Open Database Access to Improve Understanding of Mineral Species
July 22, 2021
University of Idaho College of Engineering faculty are helping unlock three decades of mineral data, making it more accessible to researchers worldwide.
Computer Science Assistant Professor Marshall Ma has been awarded an $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation EarthCube Program to transfer the data of Mindat, an online database of mineral species and their worldwide distribution, to an open-access format.
Mindat is the most widely used mineral database in the world, receiving over 43 million page views and 377 citations from scientific publications in 2020.
“We’re opening the gate for scientists,” Ma said. "This could fundamentally change our understanding of the occurrence of mineral species on Earth and their evolution history.”
The OpenMindat project will develop a fully open-access framework for the database, allowing easier access to mineralogical data in labs and classrooms alike. Opening Mindat data for free academic use will remove barriers and encourage a new generation of research in geosciences and other disciplines. Additionally, this project will use machine learning techniques in conjunction with the OpenMindat dataset, which raises the possibility of finding previously unseen patterns in the mineralogical diversity on the Earth and beyond. The new open-access and interoperable Mindat system will better serve both scientific and social needs and make it an active node in the geoscience cyberinfrastructure ecosystem.
This project will include collaboration with several U.S. institutions, including the Hudson Institution for Mineralogy and the Carnegie Institution for Science. The OpenMindat proposal was submitted and awarded through the Institute of Interdisciplinary Data Sciences at U of I.
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu