Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

9-10 October 2003

Boulder, Colorado


Members UPC Staff
John Merrill (Chair) Ben Domenico
Steve Ackerman Joanne Graham
Michael Biggerstaff Jo Hansen
Arlene Laing Linda Miller
Melanie Wetzel Don Murray
  Mohan Ramamurthy
Agency Representatives Russ Rew
Bernard Grant (NSF/ATM) Tom Yoksas
Clifford Jacobs (NSF/ATM)  
Leroy Spayd (NOAA/NWS) UOP Representatives
Ben Watkins (NOAA/NCDC) Jack Fellows (UOP)
  Tim Spangler (UCAR/COMET)
NCAR Representatives  
Dave Carlson (NCAR/ATD)  
Steve Worley (NCAR/SCD) for Al Kellie Not Attending
Committee Representatives Agency Representative
Tom Whittaker (Users Committee) Martha Maiden (NASA)

Administrative Matters

The draft agenda was approved

May Summary Notes: approved after removal of sentence fragment on page 3, and deletion of Action Item 3.

Next Meeting Dates

Discussion and review of May meeting action items yielded the following:

In an announcement made later in day one of the meeting, Chair John Merrill, announced his appointment to the position of chair of UCAR's University Relations Committee. With that in mind, he will be ramping down his Policy Committee activity and by the time of the February 2004 meeting he will have a "Chair Designate" in place.

Status Reports

Director's Report (Ramamurthy)

Unidata has a new software developer, Ed Hartnett, who is working on the netCDF-4 project funded by the successful NASA-AIST proposal. In other staffing news: Sherri Corpuz resigned her position to take a position with the GLOBE program. The successful LEAD proposal will fund two new software engineers who will be hired in the near future.

The e-mail support burden continues to increase. Part of the increase can be attributed to the release of the IDV and LDM-6. The support load is manageable at this time, but there is concern that continued growth at this rate will be unsustainable.

Other points:

The overall health of the program is adjudged good with the exception of the increasing support load and funding for Case Studies.

Budget Report (Graham)

Unidata received 4.24M dollars in new funding in FY03 against expenditures of 4.5M dollars, which included 160K for Equipment Awards. In FY04 funding is expected to be around 4.5M dollars against anticipated expenditures of 4.7M dollars.

The Program Center has to trim 666K from its budget request for the first year of funding under the 2003-2008 proposal to NSF. There is some offset from new awards to compensate for the difference. Adjustments were made in several areas, principal among them deferred hire of an SEII for online training. Reducing travel funds and contract labor expenditures are two others. In addition, UWisc-Madison, SSEC, trimmed 25K from its contract for FY04.

Summary: For FY04 the UPC budget is in good health--mostly because of carryover from FY03; spending down reserves and funding for the out years are concerns.

Committee Report

Users Committee (Whittaker)

The report covered the 2-3 October 2003 Users Committee meeting in Boulder.

Following discussion of the Case Studies project, and reaching agreement on its importance, the Users Committee adopted the following resolution:

Resolution 1: The case study library has been an important resource for the Unidata community and the Users Committee encourages Unidata to explore options for its continuation.

In its discussion of the Unidata Equipment Awards the Users Committee discussed whether or not a "needs" based statement should be included in the RFP and the inclusion about applicant Universities covering ancillary costs. The UPC staff believes that the latter is implied in the existing RFP, but will make sure it is clear that need is considered when adherence to other criteria are met. The UPC does not ask for information to measure need, so care must be taken in determining need.

The summer Users Committee workshop questionnaire responses seemed to indicate that a clearer description of the workshop would have clarified the fact that this workshop was not designed to be a training workshop. In addition the committee agreed that a follow-up questionnaire should be distributed to workshop participants in attempt to ascertain whether or not workshop content has had or may have impact on participants' activity.

