Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

20-21 May 2002

Boulder, Colorado



UPC Staff

John Merrill (Chair)
Steve Ackerman
Michael Biggerstaff
Arlene Laing
Charlie Murphy
Mohan Ramamurthy


Dave Carlson (NCAR/ATD)
Richard Clark, (Users Committee)
Harry Edmon (ATAC Committee)
Ben Domenico (UPC)
Jack Fellows (UCAR/UOP)
Bernard Grant (NSF/ATM)
Bob Harriss (NCAR/ESIG)
Sharon Leduc (NOAA/NCDC)
Clifford Jacobs (NSF/ATM) (Monday only)
Tim Spangler (UCAR/COMET)
Marie Boyko (present for proposal discussions)

Ben Domenico
Joanne Graham
Jo Hansen
Linda Miller
Don Murray
Russ Rew

Not attending:

Chuck Wash
David Helms (NWS)
Al Kellie (NCAR/SCD)
Martha Maiden (NASA)
Ben Watkins (NOAA/NCDC)


Administrative Matters

Committee Chair, John Merrill, introduced Sharon Leduc from NCDC who attended the meeting as the NOAA representative.

Status Reports

Director's Report (Domenico)

Ben characterized the overall status of the Unidata Program Center as green: overall good to go. The lone exception is the future of the Case Studies project funding. NWS funding for it is pending, but full funding appears unlikely.

New staff: Jeff Glidden, student assistant, recently joined the UPC staff to assist with development of the community portal and the web update. Stefano Nativi, University of Florence, will be returning to Boulder in the summer to follow up on his successful collaboration with the THREDDS development team during the winter months.

Unidata's working collaborations include cooperative proposals with NCAR (ITR-KEG proposal) and the University of Oklahoma (ITR-LEAD proposal). Unidata's participation is central to LEAD's data distribution effort. (As of this writing neither proposal's PIs have been notified of the proposals' outcomes.)

Important progress made since the last meeting is development of 1-kilometer NEXRAD mosaics which are viewable in McIDAS, GEMPAK, and MetApps. The IDD's user base has continued marked growth (volume nearly doubled since February) and continues to grow. Java development and THREDDS progress are detailed in reports below.

Action Item 2: The Users Committee will evaluate the Case Studies project and its importance to the user community.

Budget Report (Graham)

The budget picture remains positive. Given current predictions we are financially stable through the current proposal period with NSF funding up 9% for FY02. That increase included 100K that NSF had set aside for Equipment Grants. (See discussion below.) While there was no requirement to do so, the UPC is going to set the 100K aside to provide some extra funds to the grants once the mechanism is in place to fund them. That means that our actual operational increase was just over 8% for the year.

At 25 (the current number of people in the UPC) staff totals 22.7 FTEs. Staff on core NSF funding numbers 18.6 FTEs. DODS, THREDDS, Case Studies, along with staff time charges to the indirect cost pool bring the total to the 22.7 FTE level.

Action Item 3: In addition to core funds, note all Unidata budget components in future reports to the committee.

Committee Reports

Users Committee (Clark)

Rich noted that the Users Committee is down a member because of Arlene Laing's appointment to the Policy Committee; thus three positions are open in 2002. Nominations will be sought and appointments made during the summer months with new members joining the committee for its next meeting 24-25 October in Boulder. Committee meetings will be for two full days. This pattern may continue for the indefinite future, but for the shorter term, the committee will be planning the next Users Workshop to be held in June 2003 in Boulder. Mark Lauferswieiler (University of Oklahoma) and Michael Morgan (University of Wisconsin) will co-chair the workshop whose tentative title is: "Expanding Horizons Using Environmental Data and Model Output for Education, Prediction, and Decision Making."

The Users Committee Survey results will be used to inform the Unidata 2008 proposal with further discussion below.

Discussion centered around the Users Workshop coming up in summer 2003. It was agreed that the program committee include a member from outside Unidata's core community.

