Given the reliance on digital systems in all aspects of engineering materials manufacture and qualification, it is something of an anomaly that industry-accepted technologies for preserving and transferring the data remain outside the scope of product and testing standards. The impacts of a lack of any widely adopted technology for the routine transfer of engineering materials data are universal, from the moment data are generated, to their transfer along the supply chain, and their reuse for simulation, validation, and reporting.

The materials community has grown to accept the present circumstance, preferring the status quo to the short term disruption of adopting technologies that would enable materials data to be preserved, exchanged, and reused more effectively. While reluctance to change established business models when faced with a disruptive technology is characteristic of a mature business sector, the changes that have taken place in the media, finance, and telecoms sectors as they have adopted the technologies needed to operate in a highly connected global market provide the clearest indication for future trends in the engineering materials sector.

Engineering materials data have relevance along the entire product chain, from the compositional records for a material batch through to the design curves needed to model components and structures. The realization of electronic data exchange in the engineering materials sector will rely on the existence of the necessary ICT infrastructure and the necessary motivations for exchanging and sharing data.

With regard to the needed infrastructure, ongoing initiatives in the standardization sector to define simple descriptions of materials and corresponding data formats offer a means to realize the full potential of materials data. The mentioned initiatives are taking place in the frame of CEN Workshops on formats for engineering materials data and have delivered specifications (posted at that describe materials data and test data. While work is ongoing to refine and validate the specifications, they have already proved effective in enabling systems integration [1].

With the emergence of an underlying infrastructure for exchanging materials data electronically, the long-standing challenge to promote a culture of data sharing still exists. While it is naïve to imagine that data only have relevance in the limited context in which they were created, it is equally naïve to expect researchers and industrial organizations to share data in the absence of a convincing motivation. It can be argued, however, that with the introduction of data citation the required motivations now exist.

Data citation allows data to be referenced in exactly the same way as a traditional publication, even to the extent that citation metrics can be monitored. The framework of choice for data citation is DataCite ( Since 2009, the DataCite Consortium, which consists of leading research libraries and public authorities from around the globe, has delivered the infrastructure (both technologies and services) that now allow data sets to be cited routinely. The success of the DataCite initiative is evidenced by the ever-increasing number of citable data sets, which at the time of writing number more than 6 million as per the statistic reported at, and the partnerships established with other major players in the data publication sector, such as Thomson Reuters and

By allowing data sets to be cited in the same way as traditional publications, data citation ensures that researchers who share their data are properly acknowledged. It also provides a mechanism for the existence of confidential data sets to be made known without affecting their access level-open data remain open and restricted data remain restricted. This in turn provides the opportunity to contact data owners with a view to data being shared under mutually agreeable terms, that is, terms that are more intellectually or commercially valuable to the data owner than the original value of the data. Data citation thus has the potential to promote collection and data sharing; to improve transparency and hence the credibility of scientific research; to guard against redundancy by mitigating the possibility of unnecessarily repeated tests; and to foster co-operations and hence innovation.

In summary, the combination of standards for materials data and data citation offers new prospects for data reuse in the engineering materials sector. As with other sectors that have undergone a sea-change in their business practices following the adoption of web technologies, it only remains for a few forward looking organizations to start delivering innovative services and thereby initiate a sector-wide transition.

For a more in depth examination of this topic, a full article is published in Materials Discovery [2].


[1] L. Lin, T. Austin, W. Ren, Mater. Perform. Charact., 4 (2015)

[2] T. Austin, Mater. Discov. (2016),

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2015.12.002