Additional items covered during the meeting included:

  1. WRF model's use of non-standard netCDF will be addressed through the LEAD proposal's implementation
  2. SSEC at the University of Wisconsin is actively exploring, the IDV for the next generation McIDAS release.
  3. Whether or not the UPC's internal seminars might be streamed to interested community members
  4. The UPC will consider disseminating NDFD via the IDD. This discussion resulted in an Action Item for the Committee: Action 9: The UPC will investigate the possibility of using the CONDUIT data stream for the NDFD data. Jim Steenburgh will solicit approval from the CONDUIT Planning Committee.
  5. Holding another Regional Workshop. (There has been just one in Unidata's history.) Rich Clark volunteered Millersville's new facilities as the site.
  6. The IDV steering committee's composition. Two or three more volunteers are needed to round out the group's membership.

Finally, a second resolution adopted by the committee states the following: Resolution 2: the Unidata Users Committee thanks NCAR/SCD for providing delayed model access to IDD data products, which we believe will enhance education and research at member institutions. We encourage SCD to expand the product availability, including access to higher resolution analyses and forecast products provided by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and raw (i.e., undecoded) METAR reports.

Agency Reports

NSF (Grant)

The presentation summarized the status of NSF proposal funding for FY03. The agency met, or was close to meeting, its goals of average award duration (3 years) and average award size (136K). GEO's budget request for FY03 to the Congress was slightly under the request for FY04. At the time of the report, there was a significant dofference between the House recommended funding for FY04 and that of the Senate .Whether or not that will be the case when the funding target is released, remains to be seen. However, the hope is that the funding level will accommodate the need for staff growth.

Challenges facing ATM in general and ULAFOS (UCAR and Lower Atmospheric Facilities Oversight Section) in particular are juggling a great many varied tasks and meshing them with the challenge posed indirectly by the National Academy of Sciences on how ATM can best accomplish its mission of stewardship of the atmospheric sciences into the future.

NOAA/NWS (Spayd)

The committee welcomed Leroy Spayd as the new National Weather Service representative.

NOAA has initiated a strategic planning process for the FY05 budget cycle. The process based on the DOD's Planning and Budgeting System (PPBS) is driven by a "customer service" emphasis. The priorities were in

  1. Integrated Global Environmental Observation and Data Management System
  2. Environmental Literacy, Outreach, and Extension
  3. Sound, Reliable State-of-the-Art Research
  4. International Cooperation and Collaboration
  5. Homeland Security
  6. Organizational Excellence: Facilities, Infrastructure, Security, Human Capital and Administrative Services

As part of the process, NWS contracted with a national quality research center to develop and conduct online surveys to gather feedback from specific stakeholders and partners. Results provided affirmation that current procedures are mostly including satisfactory to the customer base. But responses also indicated that the NWS needs to:

  1. Ensure future products can be used in decision assistance tools (e.g. GIS) and can be delivered to cell phone/ pager/wireless systems used by first responders
  2. Increase communication with various emergency managers and media to ensure product formats, headers, and dissemination processes are coordinated
  3. Conduct more customer outreach

NWS recently introduced the National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD). More information about it is included in a later agenda item.

NCDC (Watkins)

NCDC is in the same process, PPBS, as other NOAA groups are. Of the four NOAA missions: Ecosystems, Climate, Weather and Water, Commerce and transportation, NCDC encompasses the Climate mission, specifically to, “Understand climate variability and change to enhance society’s ability to plan and respond.”

The Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System (CLASS) is a distributed redundant archive which is designed preserve and exploit the full scientific value of NOAA’s environmental data, provide real-time data monitoring and authoritative long-term records - reprocessing, authoritative records to assess the current state of the environment, comprehensive metadata, data archaeology. The data are readily available using common, readily-available tools, e.g., DODS. The QC of the datasets is quite good.

The Climate Reference Network (CRN) is designed to provide future long-term homogeneous observations of temperature and precipitation that can be coupled to long-term historical observations for the detection and attribution of present and future climate studies.

On behalf of NCDC, Ben offered facilities in Asheville for a Users Committee Regional Workshop. There is a possible availability of a 50-seat workshop.

SCD (Steve Worley)

Steve Worley, attending the meeting as NCAR's Scientific Computing Division representative, presented SCD's plans to provide delayed mode access to IDD data products. Its premise is that the service will benefit LDM operators who have lost data, researchers needing data for a period when it is not readily available from real-time data, and other researchers.