Action Item 4: The Users Committee will include a community member from outside of Unidata's core community on its Program Committee for the 3-year users workshop scheduled for June 2003.

Action Item 5: The Users Committee will discuss means for including broader community participation in users workshops and training workshops. The committee should consider holding regional workshops as a means for achieving the goal. (NOTE: two Users Committee members [Murphy and Clark] are discussing a possible Regional Workshop in the northeast during the fall.)

MetApps (Murphy and Murray )

Task Force Report
Integrated Data Viewer development and testing have been MetApps developers' priorities for the first half of the year. For the UMADA Task Force it was producing a prioritized list of desired features.

An initial IDV release in February led to prototype testing with a second release being made in late March. The second release incorporated some user-defined features. Among those features were color table editor, projection control, user defined preferences, enhanced SkewT control, combined data source selection widget, HTML display, and color-filled contours.

Following the testing of Release 2, seven UMADA members/users and five developers convened by conference call. Users noted problems in interface issues. IDV performance and network connectivity were two other problem areas for users. Development priorities that emerged from the conference call were reducing the memory footprint for applications, providing feedback to users, a web-based users guide, and support for collaboration.

Other exchanges among developers and task force members were lively during March following the two releases and the conference call, an indication that participation by member-users improved considerably.

Java Development
MetApps development was a central task proposed for the 2003 Funding Proposal. It is safe to say that a good framework is in place. MetApps has moved through development steps that include a gridded data viewer, an interactive sounding application, an image viewer for viewing and looping image data, and a surface observations viewer. Development on these individual steps has ceased, and work at this time focusses on the IDV or Integrated Data Viewer.

One noteworthy IDV release is the IHOP IDV, an application tailored to support the International H20 Project (IHOP-2002, http://www.ucar.edu/ucar/news.html), "one of the largest weather-related studies in US history." To develop the release, funding for three weeks of software engineer support was provided by ATD. Customizations for IHOP included radar display capabilities (Level II data in 3-D), customized maps, and imagery in netCDF format.

ATAC (Edmon)

The THREDDS Technical Task Force met in Boulder 6-8 May. The T3 (THREDDS Technical Task Force) workshop was task-oriented and was called to focus THREDDS tasks, to define standards, and to discuss building the prototype. 25 collaborators gathered for the two-day meeting. Participants sought to focus on some specific areas/issues:

Agency Reports

National Science Foundation: (Jacobs)

Budgets for FY02 for the agency overall show a marked increase at 8.4% over the FY01 level. ATM's total of $121.3M is 7.5% over FY01. Unidata's total is $3.2M (100K for equipment grants).

Priority areas are USWRP (ATM), NSWP (ATM), Carbon and Water Cycle (GEO), Biocomplexity (NSF), and Information Technology Research (NSF).

NSF has just completed its two-phase review of UCAR/NCAR. The first phase, the review of UCAR/NCAR science and facilities, ended in December this past year, and the management review was complete in January 02. With fifty-eight mail reviews, 47 on-site panel reviewers, and 16 UCAR member institution observers, the science and facilities received ratings of very good to excellent, with no critical issues identified. Five challenges for the future included Service to the Community and Broader Impact.

The second phase, review of UCAR management, concluded that UCAR and NCAR have an excellent leadership team that provides a supportive environment to carry out interdisciplinary research in the atmospheric sciences. The management review recommended that UCAR and NCAR management need to remain vigilant on the HIAPER project and are encouraged to develop a long-range space plan to complement the scientific strategic plan, among other recommendations.

Although no part of the five-year agreement with UCAR was competed, the next 5-year proposal will be.

The Unidata proposal review process will involve 10-15 reviewers and on-site review panel of 6-8 members. The proposal due date falls in the end of November timeframe. Approximately 20-24 weeks later the process will be complete. The award will be made under the 5-year NSF-UCAR Cooperative Agreement with a separate SPO. The proposal award will fall beneath the threshold for the internal review of large NSF activities.

