We analyze data sharing practices of astronomers over the past fifteen years. An analysis of URL links embedded in papers published by the American Astronomical Society reveals that the total number of links included in the literature rose dramatically from 1997 until 2005, when it leveled off at around 1500 per year. The analysis also shows that the availability of linked material decays with time: in 2011, 44% of links published a decade earlier, in 2001, were broken. A rough analysis of link types reveals that links to data hosted on astronomers' personal websites become unreachable much faster than links to datasets on curated institutional sites. To gauge astronomers' current data sharing practices and preferences further, we performed in-depth interviews with 12 scientists and online surveys with 173 scientists, all at a large astrophysical research institute in the United States: the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge, MA. Both the in-depth interviews and the online survey indicate that, in principle, there is no philosophical objection to data-sharing among astronomers at this institution. Key reasons that more data are not presently shared more efficiently in astronomy include: the difficulty of sharing large data sets; over reliance on non-robust, non-reproducible mechanisms for sharing data (e.g. emailing it); unfamiliarity with options that make data-sharing easier (faster) and/or more robust; and, lastly, a sense that other researchers would not want the data to be shared. We conclude with a short discussion of a new effort to implement an easy-to-use, robust, system for data sharing in astronomy, at theastrodata.org, and we analyze the uptake of that system to-date
The ADS All-Sky Survey (ADSASS) is an ongoing effort aimed at turning the NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), widely known for its unrivaled value as a literature resource for astronomers, into a data resource. The ADS is not a data repository per se, but it implicitly contains valuable holdings of astronomical data, in the form of images, tables and object references contained within articles. The objective of the ADSASS effort is to extract these data and make them discoverable and available through existing data viewers. The resulting ADSASS data layer promises to greatly enhance workflows and enable new research by tying astronomical literature and data assets into one resource.
The WorldWide Telescope computer program, released to researchers and the public as a free resource in 2008 by Microsoft Research, has changed the way the ever-growing Universe of online astronomical data is viewed and understood. The WWT program can be thought of as a scriptable, interactive, richly visual browser of the multi-wavelength Sky as we see it from Earth, and of the Universe as we would travel within it. In its web API format, WWT is being used as a service to display professional research data. In its desktop format, WWT works in concert (thanks to SAMP and other IVOA standards) with more traditional research applications such as ds9, Aladin and TOPCAT. The WWT Ambassadors Program (founded in 2009) recruits and trains astrophysically-literate volunteers (including retirees) who use WWT as a teaching tool in online, classroom, and informal educational settings. Early quantitative studies of WWTA indicate that student experiences with WWT enhance science learning dramatically. Thanks to the wealth of data it can access, and the growing number of services to which it connects, WWT is now a key linking technology in the Seamless Astronomy environment we seek to oer researchers, teachers, and students alike.