Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

12-13 March 2007

Unidata Program Center, Boulder, Colorado



UPC Staff

Melanie Wetzel (Chair)

Mohan Ramamurthy

Steven Businger (via phone hookup, day one)

Ben Domenico

Rich Clark

Jo Hansen

Rudy Husar

Linda Miller

Jim Koermer

Terry Mitchell

Paul Ruscher

Russ Rew

Gene Takle

Tom Yoksas

David Tarboton

Tom Baltzer, present for LEAD Discussion
  Ann Wilson, present for LEAD Discussion

Agency Representatives

Ethan Davis, present for THREDDS Discussion

Bernard Grant, (NSF/ATM)

John Caron, present for THREDDS Discussion

Jeff de La Beaujardiere, (NASA)


Clifford Jacobs (NSF/ATM)

NCAR and UOP Representatives

Leroy Spayd (NOAA/NWS)

Jack Fellows, Director, UOP

  Tim Spangler, Director, COMET Program

Committee Representative

Steve Worley, NCAR/CISL/SCD

Gary Lackmann (Users Committee Chair)


Not Attending

  Roger Wakimoto, NCAR/EOL Director

Monday, 12 March 2007

Administrative Matters (Wetzel)

See: Unidata Acronym/Glossary List
See: Meeting Index

Director's Report (Ramamurthy)

Worth noting at the outset is that the Unidata Program is in pretty good shape. Here are some details:

Highlights included:

Committee news: Melanie Wetzel (DRI) will step down from the chair position, and Steven Businger (University of Hawaii) will become the chair; this change will be effective as of the summer meeting. The Users Committee added a student member to its roster following a recommendation made at the summer 2006 Users Workshop. Sean will attend the May committee meeting to begin his two-year term.

Staffing: Emily Doremire accepted a position as administrator at NCAR/ESSL/CUD. Sandra Petrie stepped into the position, but will soon be leaving the UPC as well to pursue a lifelong dream of owning and operating a retail business. Meanwhile Ginger Emery joined the administrative staff in December 2006 and, among other roles, serves as Travel Coordinator for the program.

The Users Committee awarded the DeSouza award to Jim Moore, Saint Louis University, posthumously. The award was accepted by Scott Rochette, representing Jim's wife Kathy.


Training Workshops:



The metrics and assessment report was briefly touched on during this discussion. In addition:

Budget Report (Mitchell)

Still at the forefront of the financial picture are the cash management issues. The President's Council has approved the latest Treasury Office's recommendation that interest costs on cash deficits be paid as follows: 67% by the UCAR General Fund, 23% by the Division/Program (Unidata) STORM funds and 10% by the Entity (UOP B&P Office) STORM funds. We must work closely with Finance to ensure that our receivables are paid timely and that we keep prespending and over spending to a minimum.

As we look ahead toward the end of FY07 and into FY08, we are optimistically cautious in our projections. We still anticipate a 4% increase in new funds for FY07 and are hoping for a 6% increase for FY08, which would put us into a good position heading into the new five-year proposal beginning in FY09. As we did in FY06, we'll have to rely on carryover to cover current expenditures and we'll more than likely have to tap into reserves for FY08 if we don't see increases in core and non core funding.

Indirect cost rates are on the rise, which will have to be accounted for as we start planning for the next steps of the LEAD ITR project. No matter how we proceed with LEAD, however, our funding and staffing figures will be greatly impacted for the new funding proposal.

Users Committee Report (Lackmann)

Gary Lackmann, who became Users Committee chair when Jim Steenburgh stepped down, discussed the latest activities of that committee. As the Policy Committee learned at its September meeting the 2006 Summer Users Workshop was a great success. One piece of unfinished business is publication of the BAMS article that was described in the Statement of Work in the proposal. The article was completed in record time and has been accepted for publication in the "Meeting Summaries" section of BAMS.

A second activity leftover from the Users Workshop was the selection of a Student Representative to the Users Committee. That appointment was made by a nominating committee that reviewed nine applications before selecting Sean Arms, University of Oklahoma.

