For some time the Astronomical Data Center (ADC) at NSSDC has felt that it would be helpful to obtain input from the astronomical community about its services. An attempt to hold a users' meeting at an American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting last year attracted too few users to be helpful. After that the ADC decided to wait until the significant changes in access to the ADC archive were complete. The acquisition of a dedicated workstation now permits FTP access to almost the entire ADC archive. Moreover, a World Wide Web (WWW) page provides not only information about the ADC and access to its archive but also a capability to search for catalogs of interest. Although the system is still evolving, the major changes have now been completed, and the appropriate time to request the advice ADC wishes has arrived.
The first meeting of the new ADC Scientific Steering Committee was held on February 6, 1996. This meeting was largely devoted to reviewing for the committee the current ADC. In spite of the amount of time spent teaching the committee about the ADC, the meeting was quite productive with a number of useful suggestions. An introduction by Dr. James Green described the place of the ADC in the organization of the Space Science Data Operations Office. Nancy Roman then described the input she desires from the committee, specifically, that the committee tell NASA and the ADC ways in which its services can be modified to meet more efficiently astronomical community needs. She also reminded the committee that there are many activities and services the ADC realizes should be done to improve its value to its customers and access to these archives but that resources do not permit everything to be done immediately. She hopes that the committee will assist the ADC in establishing priorities among these activities.
The meeting then addressed the problem of visibility of the ADC. From the reactions expressed at AAS meetings, the ADC is not as well known as it might be and is often confused with other activities such as the Astrophysical Data System (ADS) and the Centre de Donnees astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS). The committee had several suggestions for improving visibility of the ADC in the astronomical community. It then suggested a source of the solar data that appear appropriate for ADC archiving and discussed the provision of pointers to data that the ADC may not feel appropriate to archive but that astronomers may need.
The remainder of the day included a demonstration of WWW access to the ADC and its archives and a detailed discussion of the various activities that appear to the ADC to be desirable. A major portion of the discussion was devoted to the problem of finding information on a particular astronomical object or group of objects across catalogs without retrieving each catalog individually. The committee will consider this problem further and provide the parameters of a system they wish to have. In the meantime the ADC is looking in greater detail into various existing systems for providing such searches and the extent to which they may meet ADC needs.
The committee membership, chosen to be astronomically diverse but as a cost-saving measure geographically limited is as follows: Kenneth Seidelmann - U. S. Naval Observatory (chairman); Roger Bell - University of Maryland; Douglas Currie - University of Maryland; Ronald Downes - Space Telescope Science Institute; Gerard Kriss - Johns Hopkins University; Gart Westerhout (retired) - former scientific director, U. S. Naval Observatory; and Jeffrey Guerber - amateur astronomer.