Beginning approximately 1 November this year SCD will provide access to aged data (2-3 to 90 days old) through FTP and web pages. Data included are observational data products in netCDF format (Buoys, Metar Reports, and Synoptic Reports; Upper Air Reports; and hourly FSL Profiler data) In addition, model output currently output in NOAAPort is included. SCD will sound out users to determine if this service is useful to them and to get suggestions for possible changes in it.

CONDUIT (Miller, Chiswell)

A Cooperative Opportunity for NCEP Data Using IDD Technology (CONDUIT) workshop was held in May of this year. CONDUIT Working Group chair, Kelvin Droegemeir and Bob Gall (USWRP) have proposed the merging of the CONDUIT and CRAFT groups.The merged group will meet at the 2004 AMS annual meeting in Seattle. Anyone interested should plan to attend the meeting. Policy issues to be addressed include WMO Resolution 40's impact on distribution, the inclusion (or not) of the private sector in data distribution.

In its early days CONDUIT was limited by the T1 link's relatively low capacity. That problem was eliminated by the NWS's upgrade to Internet 2. With the NWS's upgrade from LDM5 to LDM6 latencies are greatly reduced.

Expanding Horizons Workshop Report (Staff)

The workshop brought together two communities, GIS and atmospheric science. Workshop attendance numbers for the workshop were relatively low. One reason for that could have been the budget crunch facing many universities. Another possible explanation is that GIS is limited in appeal for the traditional Unidata community. A perceived lack of focus for the workshop is a third possibility. Finally, most faculty have very limited time, and they need to be convinced that a workshop--any workshop--is going to be useful to them in teaching and research or that it is going to be fun, or some combination of the two. Prior to the follow up survey, a list of activities already underway in reaction to the workshop would be useful, e.g., GIS email list, Jeff Weber and Yuan Ho's efforts on reformatting Grib gridded products into GeoTiffs

The workshop exit questionnaire indicated that GIS participants thought there was too much meteorology in the workshop content while meteorology (Unidata's traditional community) users thought there was too much GIS. It is clear that tension exists between the two groups and that integrating them presents problems. Among them is that the time and vertical dimensions that are critical in geoscience research are unimportant and uninteresting to the GIS community. Transferring geoscience data into the GIS format renders them uninteresting to the geoscience community.

What is clear is that merging the communities is a nontrivial problem that the UPC cannot solve alone. However, there are indications that the GIS community is trying to address the problems. It's clear also that at least one community of GIS users, hydrology, is addressing the problems.

National Digital Forecast Database (Miller, Spayd)

The National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD), is a relatively new NWS database initiative that contains NWS forecast grids of sensible weather elements (e.g., cloud cover, maximum temperature) and some national graphics. It will contain more data than the NWS has been able to provide heretofore.

There has been discussion about the possibility of the data stream being disseminated via CONDUIT.

In its meeting the week prior to the Policy Committee meeting, the Unidata Users Committee adopted the following action item: The UPC will investigate the possibility of using the CONDUIT data stream for the NDFD data. Jim Steenburgh will solicit approval from the CONDUIT Planning Committee.


Progress on Unidata Proposals (other than LEAD and five-year funding 2008)

LEAD Proposal (Ramamurthy)

LEAD (Linked Environments for Atmospheric Discovery) is a large ITR-funded proposal whose goal is improving prediction of high-impact mesoscale weather events using mesoscale models for end-to-end prediction. Unidata's first step under proposal funding will be to set up a personal access grid node. Two FTEs will be added to the UPC staff to support the LEAD effort: One an SEII will provide support to the LEAD Grid and Web Services Testbeds, and the second, an SEIII will assist LEAD researchers in the use of appropriate existing network infrastructure for scientific data servers in LEAD. (There is funding for 2.5 FTEs but we are adding two staff.)

