Automated data reduction workflows for astronomy
The ESO Reflex environment
European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 2, 85748
Accepted: 14 October 2013
Context. Data from complex modern astronomical instruments often consist of a large number of different science and calibration files, and their reduction requires a variety of software tools. The execution chain of the tools represents a complex workflow that needs to be tuned and supervised, often by individual researchers that are not necessarily experts for any specific instrument.
Aims. The efficiency of data reduction can be improved by using automatic workflows to organise data and execute a sequence of data reduction steps. To realize such efficiency gains, we designed a system that allows intuitive representation, execution and modification of the data reduction workflow, and has facilities for inspection and interaction with the data.
Methods. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has developed Reflex, an environment to automate data reduction workflows. Reflex is implemented as a package of customized components for the Kepler workflow engine. Kepler provides the graphical user interface to create an executable flowchart-like representation of the data reduction process. Key features of Reflex are a rule-based data organiser, infrastructure to re-use results, thorough book-keeping, data progeny tracking, interactive user interfaces, and a novel concept to exploit information created during data organisation for the workflow execution.
Results. Automated workflows can greatly increase the efficiency of astronomical data reduction. In Reflex, workflows can be run non-interactively as a first step. Subsequent optimization can then be carried out while transparently re-using all unchanged intermediate products. We found that such workflows enable the reduction of complex data by non-expert users and minimizes mistakes due to book-keeping errors.
Conclusions. Reflex includes novel concepts to increase the efficiency of astronomical data processing. While Reflex is a specific implementation of astronomical scientific workflows within the Kepler workflow engine, the overall design choices and methods can also be applied to other environments for running automated science workflows.
Key words: methods: data analysis / astronomical databases: miscellaneous / techniques: miscellaneous / virtual observatory tools
© ESO, 2013