Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

16-17 May 2005

Boulder, Colorado



UPC Staff

Melanie Wetzel (Chair)

John Caron
Steve Ackerman Ben Domenico
Philip Bogden

Joanne Graham

Steve Businger Jo Hansen
Paul Ruscher Linda Miller
Jim Koermer Don Murray

David Maidment

Russ Rew

Paul Ruscher


UCAR, UOP and Unidata Representatives

Agency Representatives

Mohan Ramamurthy, UOP/Unidata
Michael Goodman (NASA) Tim Spangler, UOP/COMET, Observer
Bernard Grant (NSF/ATM) Steve Worley, SCD, Observer

Clifford Jacobs (NSF/ATM)

Leroy Spayd (NOAA/NWS)

Not Attending

Sharon LeDuc (NOAA/NCDC) Michael Biggerstaff

Committee Representatives

Additional Staff Attending Day 2 Joint w/ Users Committee

Jim Steenburgh (Users Committee Chair)

Ethan Davis, Steve Emmerson, Jeff McWhirter, Jeff Weber,
  Anne Wilson, Tom Yoksas

Monday, 17 May 2005

Administrative Matters (Wetzel)

Director's Report (Ramamurthy)

In the months since the last meeting, UPC staff have been actively involved in planning and organizing sessions at the AGU, AMS, and, most recently, the EGU in Vienna, Austria. In all staff members authored 15 papers for the joint meetings. A DLESE Data Services workshop convened by Ben Domenico and collaborator Tamara Ledley provided an opportunity for curriculum developers, data providers, tool developers, scientists, and educators to interact with one another in a variety of sessions, all working toward the goal of facilitating the use of data in education.

The Users Committee awarded the DeSouza award to Mary des Jardins for contributions to the community through the development of the GEMPAK software. The award was presented at the AMS annual meeting. For a couple of years the UPC community group has been organizing a seminar series featuring presentations by both staff and outside community members on topics that inform and expand information for the community. At this time the seminars are nowcast and are available through a webcast archive.

Equipment awards have been made to 7 of the 24 institutions that responded to the RFP for a pot of $100K. Targets for the solicitations may be in order to help alleviate the disparity between proposals received to number funded and amounts given may be reduced.

The number of locations receiving data via LDM-IDD is increasing as are the data volumes. Fifty-nine hosts are receiving CONDUIT data. Latest releases of GEMPAK and LDM software have led to increased usage while McIDAS v.2004 release approaches the level of v. 2003. Collaborations with ESRI have led to availability of netDF data in ArcGIS 9.2 scheduled for release the summer.

IDV v 1.2b2 was released in March and includes a number of new features, one of which is support for WRF output. Developers participated in the RICO field project and are collaborating with the solid earth community.

Work on the common data model (CDM) progresses and work on a project to add OGC Web Services access to THREDDS datasets as a way to bridge between the GIS and geoscience communities is ongoing as well. The work on McIDAS-V will have an impact on Unidata (later discussion item). The LEAD team is preparing for an NSF site review in late July.

The NOAAport transition to DVB-S has been largely transparent.

There's been an increase in proposal activity. At this time the program center is considering a joint proposal to NSF’s Dynamic Data Drive Application Systems (DDDAS) solicitation in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin that will leverage and extend systems developed in LEAD and TeraGrid Flood Modeling Science Gateway projects.

The state of the program is good at present, though the longer term budget picture is less rosy as funding for THREDDS and netCDF-HDF merger projects are coming to a close. More information in the Budget Report below.


Action Item 1: A discussion of interoperability issues will be on the agenda at the fall meeting.

Budget Report (Graham)

For FY05, our total budget is expected to be $4.87 million with total expenses expected to be $4.71 million. NSF core funding makes up $3.39 million or about 70% of this budget.

In FY06, we begin to see projected expenses exceeding total budget with expenses of $4.43 million and a budget of $4.09 million. This gap between funding and expenses is projected to be approximately $350,000, requiring us to tap into our "reserves" if additional funding is not obtained. This additional non-NSF core funding made up 30% of our FY05 budget and could play a significant role in improving the budget situation in FY06 and beyond.

