How usability engineering broadens access to research and engineering data: supporting new disciplines, applications, and audiences

Cherri Pancake, Ph.D.
Dept. of Computer Science and
Northwest Alliance for Computational Science & Engineering
Oregon State University

Wednesday, July 17, 2002
3:00 p.m.–Pacific Forum

Vast stores of research and engineering data are underutilized because we have not succeeded in making them accessible and useful. The true potential of these data as stimuli for future discoveries lies in disciplines, applications, and audiences not involved in the acquisition process. The sheer volume and complexity of online data makes it extremely hard for outsiders to find, apply, or interpret the very data they need most. This presentation discusses the usability challenges that must be addressed to facilitate data access by broader communities. Special types of support will be needed if data are to be applied realistically and safely in new disciplinary areas. Further challenges must be met if the data are to have appropriate impact on non-research audiences (such as policy makers, emergency response teams, and natural resource managers). Examples are drawn from case studies where usability engineering methods were applied to improve the usability of data and metadata interfaces.

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