Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

25-26 October 2004

Arlington, Virginia (NSF Headquarters)



Committee Representatives

Melanie Wetzel (Chair)

Jim Steenburgh (Users Committee Chair)

Steve Ackerman  
Michael Biggerstaff

UPC Staff

Philip Bogden Ben Domenico
Jim Koermer

Joanne Graham

David Maidment

Jo Hansen

John Merrill

Linda Miller
  Russ Rew (Monday only)

Agency Representatives

Martha Maiden (NASA) (for Michael Goodman)

UCAR, UOP and Unidata Representatives

Bernard Grant (NSF/ATM) Mohan Ramamurthy, UOP/Unidata

Clifford Jacobs (NSF/ATM)

Tim Spangler, UOP/COMET, Observer

Leroy Spayd (NOAA/NWS)


Not Attending

Additional Guests (attending for all or part of Tuesday session)

Steve Worley, SCD, Observer

Gary Carter (NOAA/NWS) David Carlson, NCAR, Observer
Rick Hooper (CUAHSI) Arlene Laing, NCAR, outgoing committee member
Jack Hess (GSA) Paul Ruscher, Committee member
Douglas James (NSF/GEO/EAR) Steve Businger, Committee member
Matthew Larsen (USGS) Michael Goodman, NASA Representative
Pam Stephens (NSF/GEO/ATM)  
Thomas Torgersen (NSF/GEO/EAR)  

Monday, 25 October 2004

Administrative Matters

New members Steve Businger [University of Hawaii], Jim Koermer [Plymouth State University], and Paul Ruscher [Florida State University] were acknowledged and Jim Koermer was introduced to committee members.

Retiring members John Merrill (Chair) and Arlene Laing were thanked for their contributions to the committee.

A correction to the May summary notes (page 4, CUAHSI section) was requested, specifically the third point to be changed to "It is difficult to combine GIS data with model data." Following that change the notes were approved.

Action Item 1: The committee recommends that the UPC include copies of a recent monthly newsletter in the Unidata booth at both the AGU and AMS meetings.

Director's Report (Ramamurthy)

Unidata Users Committee members who are rotating off the committee are Michael Morgan (University of Wisconsin) and Mark Laufersweiler (University of Oklahoma) who took the lead in organizing the 2003 summer workshop. Rotating off the Policy Committee (as noted above) are John Merrill, former chair, and Arlene Laing.

New Policy Committee members are Steve Businger (University of Hawaii), Jim Koermer (Plymouth State University), and Paul Ruscher (Florida State University). New Users Committee members are: Gary Lackman (North Carolina State University) and Kevin Knupp (University of Alabama-Huntsville).

Since the last Policy Committee meeting Unidata has:

In software development and support, there have been new releases of GEMPAK, McIDAS, netCDF, and the IDV. The support load continues to increase.

The next release of netCDF will include improved large file support, ease of installation, and Windows compatibility.

Unidata (Ramamurthy) is a Co-PI on a new hydrology proposal. The lead PI is User Committee Anton Kruger's colleague at the University of Iowa, Witold F. Krajewski.

Staff changes include the addition of Brian Kelly (Sys Admin) and Jennifer Oxelson (Web Developer).

In short, the state of the program is mostly good, but cautionary areas include software development, staffing, and finances for fiscal 05.

Use of the a Request Tracker software is being explored in the UPC.


Action Item 3: The UPC will hold an orientation session for new members prior to or following the May meeting.

Action Item 4: The May meeting will include an agenda item and discussion of tools and software support.

Users Committee Report (Steenburgh)

Reporting on the October meeting of the Users Committee Jim noted that the 2004 DeSouza award winner selection has been finalized. The award will be presented at the AMS Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Two committee members agreed to serve on the IDV Task Force: Gary Lackman and Mark Laufersweiler. The Users Committee community survey and how it will feed the evaluation and metrics activity ongoing at the UPC were discussed.

Melanie agreed to serve as an alternate Policy Committee Representative to the Users Committee when Steve Ackerman is unable to be present.

Agency Reports

NASA (Martha Maiden for Michael Goodman)

The president's "Exploration Vision" for NASA includes a manned return to the moon by 2020, robotic exploration by 2008, and possible human missions as early as 2015 and later sending human missions deeper into space.