NCDC: (LeDuc)

The NOMADS project, whose objective is collaboration for distributed access to NWP and GCM models and data, is underway and is attracting new collaborators. Funding for the project will be available in FY04. Unidata provides GrADS-DODS to THREDDS-compatible XML catalog builder at NCDC. Future plans call for ingesting CONDUIT data. A NOMADS meeting will be held at the NOAA facility in Boulder in the fall of this year.

The CRAFT Level II (NEXRAD) data project has successfully transmitted data from 38 radars to NCDC for archive enabling NCDC to eliminate tape storage of these data making them available in real to near real time rather than from tape retrieval and automatically placing them on the hierarchical data storage system bypassing the 8 MM recordings previously required.

5-year funding proposal (Domenico)

Presentation and discussion of this agenda item began Monday afternoon and continued Tuesday morning. Both days' discussions are summarized below.

In opening the discussion, Ben noted that the 2008 proposal will be constructed in a manner similar to that of the 2003 proposal. He acknowledged that throughout its existence NSF's guidance to the program has been insightful.

Noting generally that the breadth and depth of its community is Unidata's main value, Cliff raised several issues for consideration/inclusion in the proposal:

Letters of support will be valuable for the proposal, but selecting their source should be done carefully so as not to contaminate NSF's reviewers pool. UCAR director Anthes, NCAR director Killeen, a NOAA high-level official, and NCDC are possible sources rather than a broad range of community members.


Unidata's community is widely diverse in terms of university size. It will be important to address the diversity of the community both in terms of size and ethnicity. In addition, it will be important to approximate the numbers of students either influenced by Unidata or actually using its software products.

The Users Survey indicated that Unidata's core community discipline remains meteorology and the atmospheric sciences at around 60%. We need to try to ascertain which community members are a part of it not because they were part of the targeted audience, but because they found Unidata products and services useful. This is an indication of the program's influence beyond its originally-defined scope.

If the community diversifies, as seems likely, the UPC should consider expanding its governing bodies to represent other disciplines. In the same vein, the charge should contain verbiage reflecting the diversity of the community.

Many core community partners have been identified. The question of how to reach a broader community and to learn if they are sufficiently engaged within the community is an important component of the proposal.

While it seems important to engage community colleges as part of the community, ideas on how to do that are inconclusive. One suggestion was that the UPC serve community colleges indirectly through its current community of university participants.

Synergies with organizations both outside of and within UCAR have been identified. In many cases (the THREDDS collaborators, for example) the working relationships are alive and fruitful already. New technology (e.g., the MetApps visualization tools) will present new opportunities for productive partnering. Parallel efforts taking place within UCAR should be investigated.

Are scientists aware of Unidata? This is a question to be explored concurrently with the organizational synergies discussions taking place within the organization (ATD, SCD, ESIG) are explored and expanded.

A natural partner within NCAR has been ESIG. Some possibilities for strengthening collaboration include joint appointments, running local models.

Unidata has served as a catalyst for change within the meteorology community. The pattern has been one of its developing a vision and convincing others to follow. Success in this activity should be called out. Unidata presently is positioned uniquely to provide innovative ideas and solutions to problems. The coupled relationship with the research and education communities should continue and grow.

Software and services:
Traditional software package and tool support will continue to be a strong point in the next proposal period. Support for these, training workshops, triennial users workshops, and a strong push for regional workshops will strengthen the community.

Developing an LDMlite, one with a receive-only capability, is a potential goal for the proposal. As THREDDS development continues it will provide access to diverse and interdisciplinary datasets, including archived data.

The community center, the Unidata web portal, will enable community members to interact and learn from one another in an expanded and more in-depth manner which will serve in turn to strengthen community relationships and a sense of the community as well.