On the bright side, lower overhead and benefit rates for FY06 will result in savings to the program of approximately $145,000.


Following a discussion of the proposals that either have been submitted, are in preparation, or are under consideration for submittal the committee asked for the action stated below.

Action Item Two: The committee requests that a notice be sent to all policy committee members when any new
funding is acquired by the UPC.

Users Committee Report (Steenburgh)

Because the Users Committee (scheduled for April) was delayed due to a snowstorm that closed Denver International Airport, Jim had no new information to report since the October meeting.

Agency Reports

NASA (Goodman)

From NASA's perspective, Earth System Science engages in interdisciplinary research and global observations which develops observing capabilities through innovative technology and space-based observations while pioneering the use of remote sensing to improve weather, climate and natural hazards prediction.

Societal benefits target areas for the Integrated Earth Observation System are:

A coordinated interagency approach to the Integrated Earth Observation System has been undertaken. Fifteen agencies participate, and the effort is co-chaired by representatives from NASA, OSTP, and NOAA. Within in the IEOS effort data management is a clearly overarching near-term need. Other near-term opportunities identified thus far are those that are relevant to national priorities, agency missions, and customer needs.

The Earth Observing System Data and Information System, EOSDIS, manages data from NASA's Earth science research satellites and field measurement programs, providing data archiving, distribution, and information management services. The data reside in DAACs.

To assess its current status NASA Earth-Sun division contracted with University of Michigan's CFI-ACSI group its "customer satisfaction" evaluation. See the EOS Data and Information Systems 2004 Customer Satisfaction Questionnaire here, and the 2005 version here.This is the same group employed by the NWS as reported by NSF Rep, Leroy Spayd (see below).

NSF (Grant)

NSF's operating plan for fiscal 2005 should soon be in place following recent approval by the Congress. The UPC should have its budget target in the summer. For FY2006 NSF's budget request is $5.6B or an increase of 2.4 percent over FY05. Strengthening core disciplinary research and broadening participation in the science and engineering work force are two key priorities for the coming fiscal year. Providing broadly accessible cyberinfrastructure (and other world-class facilities) is an agency priority as well.

In FY04 the agency funded fewer proposals at lower levels. Major research equipment and facilities (ALMA, Earthscope, IceCube, SODV, RSVP) initiatives total $250M. The ITR initiative ends in 2006.

The review of NCAR requested in its existing cooperative agreement is set to begin midway through that agreement. The review will be at the institution rather than the division or program level, and its focus will be at the strategic level.

The next proposal to manage NCAR will be competed.


NWS (Spayd)

NWS's "customer satisfaction" rating of 74%, as rated by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is significantly above the Federal Government aggregate. The need for improved and cost-effective observations of Earth system (GEOSS) has been the motivation behind the formation of NOAA’s Integrated Observing System (IOS). NWS is a big player in the effort of get all of NOAA’s observing platforms speaking the same language and providing data we all can use to the fullest.NWS components of the NOAA IOOS and the GEOSS

Leroy discussed the NWS customer satisfaction survey. As it turns out, Michael Goodman indicated that NASA had the same Michigan group, CFI, University of Michigan, conduct a survey for them.

The community will be inundated with more observations in the future. This will include NOAA's Integrated Observing System. This includes surface observing, upper-air observing, ocean observing systems. Over 5,000 observations are included in ASOS and the COOP modernization alone. The NWS is responsible for integrating all observation systems and making the data available to the users. This includes the integrated ocean observing system (Buoys, C-MAN, DART, TAO).

Model output will continue to become available in higher resolution and include additional elements, i.e., air quality forecasts, climate
forecasts, north american ensemble forecasts and implementation of the WRF model.

The NWS is looking for new methods for improving data distribution. After just doubling NOAAPORT capacity, via the DVB-S, planning is underway to redouble the capacity.

Formats and digital services are among the priorities being addressed at NWS. QPF and QPE are also in the list of requirements. Data Portals are being created to handle the deluge of data distribution and access requirements.

Partnerships are becoming more and more important through the evolution of changes. Unidata will undoubtedly play an important role.