This year's Equipment Award RFP particularly encourages proposal emphases that are relevant to the IDV and from all geoscience disciplines. In relation to this information, the committee wondered about the reproducibility (replicability) of IDV performance from one user to another. It was pointed out that the IDV Steering Committee, ad hoc to the Users Committee, is addressing this challenge.

Policy committee members also wondered if community expectations for the IDV's performance are too great and what could be done to educate the user community in this regard. It was noted that 64 bit MSW improves performance.

A second area of emphasis in the Equipment Awards call was community expansion. Finally, it was suggested that THREDDS could be a potential theme for next year.

The Users Committee is working with Fred Carr and others at OU to provide input for an upcoming regional workshop, to be held in September 2007 in Norman. The addition of OU graduate student Sean Arms to the Users Committee will help to facilitate these interactions.

Agency Reports

NSF (Jacobs)

Total NSF R&D would climb 7.0 percent to $4.5 billion within a total budget of $5.9 billion, reversing two years of cuts in 2005 and 2006. In terms of trends NIH funding far exceeds other agencies. NSF's budget request represented a 6.8 increase over 2007 Of that, the largest request was for research and related activities. Worthy of note is that major research equipment and facilities construction is up 4.29%. Budget priorities for NSF include, discovery research for innovation; preparing the workforce for the 21st century; transformational facilities and infrastructure; IPY leadership; and stewardship.

There have been important changes in GEO's staffing since the last PolCom meeting. Margaret Leinen left the agency, and Jarvis Moyers has been appointed acting Assistant Director of GEO.

In preparing its strategic plan, Investing in America's Future, the agency sought input from its advisory committees, its multiple communities, NSF staff, and the public. The plan will serve as a framework for budget requests. One important way it differs from the 2003 plan is that it focuses on outcomes. There are four inter-related strategic goals:

In addition to being inter-related, discovery, learning, and research infrastructure are also interconnected, while stewardship ensures that public funds allocated to them are well spent.

ATM asked the National Research Council a representative task force to provide guidance for NSF's support for the atmospheric sciences. The NRC committee was tasked with exploring options on how to engage the broad atmospheric science community to the fullest possible extent. They determined that NSF's objectives should include cutting edge research, education and workforce development, service to society, computational and observational objectives, and data manage. Modes of support include grants to individuals as a well as multiple PIs. The group solicited input through a number of mechanisms that included the town hall sessions and meeting with the heads and chairs of UCAR universities. In concluding its investigation, the group concluded that ATM has played a role in each major accomplishment in the atmospheric sciences.

The competition to manage NCAR is in full swing. Some important dates worth noting are: the deadline for submitting preliminary proposals is April 13 with the invitation only full proposal date being August 31, and the award start date being October 1, 2008.

NWS (Spayd)

Among major NWS achievements in the interval since the last PolCom meeting has been that the U.S. tsunami program is operational. In addition, GOES-N has been successfully launched, weather radios are in all classrooms, and a national integrated drought information system office has been established. In the NOAA budget process

NOAA's regionalization effort seeks to provide focus regional work. NOAA has identified four specific focus areas to help define regional challenges: hazard resilient coastal communities, integrated ecosystem assessments, integrated water resource services, and outreach and communication. The three programmatic focus areas and one programmatic area enable NOAA's strategic mission's goals. Looking ahead to 2015

NOAA's high-impact services are defined as natural or man-made environmental hazards. Among those, of course are hurricanes and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has initiated a hurricanes index futures and options market. Because of the impact of NOAA hurricane forecasts on the market, the forecasts must be simultaneously available to all parties. Worthy of note is that the hurricane supplemental buoy plan was funded with no allocations for maintenance or deployment.

The Profiler network improves NWS's performance capability for tornado, winter storm, severe storm, and flash flood forecasts and warnings, and aviation and fire weather warnings. Its importance is underscored by its $3.5M requested budget increase for 2008. These funds are for profiler conversion.

