
    • Sophia McKever
    • Lupita Renteria
    • Brieanne Forbes
    • Nicholas Ward
    • Cristal Zuniga (Champion)
    • Tyler Christian
    • Thomas Pitot (Champion, 2023 Ambassador)
    • Rachel Cohn
    • Cassandra Miller
    • Joani Viliunas
    • Archana Yadav (Champion, 2023 Ambassador)
    • Nelson Ruth
    • Earl Middlebrook
    • Jiaxian Shen (Champion, 2023 Ambassador)



    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. 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 Ambassadors have reached more than 1,300 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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