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The VLBI Data Interchange Format (VDIF): 13 Years On

A project looking at adoption rate, usage and common issues regarding the VDIF data format, as made available at vlbi.org/vlbi-standards/vdif/.

Investigators: Mars Buttfield-Addison1, 2 Dr James Montgomery1

1 School of Information and Communication Technology, University of Tasmania, Australia
2 Data61, CSIRO, Australia

Contact: m.buttfield-addison@utas.edu.au

📸 ATCA (CSIRO/ATNF, credit: www.atnf.csiro.au)

Research Justification and Purpose

Now 13 years since the release of VDIF, it is a great time to examine how different institutions produce and analyse VDIF data, what issues they have had, and where cross-institutional compatibility issues remain.

This project is for you. If you are responding to this survey, that means you work with VDIF data or with VLBI telescopes, and it is in your interest for a universal standard to be consistently adopted throughout the VLBI community. That means understanding:

Taking part in this study will result in a report on common issues, diagnostic methods, and recommended solutions that all VDIF users can make use of. It may allow us to improve the VDIF user experience—by identifying where processes are needed to support institutional adoption or use of VDIF, or developing tools to address common issues—and it will also inform the development of upcoming standards in the domain, like CODIF.

Participant Information

Participation in this study is entirely voluntary; there is no obligation to take part in this study.

If you do decide to take part, your participation will require completion of a survey that has two parts: a questionnaire and a data upload. Together, these should take less than 15 minutes to complete.

The questionnaire component will ask you a series of simple questions that will require you to either select among a set of options, or provide a brief written response. Questions should be done in order, as your responses to earlier questions may make different questions appear. The minimum number of questions you may be asked is 8 and the maximum number is 17.

The data upload component will the ask you to provide a sample or samples of VDIF data produced by your institution. Ideally, this will include files from different sensors or networks the institution operates, and you may choose to include samples from both before and after any recent or significant system changes.

Both parts of the survey can be completed as a web-based form on the following page. If this does not suit your needs, you can contact the project team to request additional accomodations such as a spoken questionnaire, or a postal data transfer with encrypted drives.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible to take part in this survey, you must represent an institution that either:

By taking part in this survey, you are agreeing that you—as an individual, representing a specific organisation:

  1. work for, or otherwise represent in some official capacity, the institution you are submitting a response for.
  2. have the necessary permission or authority to share the information you provide about your institution in response to this survey.
  3. have the necessary permission or authority to share the data you upload in response to this survey.
  4. have the necessary familiarity and expertise to confidently provide information about your institution's infrastructure and practices, and assert that information is true and correct.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Your Institution: The questionnaire will ask you whether you consent to your institution being publicly listed as having participated in this study, which will allow resulting publications to demonstrate what proportion of the global VLBI community is represented by the findings. If you consent, the name of your institution will be listed, alongside a list of the named VLBI networks your insitution forms part of (relevant for e.g., independent observatories that also act as part of the EVN).

If you do not consent, your responses will still be used in the study, but your institution will be left off the list.

Findings Resulting From Your Participation: Any information or data you provide to this study will be reported on only in aggregate. Findings will be contextualised by proportions of respondents that demonstrated identified patterns, rather than individually linked to specific institutions.

You: As the individual representing your organisation, you will be kept entirely anonymous in research outputs. Email addresses collected during the study will be kept securely during data collection in case data upload fails and follow-up is needed, and later used to report on findings to participants who indicated they wished to receive updates. But they will not be used to identify an individual, or play any part in the analysis of study data.

Consent Agreement

I hereby consent to participate as a subject in the above research study. The research program in which I am being asked to participate has been explained fully to me, in writing, and any matters on which I have sought information have been answered to my satisfaction. I understand that:

  1. All information I provide will be treated with the strictest confidence and data will be stored separately from any listing that includes my identifiable email address.
  2. Aggregated results will be used for research purposes and may be reported in scientific and academic journals.
  3. I am free to leave the survey webpage at any time before submission and my responses will not be recorded.
  4. After submission, I can withdraw from the study by emailing the relevant project team member at m.buttfield-addison@utas.edu.au. In this event, my participation in the research study will immediately cease and information/data obtained from it will not be used.
  5. I understand the exception to this is if I withdraw after the closing date. Once the information is aggregated—and therefore my contributions are no longer able to be individually identified—it is not possible to withdraw my information/data, although I may still withdraw my consent to participate and record of the insitution's participation will be removed.

Closing date: 1st February 2023

Agree and proceed to survey...

Further Information

Benefits of Participation

This study will identify common causes of issues that real-world institutions have with adherence to the VDIF format specification, and recommend concrete ways to diagnose and address these issues. The outputs will provide insight for VLBI operators into motivations for the VDIF format design, and things to look out for in the tools they use to work with VDIF data.

Data Management and Retention

This survey is hosted on AirTable. The AirTable Privacy Policy is available at airtable.com/privacy/.

For more information read the Data Management Plan for this study, available at themartianlife.com/vlbi-survey/data-management-plan.pdf.

Ethics Approval

This study has been approved by the University of Tasmania Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) with the code H0027531.

Concerns or Complaints

If you have concerns or complaints about the conduct of this study, you can contact the Executive Officer of the HREC on +61 3 6226 6254 or email human.ethics@utas.edu.au. The Executive Officer is the person nominated to receive complaints from research participants. You will need to quote the approval code H0027531.