Your Spreadsheets Can Be FAIR: A Tool and FAIRification Workflow for the eNanoMapper Database

Nanomaterials (Basel). 2020 Sep 24;10(10):1908. doi: 10.3390/nano10101908.


The field of nanoinformatics is rapidly developing and provides data driven solutions in the area of nanomaterials (NM) safety. Safe by Design approaches are encouraged and promoted through regulatory initiatives and multiple scientific projects. Experimental data is at the core of nanoinformatics processing workflows for risk assessment. The nanosafety data is predominantly recorded in Excel spreadsheet files. Although the spreadsheets are quite convenient for the experimentalists, they also pose great challenges for the consequent processing into databases due to variability of the templates used, specific details provided by each laboratory and the need for proper metadata documentation and formatting. In this paper, we present a workflow to facilitate the conversion of spreadsheets into a FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) database, with the pivotal aid of the NMDataParser tool, developed to streamline the mapping of the original file layout into the eNanoMapper semantic data model. The NMDataParser is an open source Java library and application, making use of a JSON configuration to define the mapping. We describe the JSON configuration syntax and the approaches applied for parsing different spreadsheet layouts used by the nanosafety community. Examples of using the NMDataParser tool in nanoinformatics workflows are given. Challenging cases are discussed and appropriate solutions are proposed.

Keywords: Excel spreadsheet; FAIR data; JSON; data; eNanoMapper database; metadata; nanoparticle; nanosafety; software parser.