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Planetary Data System User-Centered Design Team Demonstrates New Data Preparation Tool

The Planetary Data System (PDS) User-Centered Design team recently conducted a very successful demonstration of a new data preparation tool that is being developed for the PDS community. The LACE (Label Creation and Editing) tool was designed to simplify the process of authoring complex metadata for PDS datasets by shielding users from the complicated syntax of the PDS metadata language. LACE is a structured editor that allows users to focus on entry and editing of scientific information while also preventing metadata entry errors. The system automatically outputs a properly structured and validated metadata file for submission to the PDS archive. The LACE demonstration was conducted for the PDS Management Council at their April 2013 meeting in Columbia, MD. Development of LACE is still underway, but initial user testing is scheduled to commence in June.

BACKGROUND: Each data product submitted to the PDS archive must be accompanied by metadata files prepared by the contributor, who typically represents a mission instrument team, but can also be an independent scientist. The PDS data formatting standard has recently undergone a revision, and the PDS4 version is slated for release later this year. With the release of PDS4, the archive moves to an XML-based format for metadata. The previous version of the standard used a syntactically simpler, text-based format called Object Description Language (ODL). Generally, ODL files are easier for users to read and author than PDS4 files because they lack the characteristically verbose markup required for XML files. In addition, PDS contributors are not necessarily familiar with XML. As a result, formatting metadata to meet PDS4 specifications has become more challenging and users currently lack good tools to support this critical function. Some teams have begun using off-the-shelf XML editors to facilitate PDS4 metadata generation, but these tools can be expensive, lack PDS-specific support, and require users to focus on complex XML syntax.

The PDS User-Centered Design team supplies software design and development services to different segments of the diverse PDS community. In particular, the team: 1) creates new tools to help scientists and other PDS end-users find and utilize planetary science data; 2) supplies archive-support tools to help individuals and mission teams submitting data for archival within PDS; 3) provides technical assistance to the various distributed archive centers that comprise the PDS; and 4) conducts user research to help guide PDS tool and interface development. Throughout its activities, the project emphasizes user-centered design principles and practices.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Science Mission Directorate (SMD)

TEAM: Charles Hacskaylo, Rich Keller, Mark Rose, and Pegah Sarram

Contact: Rich Keller

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