Originally funded with the help of the Sloan Foundation in 1992, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey was the first major telescopic survey to publish its data under open principles. Every single image ever collected by the Survey's 2.5 meter optical telescope is available for download by astronomers, astrophysicists and other researchers. The sheer size of the data collected, however, presented its own problems. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey corpus was simply too large for every researcher to download a full copy. In response, Johns Hopkins astronomer Alex Szalay and others developed a data infrastructure that allowed astronomers to selectively query the SDSS database, extracting only those slices that were of interest to them, and which logged every database query for later documentation. To increase the usefulness of SDSS data, Szalay also built a system that allowed astronomers to upload their own datasets which could then be easily linked with the SDSS data "in the cloud" for individual analyses and for sharing with small groups of colleagues or the broader public.
Funds from this grant supports efforts by Szalay to improve and expand the SDSS data infrastructure in a number of key dimensions, revamping the data uploading process to make it more user-friendly, enabling the server to extrapolate meta-data as a way to reduce time-intensive data entry, and customizing the database in ways that would make it friendlier to researchers working in other data-intensive fields, like genomics or climatology.