Unidata Strategic Advisory Committee Meeting Summary

20-21 May 2014
San Francisco, CA

Action Items
Committee Members
Acronym List

Committee Members:

Bill Gallus, Iowa State University, Chair
Dave Dempsey, San Francisco State University 
Rob Fovell, University of California, Los Angeles 
Brian Mapes, University of Miami
Lynn McMurdie, University of Washington
Sepi Yalda, Millersville University

Users Committee Representative:

Kevin Tyle, University at Albany

UCAR/NCAR Representatives:

Greg Byrd, UCAR/Comet

Sponsor Representative:

Bernard Grant, NSF (remote) 

NOAA Representative:

Leroy Spayd (remote) 

NASA Representative:

Christopher Lynnes

NOAA NWS Staff Attending
Becky Cosgrove (remote)
Michelle Mainelli (remote)
Scott Jacobs (remote)
David Plummer (remote)
UPC Staff Attending
Ethan Davis 
Ginger Emery 
Terry Mitchell 
Josh Young
Doug Dirks 
Michael James (remote) 
Mohan Ramamurthy 
Meeting agenda

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Administrative Items

Review of October 2013 Actions

Next meeting tentatively set for 8-9 October 2014. The meeting will be held at Unidata in Boulder, CO.

NCEP Update and Discussion

Becky and Michelle’s slides

Becky Cosgrove noted that CONDUIT hasn’t changed much over the last two years; however, new capabilities will soon increase data volume. Additionally, the GFS will transition to .25 degree this fall.

Michelle Mainelli provided an update on the status of AWIPS II, noting that deployment is underway at the WFOs which resulted in several side discussions. In particular, there was discussion about the ability to migrate GEMPAK archive materials to AWIPS II. This feature is not currently included but would be a good candidate project for Master’s student. There was a general discussion about the community (academic and local weather forecast offices) serving as a developer for AWIPS II plugins. ACTION: Scott Jacobs (NWS NCEP) agreed to provide a developer guide for AWIPS II.

AWIPS II Demonstration

Michael’s slides

Michael James delivered a demonstration of the AWIPS II version under development. The focus of this demonstration was on the user interface, members noted the impact the user interface has on functionality, Michael James agreed and noted that beta testers help to validate the functionality of the design.

NSF Report

Bernard’s slides

Bernard Grant provided a report on upcoming changes NSF. In particular he noted that several staff and managers have either departed recently or will be doing so shortly. Additionally, the NSF will be relocating with some costs covered by the agency. The AGS budget is $250M which is a 2.2% increase while simultaneously NSF has been tasked by OMB to identify a 2% reduction over the whole agency and identify programs for up to 5% growth. Bernard noted that AGS currently does not have a Major Research and Equipment Facilities Construction award so that may represent an opportunity for the community.

NASA Report

Chris’ slides

Chris Lynnes provided a report on activities of interest to Unidata at NASA with a particular focus on a new NASA earth data website (https://earthdata.nasa.gov/) and the Earth Science Data Systems Working Group (ESDSWG) which would be a good opportunity for Unidata to engage with NASA efforts.  GPM data is flowing through GODAAC and there is a need for very specific how-to recipes. Action: Chris Lynnes will send GPM data to Unidata.

Users Committee report - Kevin Tyle

Kevin provided highlights from the Spring Users Committee meeting, with side discussions about Unidata’s readiness to move to the cloud and the May user training at the University of Miami.

Budget Report - Terry Mitchell

Attrition, vacancies and retirements played a big part in the budget for the Unidata 2013 award.  With labor costs and the associated overhead accounting for 87% of the total budget, the long stretch of vacant positions in FY12 & FY13, although a strain on the program, allowed us to build up a reserve, and helped defray the affects of an increase in both the benefit and indirect rates in two level funded years. A few reduced FTE's due to full and phased retirements were also favorable for the budget going into the new 2018 award. It was this surplus of funds that enabled Unidata to maintain normal operations during the delay of the new core award. The government shutdown in October, along with an unanticipated pre-award audit of our budget for the new funds by the NSF's Cost Analysis and Audit Resolution (CAAR) branch, delayed our core funding by four months and reset our award period of performance to 4/01/14 - 3/31/19.

The increase in our non-core funding from our renewed efforts in that area was also instrumental in bridging the gap in our core funding. Although we're in sound financial shape, we're still hoping for a modest CODB increase in the core for out years of the 2018 award in anticipation of additional increases in both the benefits and indirect rates. And as talk continues of another possible government sequestration for FY16, we will continue to look for opportunities to increase non-core funding by leveraging our resources with new projects and funding as appropriate to meet the goals set forth in the Unidata 2018 proposal.

Director's Report - Mohan

Mohan's slides.

Some additional comments during and after Mohan's presentation:

Discussion of Status Reports and Security

The committee discussed the addition of a “Cloud” status report. There were few further comments on the existing status reports or the security of Unidata resources.

SFSU and Unidata Products/Tour

Dave Dempsey delivered a presentation on how he and SFSU more broadly use Unidata products.

Discussion of Diminishing Lab/IT resources

Bill Gallus asked the committee to share their recent experience regarding access to IT resources. Most committee members are facing some pressure towards centralization that varies from talked about to implemented. Some departments have faced the possibility of losing dedicated IT support; however, at least one program has had favorable experiences with centralization. There was a broad discussion of how lab and IT resources are funded (student fees, departmental funds, & grants) and how to support student supplied devices.

Miscellaneous Discussion

The committee reviewed the proceedings of the day.

Break for Dinner

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Follow-up from Preceding Day – Chris Lynnes

Chris noted that NASA’s interest in Unidata is focused on NetCDF so any effort to support tools that sit on top of NetCDF need to be compatible with the enhanced data model. ACTION: Unidata to survey tool providers and help them work toward support of enhanced data model.

Private Sector Partnerships – Josh Young

Josh’s slides
Josh gave a presentation on the range of possible collaborations and led a conversation on considerations for future partnerships. This conversation was intended as the first of several conversations on partnerships. Comments and questions included:

Update on Python at Unidata -  Ethan Davis

Ethan’s slides

Following Ethan’s report there was a wider discussion of Python within the scientific community and the varying degrees to which academic programs have embraced this software language. Member’s noted that broader experiences with Python within their department range from wide adoption of Python to limited exposure due to limited time to learn a new language.

NOAA Report – LeRoy Spayd

LeRoy’s slides

LeRoy gave an update on activities at NOAA. The slides are here. The committee, in particular, discussed the transition from 17 congressional authorization lines to 6. Leroy also described the new Hydrology Modeling Center opening in Alabama.  

Earthcube Update – Mohan Ramamurthy

Council of Data Facilities draft Charter
Mohan provided an update on the status of Earthcube and Unidata’s involvement with the initiative. Earthcube is still largely NSF led, however; there are over 2,000 participants and they have organized 24 domain-focused workshops. Unidata is involved in multiple Building Block awards and has served as a model for governance. Unidata will be involved in the upcoming meeting focused on governance. Committee members expressed a strong interest in facilitating the integration of “long-tail” data.

Wrap-up Discussion

Bill Gallus thanked the committee members for their participation and Dave Dempsey for hosting the meeting.


Josh Young  and Doug Dirks
Community Services - Unidata
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307-3000
303 497-8646 fax: 303 497-8690