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Space Physics andSpace Physics and Aeronomy Research Collaboratory
Space Physics and Aeronomy Research Collaboratory
Investigators:
Dan Atkins, Tom Finholt, Glenn Golden, Joseph Hardin, Timothy Killeen, Peter Knoop, Farnham Jahanian, Gary Olson, Atul Prakash, Terry Weymouth
Students:
Satish Pai, Julie Ballin
Sponsors:
NSF Geosciences, ATM Division , NSF CISE, IIS Division, CSS Program
Overview
Initiated in 1992, the Space Physics and Aeronomy Research Collaboratory (SPARC) is the oldest and most successful use of human-centered design philosophy in the arena of collaborative technology. SPARC was formerly known as the Upper Atmospheric Research Collaboratory (UARC).

SPARC links an international community of space scientists with instruments and data located all over the world. Whereas researchers once had to meet face-to-face in real time to conduct research, now collaboration technology and the World Wide Web have linked them together, along with a global network of observational instruments that incorporate data from satellite and ground-based instruments with supercomputer models to give researchers a clearer and more cohesive picture of what is happening in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Methods
The high quality of the SPARC collaboration is in no small measure due to the front work of CREW investigators. CREW expertise in human-computer interaction (HCI), drawn from work in human factors design, is critical in creating a collaboration system that meets the needs of real researchers. This philosophy emphasizes regular redesign of human-computer interfaces based on a user feedback loop.

During the years of SPARC's operation, CREW investigators have also been conducting a sociological and longitudinal study on the effects of the adoption of this technology on the space science community itself — what can be labeled the "second-order effects." What has the collaboratory done to the science that comes out of SPARC?

This type of asynchronous collaboration reduces the cost of accessing complementary expertise (e.g., bringing together the radar experts with the optical experts), partly by relieving scheduling difficulties and the strain of travel.

It also creates more opportunities for students to get involved in high-level research. It gives grad students experience with real-time data and interaction much earlier in their careers.

As near space becomes home to an ever greater number of communications satellites, SPARC's work on upper atmospheric disturbances — especially its interface for space weather forecasting — will likely prove even more valuable.

The SPARC Project is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant ATM-9873025.

Related Links
- SPARC Web site
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