Metrics/Evaluation Strategy (Wetzel, Ramamurthy)

Policy Committee Initiative Report (Wetzel)

Using the directive from the 2008 Funding Proposal's review panel as a starting point, Melanie conducted preliminary discussions with Policy Committee members to initiate their involvement in the Unidata metrics process for the next funding proposal. The consensus of the discussions was that developing the metrics :

UPC Activity Report (Ramamurthy)

Mohan related the steps undertaken to initiate the metric on the UPC side.

Initial Discussion

Determining indications of excellence: this item generated considerable discussion. Some thought that differentiating between effectiveness and excellence may be a means for identifying excellent outcomes and programs. One suggestion was to develop a useful metric from a time series of the number of Google hits when searching for various Unidata technologies.

Funding the independent survey: will come from core funds in FY06.

Working Group

The UPC will select a group or an individual who will be the independent consultant(s)

Unidata's Evolving Collaboration with the Oceanographic and Coastal Waters Community (Introduction by Wetzel)

Overview of the Community (Bogden)

Philip warned the committee up front that the oceans community is an alphabet soup of agencies, and that proved an accurate warning.

Some of groups are:


Another peripherally related recent report on data management challenges from the DOE was mentioned as a caution that many of the problems with integrating large data systems are difficult and some of the solutions are not yet ready for deployment.


Overview and Description of Collaboration with the Astronomy Community (Businger)

A successful collaboration with the astronomy community was described by committee member Steven Businger, University of Hawaii.

The Mauna Kea Weather Center (MKWC) the Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) with custom forecasts to optimize astronomical observations. Intimated in 1998 the collaboration provides the observatories with twice-daily forecasts and nowcasts that in turn inform decisions in selecting and tuning astronomical instruments for successful observations. Forecast variables include cloud cover, fog,
and precipitation, summit winds and temperature, precipitable water, and cloud condensation nuclei and wind profiles.

At the outset the MKWC uses Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) to perform high-resolution analysis and forecasts of local weather conditions to determine optimal viewing. GPS derived precipitable water data obtained from the University of Hawaii Skynet, and Pacific Lightning Detection Network (PacNet) are used in the prediction process. Since 1999 the MKWC has used MM5 in the prediction process. CONDUIT data distributed by the IDD is used to initialize the model. Since October 2004 two parallel MM5 cycles run using LAPS analysis as initial conditions.

Operational and research goals at the MKWC compliment one another. Increasing accuracy in forecasts aids astronomers in meeting their research goals.

Tuesday, 17 May (Joint with Unidata Users Committee)

Introductions/Stage Setting (Mohan)

Mohan welcomed all committee members and attending staff to this historic meeting. He noted that a late-season snowstorm forced a change in the Users Committee meeting plans, and that discussion among staff and committee members confirmed that a joint half-day meeting would be desirable. Mohan believes that if the meeting proves to be successful, it could be a format we should consider repeating each spring.

Software and Support (Rew with input from Yoksas)

The presentation and discussion grew from an action item taken at the October 2004 Policy Committee meeting. Increased use of Unidata software, growth of the Unidata community, and new data streams have increased the need for support over the years. Providing excellent support is a core Unidata value, and this is why the UPC is exploring ways to maintain support at a high level.

Users experience support in several ways, most frequently in the form of e-mail exchanges with staff. Others are via topical e-mail lists, occasional drop in and telephone consultation and workshops. The latter is less preferable than e-mail forms, since they (e-mail) leave a paper trail which often prove useful to other community members with similar questions. Another form support takes is in making new data available. Support provides developers with benefits while at the same time competing with actual time spent on development.

From a largely internally-developed system supporting only a few users, Unidata support has grown to 30 queries a day or 140 a week, and indications are that the load will grow. All developers participate in the support effort. Proactive support in the form of training (and other) workshops is important.

Several solutions for improving the situation are under consideration. Two packages: eSupport (www.kayako.com) and Request Tracker (www.bestpractical.com/rt) are being evaluated by Unidata's Support Task Force. One of these packages will most likely be implemented.

