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Paper: The Virtual Observatory: Retrospective and Prospectus
Volume: 6, Twenty Years of ADASS
Page: 315
Authors: Hanisch, R. J.
Abstract: At the ADASS XV in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain, in October 2005, I gave an overview of the accomplishments of the Virtual Observatory initiatives and discussed the imminent transition from development to operations. That transition remains on the horizon for the US Virtual Observatory, and VO projects worldwide have encountered various programmatic challenges. The successes of the Virtual Observatory are many, but thus far are primarily of a technical nature. We have developed a data discovery and data access infrastructure that has been taken up by data centers and observatories around the world. We have web-based interfaces, downloadable toolkits and applications, a security and restricted access capability, standard vocabularies, a sophisticated messaging and alert system for transient events, and the ability for applications to exchange messages and work together seamlessly. This has been accomplished through a strong collaboration between astronomers and information technology specialists. We have been less successful engaging the astronomical researcher. Relatively few papers have been published based on VO-enabled research, and many astronomers remain unfamiliar with the capabilities of the VO despite active training and tutorial programs hosted by several of the major VO projects. As we (finally!) enter the operational phase of the VO, we need to focus on areas that have contributed to the limited take-up of the VO amongst active scientists, such as ease of use, reliability, and consistency. We need to routinely test VO services for aliveness and adherence to standards, working with data providers to fix errors and otherwise removing non0compliant services from those seen by end-users. Technical developments will need to be motivated and prioritized based on scientific utility. We need to continue to embrace new technology and employ it in a context that focuses on research productivity.
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