Improved efficiency of access to and enhanced exploitation of ground and space observations, together with the development of virtual access to large data archives, are among the tasks of the OPTICON network. One key element for increasing scientific access to multi-wavelength, heterogeneous data is interoperability of data archives and information services: this allows scientists to retrieve the data of interest for their research among the large variety of possible information sources and to be able to formulate queries to these distributed on-line resources. On the service provider side, metadata describing the service contents have to be implemented, and data exchange mechanisms have to be defined and used to allow the implementation of links between services and the integration of data of different origins in common user interfaces.
The Interoperability Working Group aims at studying cost effective tools and standards for improving access to and data exchange from data archives and information services. One important specification is to keep to a minimum the additional workload on data providers. A pragmatic bottom-up approach will be used, with email discussions, targeted meetings to define and promote basic standards and generic tools, short technical visits if necessary, and eventually prototype implementation in some cases. Participants are managers of European public databases and archives, mainly proposed by the OPTICON collaboration.
The Interoperability WG goals were presented at two major international meetings: Virtual Observatories of the future (Caltech, June 2000), and Mining the sky (Munich, July-August 2000), where numerous contacts and discussions took place with potential participants and international partners (USA, Canada). The list of participants was further discussed after the second OPTICON general meeting with the OPTICON collaboration members. A first email exchange took place with the proposed members, to explain the WG goals, get confirmation of their willingness to participate, and identify a first set of information to be distributed and of subjects to be discussed.
The second OPTICON meeting (Strasbourg, Oct. 13th 2000) recognized the preparation of an EC R&D proposal Astrophysical Virtual Observatory as one of its first priorities. Interoperability is one of the major topics of this proposal, with the Interoperability Work Package led by CDS, Strasbourg. A meeting of this group was held at Strasbourg in January 2002. This attracted attendees from across Europe and North America. Further details of this meeting will be placed here soon. For the moment here is a picture of the particpants.. .
Following very extensive international working collaboration, a coherent Interoperability work program was established for the successful AVO proposal. The working Group has been defined and implemented, with (international) community-wide support and involvement.
The challenge is now to implement and attain the specified and agreed goals.
John Keith Davies
Astronomy Technology Centre, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, EH9 3HJ.
tel: 0131 668 8348/ fax: 0131 668 8407
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Last update, 1 February 2002