In a restructuring of NASA headquarters, Earth and Space Science were merged into a Science Directorate, one of four directorates. (The others are Exploration, Space Operations, and Aeronautics.) A part of NASA mission's has been understanding and protecting the planet, so the inclusion of Earth in the mission statement "From the Earth to the Moon, to Mars and beyond" indicates a continuing commitment to Earth study within the agency. Even though the vision and mission reflect the Earth component of the agency the Earth Observing System (EOS) is relatively small. To achieve the goal of reaching the Moon and Mars, means budget shrinkage in other parts of the agency.

NASA continues to launch instruments: at this time there are more than 80 instruments in space, the latest being the Aura which was launched in July 2004. A NASA goal is to transition satellite operation to other groups. USGS and NOAA are possible candidates. Data assimilation activity would be through NCEP.

The Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment's (GRACE) goal is to measure the Earth's shifting water masses and map their effects on Earth's gravity field.

NSF (Cliff Jacobs)

Organizational changes at NSF: Arden Bement has been nominated as director of the agency, but has not yet been confirmed by the senate and probably will not be until the senate reconvenes in January. In ATM, Bernard Grant will be leaving for a four-month tour of duty with CISE (the Directorate for Computer and Information Science Engineering). ATM is actively searching for a temporary replaciement for the position that Bernard is vacating.

An ATM/Lower Atmosphere research reorganization is now complete. It consolidates Climate Dynamics and Large-scale Dynamic Meteorology into a Climate and Large-Scale Dynamics group. Mesoscale Dynamic Meteorology and Physical Meteorology were merged into Physical and Dynamic Meteorology.

Current nominees to the National Science Board include, among others, Kelvin Droegemeir UCAR Board Chair.

NSF was operating on a "continuing resolution" at the time of the report, but level budgets are expected for the agency. Budgets are tight because of war-related pressure and deficit.

A study has been begun by the National Academies Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC) the issue on "how ATM can best accomplish its mission of supportting the atmospheric sciences into the future." Specific items to be addressed are: effective activities and modes of support, the balance among types of activities and balance among modes of support, gains in activities and new mechnisms, interdisciplinary activities (foundation, interagency, and international), broadest participation and involvement.

A review of ATM for the past 30 years shows that the percentage of the budget going to fund NCAR has decreased from a high of 27% in 1974 to 17% of the budget in 2004, but the percentage has not changed since 1994. A breakdown of ATM research grants shows 800 submitted proposal, 300 awards, with an average annual value of around $128,000 and a 3-year duration.

NWS (Leroy Spayd)

Teamwork is evident throughout the agency. Partnerships and teamwork have built STORMReady a network of 751 communities in 47 states which was created a by Congressional Mandate to protect life and property. It is a public/private partnership.Rather than basing the warnings on a county by county basis, STORMReady creates warnings on a polygon basis which eliminates a "false alarm" area that is created when forecasting is done on a county by county basis.

The National Research Council's FairWeather report recommended a congressional mandate to protect life and property, public/private partnership process, data and products in standardized format, new/discontinue products, and communication of uncertainty.

NWS has developed a seamless suite of products for communicating severe weather threats that include hurricane, hydrologic, urban flooding, and temperature prediction. The National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD) allows meteorologists to focus on meteorology. Its anticipated development period is 2003-2005. After 2005, NWS will be working toward a complete, seamless 4-D digital database of observations, analyses, forecasts, uncertainty information, and outlooks, watches, and warnings.

NDFD will be operational on December 1 for maximum and minimum temps, and probabilitiy of precipitation.The temperature, dewpoint, and weather grids will be conditionally ready for operational status, while snow amount, sky cover, waveheights, and wind direction and speed will not be ready.

With the first three grid elements available soon, NWS is working on improving methodology, developing better QA smart tools, and sharing best practices, with monthly trends showing gradual improvement.

DVB-S Ingest Software and Licensing Issues (Ramamurthy)

A DVB-S ingester software developed by Unidata staff has caught the attention of a private company. Although the software is neither supported nor made widely available by Unidata, the company feels that Unidata's making it available to the wider community is unfair and competes directly with software they sell.


The following resolution was proposed on the second day of the meeting. Discussion of it continued after the meeting's close, and a vote taken via e-mail. It passed unanimously.

