Designing for Universal Access to the Universe's newsfeed

This summer’s project and community meeting is a great time for moving towards thinking about what sort of long term goals does the community have that will shape the preparation for the influx of data from the real-time event feed and alerts that will be streaming from the LSST and other similar time domain projects. We want the data stream to be meaningful and carry enough data to be productive for the high value scientific projects but also light weight and manageable enough to have a low barrier to entry for those who could make significant progress but may start with limited (computational / data) resources.

I’d like to suggest a “track” (perhaps) at the meeting that is focused on Universal Access to alert streams. By Universal Access, I mean breaking down our thinking to be beyond traditional “data management” constraints and streaming data pipelines to a more broader conceptual focus. I am copypasta-ing the term “Universal Access” from sessions at the Women in Astronomy IV meeting a few weeks ago, which inspired me to think about this with a little more depth. (See WiA IV website for details about those sessions.)

The gist, from my perspective, is that if we can think about making streaming data more accessible before the infrastructure is set in place, we will benefit from innovative thinking from a broad participant data audience. As opposed to building the infrastructure and adapting it to be more “barrier-free,” to broaden it for e.g., education and public outreach purposes.

For “track”- like sessions, I would break things down into 3 big T’s around designing for Universal Access:

  1. Thinking - Designing strategies, long-term planning brainstorm sessions that shape the focus of other further discussions. See breaking news post below for inspiration.

  2. Tooling - Design discussion and brainstorm /un-conference style hack sessions on best tools and ways to connect around streaming tools and practice on streaming data, e.g., Twitter data or stock market data.

  3. Training - Design discussion around courses to take e.g., Coursera or other MOOCs? And also courses training sessions to offer to graduate students / undergraduate students in the era of post-LSST astronomy. A good outcome at the LSST2017 meeting would be e.g., an example course syllabus for dealing with streaming data.

(I haven’t read through all the other LSST2017 posts so apologies for any duplication of thoughts here in the above or below.)

Here’s an example of a working draft of a “breaking news post” that myself and Erin Howard (student from Olympic College) wrote in a half hour one night at the Women in Astronomy IV meeting, for kicks, which would be a nice successful outcome for a session about “Design Thinking” for Universal Access:

“Universal newsfeed turns Earth’s citizens into global lifeguards.”

(Alternatively, e.g., “Thing does something, impacts everyone” or “Universal newsfeed identifies (something) with help of citizen scientists (found by subscribing to a hashtag for killer asteroids)” or “Universal Lifesavers / Life preservers”)

New project provides truly Universal Access to the Universe’s newsfeed
(Alternatively, e.g., “Inclusive design drives innovation in the Universe” or “Entire Earth benefits from building a system to accommodate (someone)”)

THREE SENTENCE NEED PROBLEM STATEMENT - flood of data from LSST, need to find important things like killer asteroids

Every night, tens of millions of objects in the night sky are detected as changing by large scale, data-driven astronomical telescope surveys, including Near Earth Objects (NEOs).
Approximately 21% of NEOs are potentially hazardous, meaning that their orbits pass close enough to Earth and they can be large enough to cause significant damage on impact, devastating entire US states or regions. (These important objects can be lost among the flood incoming data streaming from new telescope surveys.) Until now, astronomers have been drowning in a flood of data, and finding and tracking these potential Earth-killers has been almost impossible.


Now with (cool name like Universal Life Preservers) there is a way for (everyone) to (contribute) to detect (something). The system takes the firehose of streaming astronomical data and splits it into manageable chunks to be further characterized by crowd sourcing / citizen science. (More sentences here.)

QUICK TESTIMONY - from someone in the community that contributed to Universal Life Preservers but never found astronomy accessible even though they look up at the sky every night. The funny quip about streaming data is that they also say something like “and I can’t even swim.”


Maria thank you for this thoughtful and creative suggestion. I’m flagging @abauer, @benepo, @kmetzger from EPO so they can read your ideas as well, because this dovetails with their work. [Is Ellen on Community?] For LSST2017, we’re in the advanced stages of forming the schedule, as the deadline for voting on submitted sessions just passed (passed today?) I suggest that you bring this idea to the Unconference that will take place on Wednesday afternoon of the meeting, and/or pitch a hack/brainstorm sessions for Friday where rooms will be flexibly available for collaborative work.

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Hi @mtpatter - I’m interested in discussing the Tooling option you listed above. It would be great to brainstorm about that for the benefit of EPO.

Thanks for initiating this thinking, it’s really important!

Looping in @aherrold