Other Proposals:
The grant supporting the THREDDS initiative concurrently with the present Unidata funding grant which means that developing a proposal to renew THREDDS would take place in the same timeframe. One approach would be to include an extended THREDDS initiative in the Unidata 5-year proposal. Two staff are working on THREDDS. Since an extension of THREDDS would provide data access for the current Unidata community and the NSDL community, it might make sense to seek funding from both ATM and NSF's NSDL opportunity. With a note from John and Ben explaining the situation and options, Cliff could open a discussion with Lee Zia (of NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education) to see whether it would be possible to write a single proposal with the THREDDS piece jointly funded. The other approach would be to write a separate proposal to DUE for building on the THREDDS prototype.

LEAD is a large ITR proposal on which Unidata is a collaborator with the University of Oklahoma. If the LEAD proposal is successful it will provide funding for an additional 2.5 FTEs for LDM/IDD development. If it is unsuccessful, should these FTEs be included in the 2008 proposal?

Milestones for proposal development and a target date for the next draft will be determined by Marie Boyko, who will consult on proposal writing and development.

On Tuesday, Marie presented a summary of Monday's proposal discussions. Other discussion identifying and discussing diversity, not only in discipline-specific terms, but in gender and ethnicity terms as well will be important in the proposal's development.

Action Item 6: Next steps in 2008 proposal development:

a. Create milestone schedule
b. Prepare the next draft

UCAR/NCAR Representation at Policy Committee Meetings

This agenda item originated from a discussion at the February Policy Committee meeting on more productive interaction with the UCAR and NCAR representatives to the committee. One suggestion, that the NCAR representative be a rotating appointment, was made. David Carlson, current NCAR representative argued against the change, stating that he has attended meetings as often as possible. Thematic meetings, while useful, should not replace regular (where feasible and possible) attendance at committee meetings.

Equipment Grants

Funding for the Unidata Equipment Grants (to be known as Equipment Awards when Unidata administers the process), will be at the $100,000 level. The award of funds to Unidata for the grants should be noted as a line item in the 2008 5-year proposal budget. Committee members suggested that the timeframe for submittal (as noted in the proposal document) should be increased to 90 days.

Tuesday, 21 May 2002

NSDL Overview (Fulker)

The National Science Digital Library Core Integration project is located in UOP and is headed up by Dave Fulker. The digital library is a set of resources primarily from web URLs. It also contains systems for cataloguing, indexing, and organizing data to facilitate discovery and use. Services that add value for specific audiences are also part of the library.

Injecting tax dollars into the digital library process is important because as a nation the US trails other countries in science learning, a condition that clearly needs to improve. NSDL can help professors/teachers/instructors in the education process. NSDL is funded in four competitive tracks to the $25M/year level. Those four tracks are: collections, services, research, and core integration, and it is the core integration function that is located within UOP.

NSDL's goal is to unite all collections into a single library using an open framework. Both open access and restricted access to materials will be built into the library. Other tasks include:

NSDL's development is on track for its initial presentation to a targeted audience.

DLESE (Marlino)

From the earth system perspective, DLESE focusses on inquiry-based methods, integrating research and education, and developing new understandings of learning theory, pedagogy, and technological possibilities. "Peer review" is a critical concept within the DLESE structure. Library users need to have a sense of DLESE's being a trusted information source. This presents challenges because, among others, landscape changes occur rapidly in the DLESE environment.

DLESE metadata describe resources to enhance discovery and comprehension. The program's data resource access site is designed to present users with the means for obtaining material that is subject- and educational-level relevant. Access, pedagogy, and accuracy are the primary goals.

An RFP posted by NSF under the DLESE funding proposal will solicit 3-year, peer-reviewed funding proposals to create data collaborators. A proposal submitted by Unidata through this mechanism would be welcome, particularly one with the PI at another institution and the UPC as the co-PI.

THREDDS actually sits at the intersection of the NSDL, DLESE, and Unidata programs in that it provides the infrastructure needed to enable access to real-time and retrospective data for use in educational materials and digital library discovery systems.

Address questions or suggested changes to Jo Hansen.