the system will use high-speed networks and a centrally maintained directory. NASA has a scientifically productive program for archival research, primarily to analyze data from IRAS, the Einstein Observatory, and the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE).

The decentralization of ground-based observatories and the mixture of private, state, and federal funding of research has made it difficult to establish archives of ground-based astronomical data. However, the recent development of high-speed networks and data format standards can simplify the archiving process. Data obtained electronically at ground-based observatories can now, in principle, be archived and made available to remote users over computer networks.

The U.S. observatories are lagging behind major foreign observatories, such as the Anglo-Australian Telescope, the European Southern Observatory, and the La Palma Observatory, in developing archiving programs. The obstacles in setting up archives in the United States are financial and cultural: few people are willing to expend scarce personal and fiscal resources on archiving their data, and most ground-based astronomical data obtained outside the national observatories are treated as the private property of the observer, with no imperative to turn the data over to the community. Overcoming these barriers will depend on developing suitable incentives for individual scientists to archive their data, on protecting the rights of the original observers, and on making the process as effortless as possible.

As a long-term goal, digital data from ground- and space-based telescopes should be archived in a scientifically useful form; the archives would include all the raw data, calibration data, and information necessary to remove instrumental signatures from the data. These data would be available to the community after an appropriate proprietary period, typically one to two years after the completion of an observing program. On-line archives of major observational datasets, catalogs, and processed data from the astronomical literature would improve productivity and enhance the return from both ground- and space-based science programs. A national archiving program would allow researchers and students from smaller colleges and universities to work with data from the best instruments in a way that is now impossible.

The cost of the relevant technologies is being reduced to the point that it is becoming realistic to store selected and appropriate data from major ground-based telescopes. The recent development of computer networks and the implementation of NASA's Astrophysics Data System provide both the means and the model for widespread access to archives of ground-based observations. New archives should be compatible with, and a part of, the directory service of NASA's Astrophysics Data System. The sums that NASA has invested in archiving are small in comparison to the overall cost of its missions, but large by the standards of ground-based astronomy. The NSF can take advantage of NASA's investment in this area to help set up an appropriate archiving

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement