What do you get when you invite app developers to play with half a dozen popular sets of scientific and technical data?

If you’re the National Institute of Standards and Technology, you get a winning app—worth $30,000 in prize money—from Meru Apps that helps people readily access its chemical species database.

For the non-molecular scientist, the database is something akin to a catalog of chemically identical molecular entities.

The app allows people to access the database “in a way that minimally interrupts their workflow,” according to NIST, which got the winning design through the Reference Data Challenge, its first-ever app development competition. NIST announced the winners on Nov. 18.

The challenge was launched to encourage development of new ways to use NIST Standard Reference Data (SRD), which are “scientific and technical databases that cover a broad range of substances and properties from many different scientific disciplines,” on mobile devices.

For the competition, NIST made six popular sets of SRD available to app developers. During the two-month submission period, the agency received 25 entries.

The second-place award of $10,000 went to the creators of Lab Pal app, which incorporates a calculator, search features an infrared spectrum viewer and notes that can be “shared into one app.” 

Third place, and $5,000, went to the creators of ChemBook, which helps users search for elements and compounds based on formula, name and common terms.

And there’s more to come. NIST has plans to continue providing more SRDs in formats that allow app developers to better use the data. 

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