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Proceedings Paper

Managing distributed software development in the Virtual Astronomical Observatory
Author(s): Janet D. Evans; Raymond L. Plante; Nina Boneventura; Ivo Busko; Mark Cresitello-Dittmar; Raffaele D'Abrusco; Stephen Doe; Rick Ebert; Omar Laurino; Olga Pevunova; Brian Refsdal; Brian Thomas
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Paper Abstract

The U.S. Virtual Astronomical Observatory (VAO) is a product-driven organization that provides new scientific research capabilities to the astronomical community. Software development for the VAO follows a lightweight framework that guides development of science applications and infrastructure. Challenges to be overcome include distributed development teams, part-time efforts, and highly constrained schedules. We describe the process we followed to conquer these challenges while developing Iris, the VAO application for analysis of 1-D astronomical spectral energy distributions (SEDs). Iris was successfully built and released in less than a year with a team distributed across four institutions. The project followed existing International Virtual Observatory Alliance inter-operability standards for spectral data and contributed a SED library as a by-product of the project. We emphasize lessons learned that will be folded into future development efforts. In our experience, a well-defined process that provides guidelines to ensure the project is cohesive and stays on track is key to success. Internal product deliveries with a planned test and feedback loop are critical. Release candidates are measured against use cases established early in the process, and provide the opportunity to assess priorities and make course corrections during development. Also key is the participation of a stakeholder such as a lead scientist who manages the technical questions, advises on priorities, and is actively involved as a lead tester. Finally, frequent scheduled communications (for example a bi-weekly tele-conference) assure issues are resolved quickly and the team is working toward a common vision.

Paper Details

Date Published: 25 September 2012
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 8449, Modeling, Systems Engineering, and Project Management for Astronomy V, 84490I (25 September 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.927371
Show Author Affiliations
Janet D. Evans, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (United States)
Raymond L. Plante, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (United States)
Nina Boneventura, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (United States)
Ivo Busko, Space Telescope Science Institute (United States)
Mark Cresitello-Dittmar, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (United States)
Raffaele D'Abrusco, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (United States)
Stephen Doe, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (United States)
Rick Ebert, Infrared Processing and Analysis Ctr. (United States)
Omar Laurino, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (United States)
Olga Pevunova, Infrared Processing and Analysis Ctr. (United States)
Brian Refsdal, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (United States)
Brian Thomas, National Optical Astronomy Observatory (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8449:
Modeling, Systems Engineering, and Project Management for Astronomy V
George Z. Angeli; Philippe Dierickx, Editor(s)

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