Designing Astronomical Archives for the Future

Groom, Steve

The NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive (IRSA) serves science data sets from NASA's infrared and submillimeter projects and missions. Some data sets are from projects which ended many years ago, while others are current and ongoing, putting IRSA in the mixed role of supporting current science operations, while developing new archives and operating old ones. Along the way IRSA has learned the importance of careful design of data archives for supportability and usefulness in the future, as user interfaces and tools for interacting with archives will continue to evolve long after any particular project has concluded.

During an archive's design phase it is important to consider not only present-day use cases and interfaces, but also how to update archive interfaces as technology evolves. This is even more important when the project cannot provide resources to maintain an archive into the future, as any project-specific tools will eventually require maintenance and updating of some kind. A layered approach to archive design helps permit external interfaces to evolve and take advantage of new technology that comes along, while well thought out and documented internal representations help ensure the usability of archived data into the future.

We discuss current examples and present some design directions being pursued by IRSA in response to the challenges of maintaining a growing portfolio

of data sets and a variety tools for accessing them.

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