Letters of Intent received in 2022

LoI 2024-2173
Community Engagement and Open Science in the Virtual Observatory

Date: 5 August 2024 to 5 September 2024
Category: Focus meetings (GA)
Location: Cape Town, South Africa, South Africa
Contact: G. Bruce Berriman (gbb@ipac.caltech.edu)
Coordinating division: Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science
Other divisions:
Chair of SOC: None (None)
Co-Chairs of LOC: G. Bruce Berriman (Caltech/IPAC-NExSci)
Patricia Whitelock (South African Astronomical Observatory)
Dana Kovaleva (Institute of Astronomy (Moscow))
Chenzhou Cui (National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences)
Ajit Khembavi (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics)



o The role of interoperability of Astronomy data in national and international Open Science and FAIR initiatives.
o Evolving data types and new techniques, especially Machine Learning.
o Interoperability of science platforms and massive new data sets, especially radio astronomy data sets and time domain and multi messenger data sets.
o Best practices to train astronomers.
o Participation in international educational and outreach activities to inspire the next generation of astronomers.



The Virtual Observatory is an ecosystem of interoperable tools and services that enable discovery, access and subsequent analysis of multi-wavelength data sets housed in archives and data centers worldwide. Underpinning the VO are data discovery and access protocols that enable queries across archives through common interfaces. The protocols themselves are negotiated on behalf of the worldwide astronomy community by the International Virtual Observatory (IVOA). The IVOA has been promoting Open Science and what have become formalized as FAIR principles since its founding in 2002. It is a diverse organization consisting of 21 nationally funded Virtual Observatory projects on all continents and two intergovernmental organizations (ESA and the SKAO).

VO protocols are now embedded in the query infrastructures of major archives/data centers, and are fundamental underpinnings of the services offered by them, such as ESASky and IPAC Firefly. Third party tools such as Aladin and TopCat harvest data via these protocols to deliver data discovery, visualization and analysis services. Missions in development such as the Rubin Observatory and Euclid are building VO protocols into their query infrastructures from the ground up. VO protocols are thus an enabling technology for international data discovery, access and interoperability.

The astronomy data landscape changes constantly in scale and complexity. The IVOA itself is actively responding to these changes. The newest member of the IVOA, the SKAO, is joining in with a new and active group investigating applicability of the VO to new radio astronomy projects and datasets. Protocols are in development for integration into the infrastructure of time domain and multi messenger astronomy services (as endorsed by Cenko et al. Kavli-IAU white paper in 2020:"International Coordination of Multi-Messenger Transient Observations in the 2020s and Beyond"). Another group is active in exploring the applicability of the VO to machine learning.

Engagement with the broader scientific community is, however, essential in achieving the full future potential of the VO. We therefore plan a forward looking Focus Meeting, organized by the IAU VO WG, with speakers representing the following groups to provide guidance to the future development of the VO:

- Astronomers in small teams (in particular early career researchers)
- Major astronomy projects and missions
- Data publishers
- Astronomical data infrastructures and service/tool developers
- Educators and outreach specialists (especially those in the IAU OAD, with whoom the IVOA has signed an MoU).