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What Scientists Want: Requirements Part 1

Posted in UC3

Just before the holidays, I managed to finish the first version of the DCXL requirements.  These requirements are the set of Excel capabilities that scientists would like to help them manage, share, and archive their data.  I created these requirements based on many conversations with scientists, librarians, and information specialists, and they reflect the communities that helped generate them.

I gave you a sneak peak into these requirements back in December, but over the next few blog posts I will be giving you more details about each of the specific capabilities we would like to see from Excel.  This is the first of those posts. Check ou the new Requirements page for more details about the requirements below.

Requirement 1: Ensure compatibility for Excel users without the add-in

We want the information that this add-in helps generate to be accessible regardless of the version of Excel you are using, and whether you are a Mac or Windows person.  This is Requirement #1 since we think it is very important that scientists be able to access and share the metadata and data they create/modify with the add-in.

Requirement 2: Check the data file for CSV compatibility

Many archives prefer that the data you submit be in a non-proprietary file format, and be readable by many different programs. Comma-separated values format is one of the most common non-proprietary file formats for tabular data.  We want the add-in to let you know what problems it encounters in your data file that might inhibit generation of a CSV file, and therefore data archiving.

We envision that this compatibility check will result in a report that the Excel user can consult for tips on how to improve the archiveability of their data. There will be best practices for data management, as well as specific information about why a particular element might be problematic and how best to modify the data file to improve its compatibility. For example, embedded figures in a spreadsheet might cause problems for export; the compatibility check would notify the user of the figure’s presence and suggest it be moved to a new tab or a different file.

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