NASA (de La Beaujardiere)

Attending his first Policy Committee meeting, new NASA rep Jeff de LA Beaujardiere introduced himself as a CU grad (PhD Astrophysics). In addition to other professional activity, he has served as the GLOBE Visualization Server Web Master. NASA and Unidata have in common (among others) a need to understand and manage large collections of scientific data about the Earth as well as a need to manage, distribute, and access the geospatial information they contain. He detailed steps to be considered to develop effective representation to the committee that include determining NASA users of Unidata tools, formats, and data, and developing two-way communication between NASA stakeholders and the UPC.

Next, Jeff wants to promote use of Unidata relevant tools within NASA. NetCDF is supported by NASA Giovanni scientists. Other Unidata tools in use within NASA include: THREDDS (the Global Change Master Directory or GCMD) group and GEMPAK being used in GSFC.

Security is a major concern to NASA, as it is throughout the federal agencies.

Jeff also wants to ensure that Unidata is aware of NASA funding opportunities. At this time, the NASA ROSES ( Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences), an umbrella for solicitations in multiple areas, is of potential interest. ( http://nspires.nasaprs.com)

As NASA rep Jeff intends to be proactive in ascertaining ways to facilitate greater NASA/Unidata interaction.

Metrics and Assessment Report Discussion

The UPC commissioned the Metrics and Assessment study based on a recommendation by the panel that reviewed the 2008 proposal (Unidata 2008: Shaping the Future of Data Use in the Geosciences). Following circulation of a Request for Proposals in the fall of 2005, Nelson Consulting was awarded the contract. The study included a survey that was circulated to the entire Unidata community, interviews with individuals whose historical involvement with Unidata has given them insight, interviews with Unidata's software engineering managers, and one on one interviews with community members who were attending the Users Workshop, summer 2006.

The overall Metrics and Assessment Report is positive, and affirms that NSF's investment in Unidata has been transformational. The report has circulated to other entities at the NSF, possibly because Unidata may be ahead of the curve in contracting for such a comprehensive study that examined all aspects of the program.

Some discussion focused on the depth of Unidata's collaborations. The success of the Level II collaboration was cited as a noteworthy collaboration. The path in which collaborations have been developed is perceived to be important, because that path almost always leads through the university community, i.e., the universities are often at the leading edge of collaborative development.

Following discussion of this point, the committee deliberated on the concept of Unidata's transformative effect which was adjudged significant; thus there was a suggestion that UPC staff should consider initiating a journal article, possibly in BAMS, about Unidata's transformative effects.


Resolution: The Policy Committee commends the very successful metrics assessment initiative led by Mohan Ramamurthy and Linda Miller and the evaluation process designed and conducted by Nelson Consulting Incorporated.

Strategic Plan

The strategic plan has been developed following extensive discussion by the program managers at a management retreat and by the Policy Committee its September 2006 meeting. At this time it is about 80% complete. Following review of the document, committee members offered the following on goals and core values:

The mission statement was discussed in detail resulting in the recommendation that adjectives should be omitted from it. The committee also wondered if there was a disconnect between values and the mission statement. Additional comments:

Responsiveness to constituents was deemed a dominant core value. Finally, a set of four values that resonated positively with the committee was proposed by NSF representative, Jacobs:

"My take on the core value is that they apply to the organizational unit which serves the community.  We cannot define core values for the community.  This information presented below is a modification of ideas presented in “Report of the Auditor General of Canada – Chapter 22, November 1999”

Action Item: Review the goals and core values in the Strategic Plan and send comments and suggestions by March 19.

LEAD after the ITR phase: Unidata's Role (Ramamurthy, Droegemeier [present via phone hookup])

LEAD is a large ITR project whose two principal goals are: 1. democratizing the availability of advanced weather technologies for research and education, lowering the barrier to entry, empowering application in a grid context, increasing the realism of how technologies are applied and facilitating rapid understanding, experiment design and execution of complex end-to-end weather analysis and prediction systems; and 2. improving our understanding of and the ability to detect, analyze, and predict mesoscale atmospheric phenomena by interacting with the weather in a dynamically adaptive manner.

