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Restructuring of the ADS

30 August 1994


The Astrophysics Data System is in the process of being restructured. NASA has requested us to reduce the scope and budget relative to previous ADS activities. The main emphasis of the restructured ADS Project will be the operation and development of the ADS Abstract Service. We also will consolidate the data assets already created by the ADS Project so that they will be administered within the restructured project and continue to be made available.

The restructuring of the ADS is necessitated by continued budgetary pressures within NASA. The availability of alternative distributed data access mechanisms allows the ADS Project to phase out the proprietary software that was used by the project in favor of WWW based protocols while still maintaining some of the infrastructure that is a key component of this distributed information system. Our objective is to provide complete support for the existing ADS Abstract Service and to maintain access to as much of the existing ADS data assets as possible within the constraints of our resources. We will continue to operate the "classical" ADS for as long as possible during this transition to WWW services. However, we will not be able to provide high levels of user or node support with our reduced resources.

Abstract Service

The Abstract Service of the Astrophysics Data System has been very successful in providing the astronomy researcher the capability to search the astronomical literature. It currently provides access to over 160,000 astronomical abstracts with a sophisticated search engine. The emphasis of the ADS in the coming year will be to utilize technologies like the World Wide Web (WWW) to provide access for a wide variety of users through public domain client software. We plan on expanding the abstract data base to cover more topics, e.g., instrumentation and space physics. We are also examining adding to the functionality of the Abstract Service by including a citation index that will allow users to browse through the abstracts of references associated with the current abstract.

Development work will include cooperation with the publishers of astronomical literature to provide access to the original author abstracts. We will also work on providing access to the full articles in bitmapped form. As a first step in this direction we plan to provide links to the bitmaps of journal articles that were produced by the STELAR project. User response to having full journal articles available and linked with the abstracts will be evaluated. If it proves to be a valuable service, we will work with publishers to digitize more of the old literature and to see whether we can provide access to electronic forms of new articles.

Recently it has become possible to "publish" electronically, data tables from a journal article. We have started work on linking these data tables to the abstracts of the articles. We are making use of the on-line data currently available through the CDS in Strasbourg. Our objective is to provide access to these data from the abstracts that refer to them.

The efforts described above will extend the scope of the abstract service and expand it into a wide ranging Digital Library service with greatly enhanced utility for the astronomical community.

Catalogs and Archives

Another part of our data access effort is to provide access through the World Wide Web to the data that are available through the ADS. We currently have a prototype WWW Catalog Access Tool available. This tool provides access to catalogs at SAO, at CASA (at the University of Colorado), and at the University of Minnesota . For some catalogs, like the plate scan data at the University of Minnesota, the ADS is the primary means of data access. It is therefore important that we maintain this catalog access.

The central location service provided by the ADS helps to deal with the general problem of how the user community can know about the existence of valuable data. We plan to continue to provide this important (and unique) function through our Web Catalog Server. Similarly, we are working on a prototype WWW server for archival data. Our initial effort is to provide access to the Einstein Observatory data set maintained at SAO. We plan to work with our current ADS data providers to help in the transition from ADS servers using our proprietary protocol to servers based on WWW protocols. We will also include links within the ADS WWW Services HomePage to other sources of astronomical data so that users can have a single starting point for finding these resources.

Further information about the ADS can be obtained by contacting us at