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A software package for the data-independent management of multidimensional data

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Abstract

The National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) provides access to data from and information about a plethora of scientific experiments from a variety of disciplines. To help fulfill this mission, NSSDC has developed a software package that supports a self-describing data structure. This structure, called the Common Data Format (CDF), provides true data independence for applications software that has been developed at NSSDC. Scientific software systems at NSSDC use this construct so that they do not need specific knowledge of the data with which they are working. This permits users of such systems to apply the same functions to different sets of data. This data-independent concept was first introduced at NASA in support of atmospheric and climatic research via the Pilot Climate Data System (PCDS), a scientific information system and analysis system developed at NSSDC [Treinish, 1984; Reph et al., 1986]. The users of such data-independent NSSDC systems as the PCDS rely on their own knowledge of different sets of data to interpret the results, a critical feature for the multidisciplinary studies inherent in the earth and space sciences. Such CDF-based software can use the information available through the CDF software package to inform a user about contents, history, and structure of the data that are supported in a given CDF.

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