GEMS hardware hero FAQs

Trust & Transparency


Best Practices

Who funds the initiative? What is its mission? What standards and ethics guide the process of gathering and sharing data?

  • GEMS gets its core funding from the Minnesota State Government (via MNDrive), the College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), and other UMN sources. This is complemented by funding from grants, contracts and user subscriptions to GEMS services.
  • GEMS mission is to create data solutions that drive agri-food innovation and nurture the talent required to realize the potential of the data revolution in agriculture.
  • When data can be freely shared, we enable open data. However, much of the data used for agri-food informatics involves sensitive, sometimes identifiable farm or personal data, pre-publication scientific data, or corporate data. We practice and promote ethical data sharing that respects data privacy and IP. For example, the smart sharing capabilities of the GEMS Platform enables the data provider to decide who sees their data, and for what purposes. Our watchword is: Your data, your choice!

Types of Service & Privacy

Where can I find GEMS terms of use and privacy policies? Is there a clear distinction on the site between GEMS Open and subscription-based services? Why not use only open or publicly available data?

  • GEMS Terms of Service can be found here. Details of our Privacy Policy are here.
  • Yes, free-to-use and subscription services are clearly delineated, with never any attempt to mislead clients and partners or offer free-to-use services as a bait-and-switch for fee-for-service offerings. We are a university, non-profit undertaking: our subscription fees help us right-size our operations to create data science innovations that solve the pressing agri-food challenges facing the planet.
  • We use and support the smart sharing of interoperable agri-food data from many different sources. In so doing, we enable us and others to strike a nuanced and ethical balance between privacy and openness, all the time respecting formal intellectual property rights and being sensitive to informal privacy and data sensitivity concerns.
  • GEMS was conceived and operates to straddle the public-private divide in agri-food innovation. Between open and private (or closed) data there is sharable data on mutually agreed terms that cultivates novel, public-private, innovation partnerships. We are motivated by the notion that failing to effectively bridge this public-private divide will leave large, privately and socially valuable R&D opportunities off the table.

Methods & Data Protection

Are the methodologies behind certain analytics tools explained? How do you clean and process data? How do you ensure data protection?

  • Many of the methodologies we develop are published in peer reviewed journals. We also support GitHub repositories for any open source code that we develop.
  • GEMS is all about creating, sharing and using research-ready, scientific-grade data. In house, we practice FAIR(ER) data standards (see here), that includes best-practice metadata standards. The GEMS Platform has those same data and metadata management practices baked into its work environment, thus enabling FAIR(ER) standards for all users.
  • We have a multifaceted approach to data protection and security. The GEMS Platform encrypts all its data at rest and in flight. Access to the platform is authenticated. All GEMS staff have HIPAA training: we give as much care to handling ag. data as is given to handling health data. All identifiable data in the platform is deemed legally private, non-public by a MN Government Statute (sec. 13.643) that came into force in 2018. The platform is hosted in a secure cloud environment in the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, whose operations (including GEMS) are overseen by a research security and compliance analyst.

Diverse and Inclusive

What are GEMS’s efforts and commitments to bring in diverse perspectives across social and demographic differences?

  • First and foremost, we recruit staff with diversity and inclusion goals firmly in mind, drawing on the expertise of CFANS Office for Diversity and Inclusion. Seeking diversity is not only the right thing to do, our experience shows it makes for a more productive and interesting workplace, with better data science outcomes.
  • The data sciences have especially skewed gender and ethnic demographics. We foster inclusion through our hiring practices and our very culture.
  • We also work hard to nurture more inclusive, next-gen talent in the agri-food data sciences via our on-line GEMS Learning services. In so doing, we are also mindful that those from rural backgrounds are often missing from the (agri-food) data sciences.

Technical Expertise

Who are the scientists, academics, and developers behind GEMS? What are their credentials? How can they be contacted?

  • The GEMS team is a cutting-edge, highly-talented and cool group of data science innovators.
  • Our team involves individuals with cross domain expertise in the biological, genetic, agronomic, engineering, environmental and social sciences coupled with first-rate data science and dev-ops skills.
  • GEMS folks all have a passion to make a difference, both as individuals and as agile, bold-thinking, intellectually risk-taking, solutions-focused working groups.
  • For details on our team go to the team members entry in the GEMS Team page or wait to see GEMS Research (coming this Fall).

Actionable Feedback

Can I provide feedback that might question, alter or expand GEMS services?

  • We welcome feedback or suggestions on what we do or how we might do better. Please contact GEMS today!