UPC Staff Retreat and Outcomes (Ramamurthy)

Held in September, the retreat gave staff the opportunity to participate in activities and discussions that were organized to create strategies for dealing with the recent changes within the UPC, including a non-technical discussion of ways to implement the goals and objectives in Unidata 2008. A related item is to review the current organizational structure within the UPC and assess if changes are needed. Also important to the two-day retreat were discussions and activities constructed to improve team work and communication. The staff divided into five discussion groups defined as Community, Organization, Tools, Data, and Support, Vision, and Worklife. In the coming weeks Unidata staff will be working collectively to determine which suggestions and ideas will be implemented.

Friday 10 October

WSR-88D Level II Data Distribution (Miller)

Some background for the discussion was provided:

  1. The National Weather Service announced at the 2003 AMS Annual meeting that it would begin using the LDM to disseminate the WSR-88D Level II data
  2. In a Level II Data Distribution meeting in Silver Spring, the NWS officials made a suggestion that perhaps UCAR and the UPC can consider providing the data to the private sector.
  3. Providing weather data to the private sector was a suggestion made in the Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services
    (2003) publication. This report, requested by NOAA, was produced by a blue-ribbon panel meeting under the guidance of the National Academy of
  4. The private sector does not have direct access to Internet2/Abilene for data distribution
  5. The private sector's requirement for data delivery is <10-second latency and 24x7 support
  6. Miller and Ramamurthy presented a white paper on this matter, which drew the conclusion that a direct assumption of this responsibility by Unidata would fundamentally alter its mission and character. The paper, reviewed by Cliff Jacobs/NSF, stated further that additional discussion needed to take place among the following: UCAR President, the cognizant NSF officials and the Unidata Policy Committee and management.(This was stated explicitly in the last sentence before Concluding Remarks.)


The UPC cannot be in the position of solving industry's problems, however, there is a possibility that Peak Weather, UCAR's technology transfer organization, may be able to provide guidance and support.

Other policy issues and questions are:

CAPS or a non-profit organization will continue to provide the data to the
private sector following CRAFT's sunset.
Is formation of a consortium of private users a possible solution?
Should there be a collaborative effort leading to commercialization and would it be possible to structure this so that UCAR realizes some benefit?Should the UPC put itself in the role of "honest broker" for the data?
How would providing the data to the private sector impact Unidata's support burden?

In other discussion there was a suggestion that the CONDUIT meeting planned for the next AMS Annual Meeting would provide a convenient setting for bringing the principals together for further discussion.

Action Item 3: Ben will contact Jeff Reaves to discuss the private sector's needs for access to real-time weather data and invite him of a representative of Peak Weather to the February Policy Committee meeting to discuss how Peak Weather could work with the UPC on the Level II/CONDUIT issue.

The Policy Committee requested that it be apprised as discussions on the issue occur and proceed.

Equipment Awards: Analysis and Adjustments (Graham, Ramamurthy)

Equipment Awards recipients have been announced. A clear statement about the focus for proposals and the follow up newsletter article requirement is needed in future RFPs. Discussion centered on whether or not a needs-based criterion should be expressed more clearly in the RFP. To help ensure that future proposals are written more clearly, the UPC will: 1. Post samples of excellent award proposals; 2. This will be done after first obtaining the permission of the PI(s) for the samples, and, if possible, removing references that would reveal the identity of the submitting organization. Unidata's position on funding applicants from the international community is doable and that these applicants will be considered at an equal level. Achievement of a 30% new applicant level for the funds is a goal.

MeteoForum and Unidata Participation Policy (Graham, Yoksas) (2)

Unidata will remain open to funding international sites through the Equipment Awards program (above) if they are of equal value as those submitted by American universities and if they return value to the community. At this time, it is clear that Unidata at present is a global program, and this dates from a 1996 Policy Committee Resolution which extended Unidata's participation area to WMO's Region IV countries. In addition, GEO supports international collaborations and partnerships through its international group. This support is "in kind". Thus Unidata's outreach seen in this context is a natural. This year Unidata began delivering near real time data to Latin America.

Wrap Up

The search for a chair designate will be undertaken and completed before the next meeting. Strong consideration to reducing the number of meetings will be discussed in planning for FY05..

The meeting adjourned promptly at noon.

Send comments or suggestions to Jo Hansen Program Center Liaison to the Policy Committee.