Detailed Discussion

To identify student and educator needs in more detail, three questions were posed to Using Data Workshop participants:

  • What format/environment would you like to see (e.g. user interfaces)?
  • How would you want to be able to find the data you need?
  • What manipulation/visualization tools would it useful to you for data providers to have available in the digital library?

The answers to these questions resulted in the following recommendations.

For the discovery of data supplied by NSDL data providers, the educational community desires browser-friendly interfaces such as thematic subject indexes and hierarchical search capabilities. Metadata about data should be used in both the discovery process through interfaces that drilling down from high level to specific items, as well as to inform users about data sets they are about to download. To enhance the discovery process and reliability of high quality datasets there is a need for cross-discipline lexicons with user annotation capabilities. These and other lessons from the commercial markets on user interfaces and discovery techniques should be investigated for use by the NSDL.

Users desire control of the resolution / granularity of the data before downloading and the support of common data formats or seamless data conversions to ensure usability of these data sets with tools from other NSDL collections.

NSDL data providers need to assist educational users by supplying tools for manipulation and visualization of data beyond what is required for researchers. Tools should exist on both on the server-side and client-side, such as interfaces that allow interactive browsing of data before downloading for use with more in-depth visualization tools. While data should be accessible by itself for researchers and educators wishing to use their own tools, tools sharing a common NSDL GUI should be easy to discover for use with each data set. Educators wish to have access to packages of the appropriate tool and data, as well as idealized data and teacher manuals for use with these tools. These tools need to be flexible allowing teachers and students to use real-time data, historical data, or their own imported data for visualization, manipulation, or statistical analysis. Users should be able to merge data sets, zoom in on a particular data set, and even combine a wide variety of datasets through data fusion enabled tools.

One final concern brought up in this workshop was the use proprietary data within the NSDL. This is an issue that will need to be investigated by the NSDL with metadata informing users of the acceptable uses of such data.