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NIST to Host First App Challenge to Improve Data Access


Researchers looking for information on the properties of methane at high temperatures or the isotopic composition of an element know they can rely on standard reference data from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). But what they really need is an app (or apps)to make the data more accessible.

As a step in that direction, NIST is launching its first app challenge. Prizes totaling $45,000 can go to developers who create applications that offer new ways to access and use data from one or more of six eligible scientific data collections maintained by NIST.

NIST maintains some of the world's most accurate and comprehensive datasets of physical, material, chemical and biological data covering a broad range of substances and properties. These datasets are invaluable research tools for physicists, biochemical engineers, environmental researchers, students and many others. The app challenge is meant to boost awareness of these resources and modernize their use.

To support the challenge, NIST has made six of its datasets available in machine-readable format. The contest is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18.

Challenge participants must make the app available for testing at no cost to NIST, and it must be accompanied by a brief text submission, at least one screenshot of the app, and a brief (less than five minute) video describing the functionality of the app. Entries are due by Sept.28, 2015.

NIST experts will vet technical aspects of the apps and a group of judges will evaluate submissions to identify the best. The criteria for judging will be the app's potential impact, its creativity and innovation, how well it is implemented, and the integration of one or more SRD or other data into the app.

The six eligible NIST Standard Reference Datasets to be used in the challenge are:

The Reference Data Challenge follows NIST's first participation in the National Day of Civic Hacking, held June 6, 2015, in which NIST invited coders from across the U.S. to play with a subset of its Standard Reference Data.

The challenge also complements NIST's ongoing efforts to ensure its data and research results are publicly accessible. On July 8, 2015, NIST released a new data access plan and is asking the public for feedback to help guide its policies and procedures.

For detailed information on the NIST Reference Data Challenge, visit View the Federal Register notice here.

Released July 27, 2015, Updated January 23, 2023