Algorithm Publication Tool


Enabling reproducible open science through the standardization and modernization of NASA’s Algorithm Theoretical Basis Documents

The Algorithm Publication Tool (APT) project delivers the following benefits:

Establish and implement a standardized Algorithm Theoretical Basis Documents (ATBD) governance process

While ATBDs are critical for scientific reproducibility and for understanding data, the initiation, review, revision and publication procedures for ATBDs vary widely. The APT team worked with stakeholders to define a common set of roles and responsibilities for all parties involved in the ATBD authoring and approval process. In addition, the APT supports a common series of steps involved in the ATBD writing process.

Facilitate a standardized ATBD process by developing an end-to-end publication tool

The APT has been designed to standardize the ATBD authoring process and to also ease the writing process for ATBD authors. The APT is built on a standardized ATBD template where content is stored as metadata. For authors, the APT provides an intuitive user interface that easily supports the creation of rich content such as scientific equations, figures and tables. The APT uses LaTeX, an open source typesetting service, to support these typesetting and display needs. A simplified, built-in user interface is utilized for stylizing text, inserting figures and uploading BibTeX citation files. Once a draft is finished, ATBDs can be previewed as either a PDF or as an on-demand HTML web page.

Provide a centralized open discovery portal for ATBDs

A primary goal of the APT is to provide a free and open discovery portal to ensure all ATBDs are discoverable and accessible to users. The detailed scientific and technical content of ATBDs provide essential information needed to appropriately understand and use the associated data. However, finding these documents is often difficult due to a lack of a centralized ATBD discovery portal. The APT alleviates these discovery issues by providing a portal for all ATBDs published using the APT. High-quality supporting metadata, populated during the publication phase, will allow users to easily search for documents and the content within so that the most relevant information is readily discoverable. Additionally, the implementation of markup will make ATBD content more widely searchable via more traditional search engines.


Prototype completion

A prototype version of the APT was developed in 2019 and focused on developing a high quality, easy to use authoring tool. The tool supports the unique needs of scientific writing and also generates rich PDF and HTML versions of the final document. The APT is now in a second phase of development. The second phase focuses on enhancing existing authoring capabilities, establishing a centralized discovery portal for ATBDs and implementing mark ups for each ATBD.

Recent Presentations or Publications


Kaulfus, A., Bugbee, K., Harris, A., Ramachandran, R., Harkins, S., Barciauskas, A. and D. Smith. (2020). 10435: Ensuring Scientific Reproducibility within the Earth Observation Community: Standardized Algorithm Documentation for Improved Scientific Data Understanding. EGU Sharing Geoscience Online. Vienna, Austria.

Kaulfus, A., Bugbee, K., Harris, A., Ramachandran, R., Harkins, S., Bailey, S. and A. Barciauskas. (2019). IN23A-07: Standardizing Algorithm Documentation for Improved Scientific Communication and Data Understanding. AGU Fall Meeting. San Francisco, California.

Kaulfus, A., Bugbee, K., Harris, A., Bailey, S., Ramachandran, R., Harkins, S., and A. Barciauskas. (2020). J63.4: Improving Algorithm Communication and Data Cognizance through Standardizing Documentation. AMS Annual Meeting Fall Meeting. Boston, Massachusetts.

The APT team brings together scientists, informatics specialists and data scientists in order to address the unique needs of this project. Earth and atmospheric scientists with expertise in data stewardship, metadata standards and information research have standardized the ATBD content and have informed the design of the user interface. Data scientists with expertise in database design, cloud architecture solutions and user interface solutions have driven the design of the APT system.