On the road to digital transformation at the NFDI-MatWerk Conference 2023

The NFDI-MatWerk Conference 2023, held from 27th to 29th June in Siegburg, Germany, brought together 160 attendees online and on-site. The conference featured a diverse program consisting of 30 presentations, 17 posters, and 10 workshops. It provided a comprehensive platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration.

Prof. Chris Eberl, coordinator of NFDI-MatWerk, kicked off the event with thought-provoking insights and a strategic overview. This set the tone for the conference and highlighted the importance of the NFDI-MatWerk initiative and its role in the advancement of materials science research through new and innovative research data management strategies.

The conference also featured Infrastructure Use Cases (IUCs) status updates. These presented the progress and achievements of these concept units, which are generating user-ready and reusable data-handling demonstrators. In addition, updates on the various task areas of the NFDI-MatWerk were presented, shedding light on the initiative's ongoing efforts and future directions.

It became clear during the conference that there is a need for Knowledge Graphs (Google Maps has several of these graphs behind it that everyone uses every day) and Semantic Descriptions to handle complex information from today's increasingly complex processes, experiments, or simulations.

Chris Eberl's vision of the NFDI-MatWerk included structured material data for the digital transformation, according to the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable): 

  • A Materials Map: What do material or process changes do to result in a final material state without reading all available detailed information? Like searching Google Maps.
  • Finding new correlations between newly structured (and mostly incomplete) data sets. Reduce the need to pre-test experimentally.
  • Advanced transfer learning (like GPT-4) for structured material data.
  • A Materials library: Availability of process parameters, evolving microstructure and resulting properties based on their correlative data availability.

The conference facilitated the introduction of collaboration among various NFDI consortia and new community participants, emphasizing their role in shaping the future of NFDI-MatWerk. This recognition of new contributors further reinforced the inclusive and people-driven nature of the initiative.

The conference offered attendees the opportunity to participate in four parallel workshops in two separate sessions. These workshops provided brief introductions to the tools developed through NFDI-MatWerk and other NFDI collaborative initiatives. This hands-on approach allowed participants to gain practical insights into the innovative solutions being developed within the NFDI framework.

The exhibition area, designed as a marketplace, showcased tools, demonstrators, and projects. This interactive space provided a platform for attendees to engage with industry and academic experts, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Another highlight of the conference was a panel discussion with distinguished representatives from industry and academia, including Dr. Denise Beitelschmidt (ZwickRoell GmbH), Prof. Dr. Chris Eberl (Fraunhofer IWM), Prof. Dr. Matthias Müller (RWTH Aachen, Leiter des Rechenzentrums und Professor), Dr. Cosima Schuster (DFG Head of Office), Dr. Petra Sonnweber-Ribic (Robert Bosch GmbH) and the moderator Prof. Dr. Martina Zimmermann (TU Dresden).  The discussion focused on the urgent need for research data management in industry and academia and highlighted the unique approach of the NFDI-MatWerk initiative compared to similar initiatives worldwide, such as the Materials Genome Initiative in the USA and others. Emphasizing the people-driven nature of NFDI-MatWerk, with no single organization having complete control, was a key differentiating factor.

Overall, the NFDI-MatWerk Conference in Siegburg provided a valuable platform for researchers, industry, and stakeholders to meet, exchange ideas and collaborate among the various NFDI consortia.

The conference successfully highlighted the unique and people-driven approach of NFDI-MatWerk and solidified its position as a leading research data management and infrastructure within the global materials science community.

Recordings are available on the NFDI-MatWerk Conference platform, pictures at the NFDI-MatWerk conference website

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) under the National Research Data Infrastructure – NFDI 38/1 – 460247524

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