Resolution 1

The Policy Committee recognizes Unidata's obligation to make available the results of its software development and system solutions not only to the academic community, but also to the wider community, including government and commercial institutions. The Policy Committee recommends that the Unidata Program Center continue to make its software freely and openly available (to the extent that this does not impact Unidata's mission to support academic institutions and with appropriate indemnification from liability) to realize the benefits of open source development on behalf of the Unidata Community.

Unidata 2008 Review and Related Activities and Priorities

Budget Report

In the budget overview Joanne Graham predicted that given current staffing levels and priorities we can remain in the black through FY06 by spending down all of our reserves. The good news is that this pushes the budget problem back further by more than six months from what was originally anticipated which gives the UPC additional time to look for alternate/additional sources of funding.

It is important that any funding Unidata brings in leverage existing resources and priorities.


Overview, Progress, and Goals

Work proposed in Unidata's 2008 5-year funding proposal was ambitious. Since we are now about a third of a way into the period of performance, and in view of NSF's funding outlook, Unidata re-evaluated its priorities. (NSF requested the activity.) The core funding budget position has been improved by successful proposals for THREDDS2G, LEAD, NetCDF-HDF merger, DLESE Data Services, OPeNDAP integration and support, and Hydrology ITR (with University of Iowa). The budget planning exercise reviewed below goes out to FY 2006 only, because core funding outlooks are in question after that

Six endeavors proposed in the 2008 proposal document are repeated below::

Endeavor 1. Responding to a broader and more diverse community.
Endeavor 2. Comprehensive support services
Endeavor 3. Real-time, self-managing data flows
Endeavor 4. Software to analyze and visualize geoscientific data
Endeavor 5. Distributed, organized collections of digital material
Endeavor 6. Improved data access infrastructure

Some notable steps during the first third of the proposal period include:

Unidata has undertaken a refinement of the "priorities" table presented in the 2008 proposal. While there are no significant changes in direction, there is a refinement of planned activities.

Funding for two proposals, THREDDS and the netCDF-HDF-5 merger, runs out in 2005. These two activities will be folded into core funds.

Activities that have been deferred are online training modules, bringing in a discipline-focused visitor, and hiring an additional administrative assistant. Future NLDM development is being assessed, while case studies and GIS integration are progressing more slowly than anticipated, and the data czar position has been back-delayed.

NLDM development is an area where a pullback has been contemplated. Development could be halted or continued, its advantages could be integrated into LDM, the community could be given access to it for experimentation and evaluation.

Areas where additional funds might be sought to keep funding up after 2006 are, NSF/CISE, a leveraging of Java netCDF innovations, a standards proposal for netCDF interfaces and format, and seeking outside funding for MeteoForum.


Action Item 5: The committee recommends that the Users Committee examine and discuss the Table of Priorities and address prioritization of the items it contains at its next meeting.

Evaluation and Metrics Discussion

All UCAR entities are developing evaulation metrics, for example, UCAR's SOARS program is in a two-year review of its program.

Unidata's core funding proposal to 2008 stated strongly that Unidata should have a comprehensive metric to support the next proposal. These are two of the reasons that Unidata is undertaking to develop an evaluation and metric method. Although the Users Committee periodically conducts community surveys and that each Users Committee member canvases several community members before each of its meetings, Unidata needs a more substantive metric developed for use in the next core funding proposal. Committee members agreed that the metric's value was only as great as its structure and objectivity.

The Review panel for the 2008 proposal wanted a quantitative response to how Unidata's activity impacts research and education.

A Users Committee resolution stated its position that the two committees should collaborate on this effort:

The Users Committee supports the recommendation of the Unidata 2008 review panel that the Policy Committee, in collaboration with the Users Committee, develop an evaluation strategy for the Unidata Program and solicit the assistance of an independent external group in this effort.

Although no definitive decisions regarding the metric were made the committee took the following action for itself:

Action Item 6: The Policy Commitee will work with the Program Center and the Users Commitee to develop a metric measurement method.

Day Two

Unidata's Evolving Collaboration with the Hydrology Community

To provide a wider framework for Unidata's ongoing dialogue with the hydrology community, three members of that community provided insight into their respective programs.

USGS (Matthew C. Larsen, Acting Chief Scientist for Hydrology; mclarsen@usgs.gov)

The USGS Water Resources Discipline mission statement:

"The U.S. Geological Survey has the principal responsibility within the Federal Government to provide the hydrologic information and understanding needed by others to achieve the best use and management of the Nation's water resources. ..."

