Open CDAWeb/SSCWeb User Meeting Held at Spring AGU

Volume 14, Number 2, June 1998
by Robert McGuire

The CDAWeb and SSCWeb systems of the Space Physics Data Facility (SPDF) and NSSDC offer World Wide Web (WWW)-based graphic and numeric browse and retrieval options for International Solar-Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) Key Parameter and other data (CDAWeb) and for trajectory information for the many spacecraft relevant to the ISTP science program (SSCWeb). These systems have been accessible to, and much used by, the space physics community for well over a year now.

An informal open discussion with interested users of the CDAWeb and SSCWeb systems was held at the recent American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, by the SPDF as an additional forum to gather user questions, suggestions and perspectives on these services.

A basic point made by all the attendees was that these were "wonderful systems" and that they "would hate to lose either of them." That current usage of both systems is continuing to grow is consistent with these comments. The users continue to appreciate the convenience of the combined CDAWeb data base and the functional capabilities of SSCWeb, including up-to-date models.

There was extensive discussion about the prospects for acquiring more high-resolution data from current missions into the NSSDC public archive and into CDAWeb. The discussion emphasized the importance of continued and active data acquisition efforts, with strong and on-going community support and encouragement for the timely provision of high-quality data from a wide international range of relevant spacecraft.

Attendees expressed concern about the proper acknowledgment of the actual data providers. Several specific suggestions for changes to the CDAWeb interface to highlight better this on-going requirement to the data users were discussed and will be implemented in some combination. There was also discussion of cross-references to relevant but non-CDAWeb data, and services might be more effectively attached to the CDAWeb interface. Several options will be explored in concert with the users who expressed this concern to see what might be most effective.

The importance of having and maintaining good end-user performance was emphasized. The RAL representative at the meeting emphasized its urgent desire to become configured as a CDAWeb mirror site as well as interest in its hosting an SSCWeb site to help its users bypass current transatlantic network bottlenecks. It was his belief the services are of great European interest and would be more heavily used if faster. There was some discussion of specific performance problems that have been seen and can be investigated further with more details. A suggestion was made that CDAWeb might support the export of ASCII lists as "gzipped" files as one specific way to speed up data transfers.

There was some discussion of how-to issues in most usefully printing CDAWeb outputs. With Web technology this issue is more to user knowledge of how to configure and use most effectively the capabilities of their Web browsers. Minimal interest was expressed in CDAWeb support for actual PostScript outputs. The issue of legible data labels also came up; these have been recently improved, however. An option that would also help is a user ability to request taller panel heights (which would leave more space for labels).

To the meeting attendees overall, while the attendees felt this kind of open meeting was a good idea, there was some sense that advertisment of the meeting was not sufficiently timely and aggressive, particularly given the meeting/information overload that always accompanies a major AGU meeting. Comments are invited from the general newsletter readership whether they think this kind of meeting during AGU is appropriate and valuable, and with what frequency such discussions should be convened. We will certainly attempt to better advertise subsequent meetings.

The major point of the meeting was to listen to the users, so relatively little time was spent reviewing our own current thinking about the evolution of these systems. That material will be presented in other ways. The CDAWeb and SSCWeb services (including newly enhanced display capabilities for imager data) were also featured at an invited poster paper during one of the ISTP correlative analysis sessions at this AGU. As always, CDAWeb and SSCWeb continue to be accessible from the SPDF home page and the National Space Science Data Center space physics home page, or directly at http://cdaweb.gsfc.nasa.gov/ and http://sscweb.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

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