The Position of German Chemistry in the Digital Transformation

The Position of German Chemistry in the Digital Transformation

Author: ChemistryViews

The central question in digitization is how to manage, document, archive, and facilitate the reuse of research data. The National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI), established by the German federal and state governments, aims to create an interdisciplinary network that is based on the Fair Principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). Specifically, the chemistry consortium NFDI4Chem aims to digitize the entire chemical research workflow by providing services, resources and training, such as open source Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs), developing standards, and tools, and interacting closely with the community. NFDI4Chem conducts regular surveys.

Jochen Ortmeyer, Daniela Hausen, and Sonja Herres-Pawlis, RWTH Aachen University, Germany, and NFDI4Chem, compared the results of a survey from January to April 2023 with those of a survey from 2019. Of the 813 participating scientists, 680 had been active in research in the past three years, mainly in Germany. Respondents came from a variety of career levels and disciplines, with the majority being Ph.D. students, mid-career academics, and professors in organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry.

The survey results showed that the types of data collected remained largely unchanged, with spectroscopic, experimental synthesis, and crystallographic data being the most commonly collected. Notably, there’s an increasing trend toward the use of electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), with 30% of participants using them in 2023, compared to 19% in 2019.

Regarding data sharing and archiving, more participants used ELNs within their working groups, while the use of data repositories for sharing outside the group also increased. Nevertheless, 12% (2019: 10%) reported not sharing data outside their group.

For long-term archiving, participants increasingly preferred group/institute servers, local workspaces such as PCs, and data repositories; the use of storage options such as external hard drives or USB sticks declined only slightly.

77% of respondents indicated that they follow the rules of the German Research Foundation (DFG) for data storage for at least ten years. Overall, 62 % follow defined rules for research data management within their group and institute (2019: 54%).

Notably, 73% of the participants did not answer the question whether they know about online databases or data repositories. 29% are aware of data management services, with NFDI4Chem, the American Chemical Society (ACS), university libraries, and IT centers cited as examples. While 50% are aware of NFDI4Chem, only 20% are currently using its services, with the Chemotion ELN being the most frequently cited service.

86% believe that integrating research data handling and management into the official curriculum would benefit future students and working groups at their institutes.



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