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The AstroWeb Consortium

The AstroWeb database of resource records is maintained by the members of the AstroWeb Consortium, at seven institutions: Each of these institutions supports a version of the AstroWeb service. The seven separate versions have different styles and content, but all are computed from the same master database, which is coded in an agreed interchange format. The Consortium welcomes contributions of resource records to the database.

History of the AstroWeb Consortium

During 1993 many, many people discovered the World Wide Web and the Mosaic client tool. It was natural that individuals began to keep lists of relevant URLs. It was natural that some people began to make their lists publicly visible. It was natural that these people classified the resources in their lists in a variety of ways, and that they presented their lists in a variety of styles. In astronomy, several of these lists became well known, and their URLs appeared in other lists. As the lists became larger, and as new services appeared on the Web faster and faster, maintenance began to be a problem.

On Monday, January 24, 1994, Bob Jackson (CSC/STScI) sent this question to Don Wells (NRAO): "Perhaps, you, me, and Hans-Martin Adorf [ESO/ST-ECF] should pool our efforts?" Wells responded: "Bob suggested to me (and I gather to you, too, Hans-Martin) that perhaps the three of us should cooperate on the maintenance of our astronomical resource lists. I definitely think that we should cooperate in some way -- it is foolish for all three of us to continue to maintain highly correlated comprehensive lists. It is very hard (impossible?) for any one of us to be truly comprehensive, because the astronomical Web is growing explosively. Somehow the workload needs to be divided so that the maintenance burden can be carried by multiple persons, organizations and disciplines. The Web certainly provides all the tools we need to construct the distributed information system that we need. We simply need to construct an appropriate human organizational structure.."

Jackson, Wells and Adorf negotiated an interchange format during the first week. During the next few weeks their three lists were translated into the format, and were merged to create a much larger database. Tools were developed to present this database in various formats, and the new resource lists were substituted for the previous lists.

At the end of February 1994, Jackson, Adorf and Wells invited the maintainers of two more major lists, Andre Heck (CDS) and Anton Koekemoer (MSSSO), to join the collaboration. Their lists were translated and merged into the master database during March.

The public announcement of the AstroWeb consortium occurred on April 6, 1994.

In June-July 1994, the Consortium established a central database server at STScI. Much of the server software is coded in Tcl, and so Astroweb now has an alternate record interchange format based on Tcl rather than HTML.

In December 1994, the ESA center at Villafranca, Spain, joined the Consortium and began supporting a copy the of AstroWeb database at VILSPA.

On January 3, 1995, it was agreed that the Astronomy and Astrophysics pages in the WWW Virtual-Library at CERN, which are maintained by Sergio Paoli at La Plata, will be computed from the AstroWeb database, and that links in those pages which are not already in the AstroWeb database will be added to the database. Beginning April 3, the Virtual-Library pages are being computed from the AstroWeb database, and members of the Consortium are working on merging the URLs.


"The AstroWeb Database of Internet Resources"
H.-M. Adorf, D. Egret, A. Heck, R. Jackson, A. Koekemoer, F. Murtagh, D. Wells: 1994, ESO Messenger 78, 44-46.
"AstroWeb - Internet resources for astronomers"
Adorf, H.-M., Egret, D., Heck, A., Jackson, R., Koekemoer, A., Murtagh, F., Wells, D.: 1995, ST-ECF Newslett. 22, 26-27.
"AstroWeb database points to astronomical resources"
Scientific Computing World, Issue. 6, p. 11 (1995)

dwells@nrao.edu last changed this page 1/27/2003 2:39:13 PM