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Paper: In the Jungle of Astronomical On--line Data Services
Volume: 61, Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems III
Page: 14
Authors: Egret, D.
Abstract: The author tried to survive in the jungle of astronomical on--line data services. In order to find efficient answers to common scientific data retrieval requests, he had to collect many pieces of information, in order to formulate typical user scenarios, and try them against a number of different data bases, catalogue services, or information systems. He discovered soon how frustrating treasure coffers may be when their keys are not available, but he realized also that nice widgets and gadgets are of no help when the information is not there. And, before long, he knew he would have to navigate through several systems because no one was yet offering a general answer to all his questions. I will present examples of common user scenarios and show how they were tested against a number of services. I will propose some elements of classification which should help the end-user to evaluate how adequate the different services may be for providing satisfying answers to specific queries. For that, many aspects of the user interaction will be considered: documentation, access, query formulation, functionalities, qualification of the data, overall efficiency, etc. I will also suggest possible improvements to the present situation: the first of them being to encourage system managers to increase collaboration between one another, for the benefit of the whole astronomical community. The subjective review I will present, is based on publicly available astronomical on--line services from the U.S. and from Europe, most of which (excepting the newcomers) were described in ``Databases and On-Line Data in Astronomy", (Albrecht & Egret, eds, 1991): this includes databases (such as NED and Simbad ), catalog services ( StarCat , DIRA , XCatScan , etc.), and information systems ( ADS and ESIS ).
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