V2 of the Unidata portal will feature a roll-out of eSupport, users will be alerted to the fact that it's an experiment and if proven successful additional features will be added: FAQs and knowledge bases from support archives.


SSEC: McIDAS Transition Plans (Ackerman and Whittaker)

Planning to transition the McIDAS package to a version--McIDAS-V-- that can easily visualize data from the next generation of weather satellite instruments is underway. At thirty-plus years of age the program, the originally written in Fortran 77 and C has limited extensibility possibilities, new visualization concepts cannot be incorporated, and, as noted, environmental satellite data cannot be used in the best way (GOES-R & NPOESS operational systems).

The plan is to enhance the functionality of the package while retaining its current capabilities, including user-developed code. To do so several options were considered, with the decision to build upon an innovative rapidly evolving system design to move existing functionality to an environment that would allow considerable future growth in both capacity and functionality, and the selected environment is Unidata's IDV. The IDV is based on SSEC's VisAD package and is designed to replace both McIDAS-X and GEMPAK in due course.

The IDV can integrate several kinds of data that are and will be crucial for McIDAS users and some of those are geo-referenced netCDF data, GIS-ESRI shapefiles, ADDE, among others. ADDE is the key data access tool for McIDAS -V, since the emphasis is on satellite data. OpenADDE is an open source version of the ADDE servers and includes required McIDAS-X routines (about 30% of the total code). Open ADDE is already being used to allow "smart subsecting" when reading local AREA (image) files in the IDV.

A four-phase approach to the transition has been initiated. (Phase One includes plans to run the heritage McIDAS within the McIDAS-V environment.) The entire transition will take 3-4 years. At this time, SSEC is seeking partners in proposals to fund this effort. One proposal has already been submitted, but since the overall amount required is probably ~$1.3M it is certain that more than one proposal will have to be submitted.


Resolution Discussion

A resolution to propose creating a new journal by either the AGU or the AMS, or both, was presented. Creating the resolution grew from discussion during the committee's first day concerning the need for a peer-reviewed journal whose focus would be on cyberinfrastructure. Existing journals have a cyberinfrastructure component, but little in this area appears in their contents. The resolution will be refined via e-mail and subsequently a vote of all members of both committees will be taken.

Resolution 1:

There has been a steady increase in interest in the application of information systems in earth and atmospheric sciences, as evidenced by the number of submissions to the AMS IIPS Conference and the formation within AGU of a Focus Group on "Informatics for Earth and Space Sciences". The National Science Foundation is making a substantial investment in cyberinfrastructure development across all the sciences, at a level of approximately $800 million per year in its current budget. Considerable intellectual innovation is occurring across traditional disciplinary boundaries and the field of informatics in the earth and atmospheric sciences has matured to the point where a new professional society journal is justified, as current AGU and AMS journals are focused on science advancement.

The Policy Committee recognizes the need for a new journal on earth and atmospheric science informatics and resolves to promote this idea through a letter addressed to AGU and AMS Presidents, asking the two societies to consider this as they develop their future publication plans.

Unidata Metrics/Evaluation

This discussion was a continuation of one begun during Monday's meeting while NSF representatives were present. Monday's discussion underscored the importance of focusing on NSF's three-point: People, Tools, and Ideas.

All agreed that defining Unidata's community is of primary concern. It is also critical that outside independent professionals have to guide the evaluation and structure any surveys.

Many metrics for Unidata include ill-defined and intangible elements, unconventional uses of Unidata software and tools. A term applicable to these sorts of uses might be "cross-pollination". Quantifying such efforts, while complex, would be well worth while.


Action items developed from this discussion are:

3. UPC will prepare a fleshed-out schedule detailing milestone dates for the assessment project which will be provided to committee members by the fall meeting, specifically something more detailed than "survey to be completed by 2007."

4. The UPC will select an independent, outside consultant to provide guidance in preparing a metric for the next funding proposal, after which a working group comprising UPC staff, Policy and Users Committee representatives will be appointed to provide input to the process.

Joint meeting

Melanie and Jim as committee chairs will make a decision about future joint meetings.

Jo Hansen