University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK
United Kingdom

Miscellaneous Information

Miscellaneous Information

Abstract Reference: 30784
Identifier: O7.1
Presentation: Oral communication
Key Theme: 2 Management of Scientific and Data Analysis Projects 

The Challenges of a Public Data Release: behind the scenes of SDSS DR13  

Anne-Marie, Blanton Michael, Bolton Adam, Brownstein Joel, Thakar Ani, 

The impact of an astronomical survey is set by the reach of its data distribution system. If the data does not reach the astronomers for their research projects to make new discoveries, the teachers to teach their students how to work with astronomical data, and the general public to increase their awareness of astronomy and science, then impact will be limited to a small core survey team. A successful public data release, especially one aimed at a variety of end users, therefore needs to ensure that the data is not only freely available, but also clearly documented and in accessible formats. This requires non-trivial effort from the survey’s data, science and education teams, which end-users are often not aware of.


The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has a long history of public data releases, with 267 TB of data now publicly accessible on its servers and more than 7000 published papers based on SDSS data. Over 30% of the astronomical community in the US alone has reported to be using SDSS data in their research. In this talk I will provide a look behind the scenes of our most recent data release: DR13 (summer 2016). I will discuss the mechanisms we have in place to distribute and document data, and how we organised our data, science and education teams to work efficiently together to make this data release happen. I will also provide an outlook on how we can increase the involvement of our end-users in the data release process, to make our data processes more transparent and optimise our outputs.