Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

15-16 July 2007

Unidata Program Center, Boulder, Colorado



UPC Staff

Steven Businger--Chair

Mohan Ramamurthy

Rich Clark

Tina Campbell, present for Strategic Plan discussion

Rudy Husar

Ben Domenico

Jim Koermer

Jo Hansen

Paul Ruscher

Linda Miller

Gene Takle

Terry Mitchell

David Tarboton

Russ Rew

Melanie Wetzel, present via phone hookup during day one afternoon

Tom Yoksas

Agency Representatives

Note: In addition to the Unidata Management Team, many Unidata staff members were present for the proposal development discussions on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.

Bernard Grant, (NSF/ATM) (present via access grid, day one)


Clifford Jacobs (NSF/ATM) (present via access grid, day one)

NCAR and UOP Representatives

Leroy Spayd (NOAA/NWS)

Jack Fellows, Director, UOP

  Tim Spangler, Director, COMET Program

Committee Representative

Roger Wakimoto, Director NCAR/EOL
Gary Lackmann (Users Committee Chair)

Steve Worley, NCAR/CISL/SCD


Not in Attendance


Jeff de La Beaujardiere, NASA

Monday, 16 July 2007

Administrative Matters (Businger)

See: Unidata Acronym/Glossary List
See: Meeting Index

Director's Report (Ramamurthy)

The Program Center's overall position has not changed much since the March meeting, i.e., the only areas of some concern are staffing level and long-term finances; overall, however there's a lot going on with many accomplishments and successful activities.

Mohan noted that the month is the 23rd anniversary of the submittal of the proposal to fund Unidata... nearly to the day. He also noted the departure of Sandra Petrie whose position has been ably filled by Tina Campbell.

Other highlights:

FY06 year-end found Unidata close to projected marks with a surplus for FY07. If there's an increase in core funds for FY08 we should be in fairly good shape, although it is worthy of note that with LEAD funding ending, budget and staffing figures will be significantly impacted beginning in October 2008.


Agency Reports

NSF (Jacobs)

Both the House and Senate appropriations to NSF recommend an increase: 10+% for the House and almost 11% for the Senate. All appropriations add up to $30B over the President's request. The White House has threatened a veto, but science funding bills support the President's goals. Should he veto the recommendations, however, there's the possibility of a veto override.

NSF-GEO will have a new Assistant Director effective October 1, 2007. Dr. Mark Abbot is currently a member of the NSB a position he will resign in August. Read more. [Update: Mark and NSF mutually agreed that he will not assume the position.]

NSF's Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation initiative (CDI) will begin in 2008. It's designed "to explore radically new concepts, approaches and tools at the intersection of computational and physical or biological worlds."


NWS (Spayd)

NCEP continues to move toward providing higher temporal and spatial resolution models while trying to balance the needs of operations and the rest of the community. Lessons learned during NCEP's participation in WRF model development include the observations that: Community directions and rate of evolution are not always in sync with operational needs while operational needs are not high priorities for community developers. Foreign partners are strong drivers in community model development At this time NCEP is moving to ESMF (Earth System Science Modeling Framework) for several important reasons one of which is the complexity of WRF code and the option to choose only the parts of ESMF that are wanted/needed. Moving into the future NCEP has to consider the most potential benefits across a wide spectrum of forecast services, ensemble composition, and product delivery. In the latter consideration time is critical because the product being delivered is perishable

CONDUIT's future, what it can and should provide needs to be the topic of a dialogue between the community and NOAA. [A meeting of CONDUIT users is planned for the 2008 AMS Annual meeting.]

MADIS: the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System is a flexible, expandable, and interoperable architecture that is flexible, expandable, and interoperable. Transitioning MADIS to NWS operations will provide 24x7 maintenance support with offsite system backup.

AWIPS: AWIPS II development will impact Unidata. A transition will take place from mid-2009 to mid-2010. Not much will change during the transition, but as development of AWIPS II takes place other changes will be noticeable.

The presentation ended with a resounding endorsement of the Unidata program.

Resolution: The committee encourages the UPC to work closely with the National Weather Service to develop open-source standards for its new AWIPS release.

NASA (de La Beaujardiere)

Jeff was unable to attend the meeting, but provided the following input on the Strategic Plan:

Section 2, mashups: Most mashups work because data are combined visually (e.g., multiple overlaid layers). The OGC Web Map Service (WMS) specification provides an industry-standard way of doing that, and is supported by many GIS vendors, government projects, Google Earth, etc. Considering using that specification rather than inventing a separate Unidata API.

Section 10, Vis tools: Consider web service API for having IDV generate slices through multi-dimensional data, with IDV running in "batch" or "unattended" mode, rather than being driven by a human user. (Perhaps this is already possible).