The USGS Water Resources Discipline (WRD) has two principal functions: hydrologic investigations (research) and hydrologic data collection.

WRD collects and distributes hydrologic data and information in three broad areas: surface water, ground water and water quality. Most surface water data are collected and reported in real time via satellite telemetry and distributed via the internet (water.usgs.gov)

WRD cooperates with numerous other state and Federal agencies to share the cost of data collection and hydrologic research.

About 40% of all USGS staff work in WRD and are distributed in District office in the 50 states and US territories, plus three National Research Program centers in Reston, VA, Denver, CO, and Menlo Park, CA. About 7100 streamflow stations comprise a national network; these are funded cooperatively by the USGS and a combination of federal, state and local government agencies. This cooperative funding program for hydrologic data collection has advantages because of the leveraging of funds; disadvantages stem from changes in local priorities which sometimes result in the discontinuation of streamflow measurement stations with many years of record.

The USGS matches funding up to 50% of that provided by state and local government agencies; on average, these outside funding sources contribute about two-thirds of the cost of cooperatively funded USGS hydrologic data collection and hydrologic studies.

Streamflow gages measure stage (water depth) but data are reported as both stage and discharge because each station has an established mathematical relation that converts stage measurement to discharge.

USGS streamflow stations cost about $12K/year to operate which includes (among other costs) maintenance, calibration, and technicians to QA/QC the data and assure that they are archived, reported on the web, and published in annual data summaries which serve as a permanent record available to the public.

The results of USGS hydrologic investigations are published in government reports and in the scientific literature, and number about 800 to 1,000 per year (see http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/).

The streamflow gaging network has been improved in recent years by conversion of most stations to real time satellite telemetry. Future plans include the distribution of streamflow data collected in 15-minute increments, an increase in the number of ground-water and water-quality stations reporting via the web in real time.


NWS (Gary Carter, NWS Hydrologic Development Head)

NWS hydrology uses for prediction the data collected by the USGS.

The national river forecast system consists of a calibration system, an ensemble streamflow prediction system, and an operational forecast system which make up the Interactive Forecast Program.

The Office of Hydrologic Development (OHD) develops new producs and forecast assessment tools, conducts software enginerring for field operations, performs data collection, assimilation and analysis, develops precipitation estimation techniques, and conducts hydrologic modeling applied research.

NWS Hydrology collaborates with universities in a number of areas collaborative hydrologic research in many different geographic areas, one of which is with CUAHSI at the University of California, Irvine and another at Colorado State University.

The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services is yet another important component of NWS Hydrology whose goal is providing better flood warnings and water resource forecasts.

The Water Resources Initiative seeks to provide nationally consistent water and soil condition forecasts delivered by a national digital database.

NOAA's hydrology development group's vision is providing high-resolution gridded water resources product suite partnering with NOAA, Federal, Tribal, state, and local agencies as well as academia and the private sector.

CUAHSI (Rick Hooper, CUAHSI, Executive Director)

CUAHSI is a consortium of 97 research universities, 4 affiliate members, and 2 international affiliate whose goals are cross-cutting and with both a science and societal need component.CUAHSI grew from a need for the hydrology community to do larger-scale, longer-term research at disciplinary boundaries.

At present, CUAHIS is developing two important concepts:

The long-term goal of both HO and HIS is to make accessible a broad range of data for research and education to a multidisciplinary community.

Some anticipated problems:

Opportunities for collaboration with Unidata exist in data formatting standards, software engineering, communication, and protocols. CUAHSI is interested in Unidata's governance structure and its performance metric and user satisfaction.

Obstacles for the success of the HIS and HO projects includes that disciplines look at data differently. (For example, Excel is the data management tool a the majority of hydrologists.)

Discussion Items

Thank you John

The UPC presented John Merrill with a thank you gift for his service on and leadership of the committee and took the following resolution:

Resolution 2

The Policy Committee expresses its appreciation to John Merrill for his leadership of the committee for the past seven years. His success at guiding the committee through landmark decisions and developments has been exemplary.

Wrap-up Discussion

The Users Committee needs to look at the spectra of products that would be useful the the community.

The E-zine could feature on article on the Hydrologic Observatories concept.

Further discussion on the collaboration with CUAHSI should occur at the May meeting.

Finally, a warning was issued: requests for Level I radar data accessibility are in the future.

On that happy note, the meeting was adjourned.

Jo Hansen