A goal for spring 2007 (identified in the LEAD status report for this meeting) is providing support for the WxChallenge Collegiate Forecast Contest, a collegiate weather forecasting competition. This is a beta users program and is a follow-on to last summer's Unidata Users Workshop. Students at nine institutions including Howard and Millersville Universities are using LEAD capabilities during the contest.

Unidata is playing a pivotal role in LEAD's deployment in the atmospheric sciences community. Yet another plus is that LEAD-2 would be a good fit for UCAR's new computing facilities in Wyoming especially if those facilities become the Geo-Collaboratory. UCAR President, Rick Anthes, provided input to the conversation (via e-mail) stating that LEAD-1 is an exciting project with technical challenges whose inclusion within the UPC would put UCAR/NCAR out on the frontiers of research and education endeavors.

Some considerations are:

Opportunities to consider are (among several others):

In addition there are some apparent risks and challenges.


The discussion resulted in the following Resolution (number 2) which was unanimously adopted by the seven voting members of the committee present:

Resolution: The Policy Committee recognizes the strategic long term value of the LEAD project for the Unidata community and encourages the UPC to take a key role in coordinating the development of proposal(s) for evolution of LEAD, to an extent that will not compromise the core activities and resources.

THREDDS (Domenico)

The THREDDS presentation examined the project from several different perspectives. As a catalog service for remote data access via ADDE & DODS/OPeNDAP, THREDDS provides catalogs that can sample inventory lists of remote datasets. THREDDS catalogs can also be seen as collections of metadata. The need for a hierarchical structure was determined early on in the project's development resulting in catalogs that function like a remote file system.

As a highly collaborative project, THREDDS addresses issues of interoperability with diverse disciplines, specifically the different ways they think about data. Though different in many ways, common ground has been found in a suite of standard protocols: WMS, WFS, SCS, CSW, SWE, and GML. The THREDDS Data Server, an integrated package of services provides data access, rudimentary processing, access to THREDDS catalogs, and open archives harvesting. In addition, a Common Data Model (developed at Unidata) contributes positively to interoperability solutions.

THREDDS is a team effort among the UPC, the community, and numerous academic, government, and industry partners. Portal interfaces include Unidata Motherlode, NCDC, and PMEL. Programmatic interfaces (IDV, arcGIS, IDL and GiGO) and discovery possibilities (NCAR CDP, UAH NOESIS, and GMU).


Here are three links to THREDDS-related documents.



Here is a one-pager or Fact Sheet (a Word document): a brief explanation of THREDDS.

Action Item Comment on the following question: how does THREDDS fit with community needs now or what does the community need of THREDDS, including specific types of data feeds.

Unidata's 5-year Funding Proposal Development

The funding proposal is due at the end of FY07. The schedule after that is out of Unidata's hands. Decisions will be required on what to include in the proposal as "core" activity; the most obvious is LEAD. (See LEAD discussion.) The proposal will be submitted to ATM. Other considerations about the mechanics:

NSF has several options on how to conduct the review of the proposal. It can:

Users Committee members will query community members on Unidata's proposed direction in their regularly scheduled phone calls to previously identified community members.

Identifying constituents and identifying the community were deemed important activities; and a corollary of maintaining existing support mechanisms for the existing community is an important consideration.

Comments on leadership and the community:

Unidata's transformative effect was raised again during this discussion, along with the comment that the effect now needs to consider how science is developing.

In seeking to clarify the difference between the Mission and Vision statements the committee members thought that Mission is a statement of "what we do" the Vision is a statement of "what we want to be."

Other discussion comments:


The Policy Committee expresses its appreciation to Melanie Wetzel for her leadership of the committee for the past three years. Her success at guiding the committee through landmark decisions and developments has been exemplary.

Committee members thanked Melanie and wished her well in her future endeavors.

Direct Comments and questions to jhansen@unidata.ucar.edu