Regarding NASA specifically:

- I have established a mailing list to enable NASA stakeholders to communicate successes and problems to me as input to Unidata, and for me to report Unidata developments to those stakeholders.

- Unidata and NASA should consider collaborating on a project involving 2D and 3D forecast data from the our GEOS model. I would be glad to discuss possible ideas should there be interest. This could involve IDV as mentioned above. I note, however, that I have not yet been able to identify a funding source for such a collaboration (but am working on it).

Users Committee Report (Lackmann)

The committee met in mid-May. In response to a request made during the 2006 summer Users Workshop, the committee has included a student representative on its membership roster. Sean Arms, University of Oklahoma, was appointed following a community-wide search process. The BAMS article resulting from the workshop has been published. BAMS has proposed a series of articles based on workshop presentations that include a point-counterpoint discussion of teach with models, specifically, how much depth of understanding is required of a model's structure before using it as a tool.


Strategic Plan (Ramamurthy)

Mohan noted at the outset that comments from Sarah Ruth, Bernard, and Cliff have been integrated into the plan together with staff and committee member input. NSF input resulted in the following change to the mission statement from: "To provide the data services, tools, and cyberinfrastructure leadership that advances Earth system science, education, and outreach" to the following: "To provide the data services, tools, and cyberinfrastructure leadership that advance Earth system science, enhance educational opportunities, and broaden participation."

Discussion was framed around the following points:

  1. How does the plan look today, and
  2. How will it inform the 5-year funding proposal

Action Item: The committee requests that an announcement of the Strategic Plan's completion appear in a featured news item on the UPC home page or in the next CommunitE-letter. Policy Committee member final input should be received prior to that time.

Proposal Development (all)

Timeline: the proposal's due date has been pushed back from the current fiscal year-end September 30 to a date in early 2008, roughly defined as February-March.

A Strawman Outline was distributed in the meeting notebook. Committee members were asked to consider how to advance the goals stated in Strategic Plan. Some additional discussion emphasized:

The six Strategic Plan-defined areas defined the breakout groups: Community, Data Service, Tools, Communication and Support , Cyberinfrastructure, and Diversity.

Two committee members--one to facilitate and one to lead--one scribe (staff member), and at least one additional staff member made up breakout group membership. Three groups met the first day and the remaining three of them met the following day. There are links below to the notes for each group. Very brief summaries follow each one.


Three aspects of community were examined by the group: what it is today, how it will change, and how to broaden it. They identified four features of each of those aspects, democratize/ facilitate, empower and enable.

Data Services

Some ideas that emerged from this group's discussion: LDM-lite is an idea that would open LDM access to the Windows world. The challenge of addressing users's inertia when starting to work with the new systems needs to be addressed.


Data exchange through Unidata tools can facilitate community outreach. Integration is an important goal: integrating packages, data sources, and data types. Need to maintain compatibility to ensure future collaboration and interaction. In the interdisciplinary arena tools play a role in development.

Communication and Support

Support needs to be maintained at its existing high quality; but it must be recognized that support can detract from development. Since that is true the UPC needs to develop the means for maintaining the quality while giving developers more time to develop. Communicate with different users in different ways to reach them. Short training formats are a possibility. Need for different forms of documentation. Conducting walk-throughs of the web site during training workshops is a way to increase communication.

Cyberinfrastructure Leadership

An important Unidata CI-leadership role is making sure that Unidata tools are used in the CI arena. Partnering is important. Unidata has persistently provided leadership for standards and interoperability and must continue in this role. LEAD has demonstrated Unidata's strengths and capabilities. Similar opportunities in other fields that include hydrology, oceanography, Earth surface modeling, climate need to be explored. Much of the required expertise is unique to Unidata.


The group developed some concrete suggestions for enhancing diversity in the community.


The following resolution was offered for consideration:

Resolution: Unidata will explore synergies with the NCAR library to develop dynamic virtual workspaces focusing on datasets, tools and services to enhance knowledge extraction and discovery by a network-enabled community (for example, expanding THREDDS to include shared community workspaces). [A modified version of the resolution has been circulated to the committee.]

No vote was taken on the resolution during the meeting; although it is not final at this time, a proposed revision: The Policy Committee resolves that Unidata explore synergies with the NCAR library where appropriate is under consideration by Policy Committee members at this time.

Two additional action items resulted from wrap-up discussions:

Action Item: The committee requests that there be a presentation on COSMIC data for the next meeting.

Action Item: Chair, Steven Businger, will work with Unidata staff Miller and Ramamurthy to (from the Users Committee Action Item 14): "develop a short survey to explore the Unidata community's interest in receiving COSMIC data in real-time using the LDM. The Users Committee will have an opportunity to review the survey prior to its distribution to the community." [NOTE: The survey was distributed to "dot edu" members of the Unidata community.]

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