Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

12 May 2008

Virtual Meeting



UPC Staff

Steven Businger—Chair

Mohan Ramamurthy

Rich Clark

Ben Domenico

Vanda Grubisic

Jo Hansen

Rudy Husar

Linda Miller

David Tarboton

Terry Mitchell


Russ Rew

Agency Representatives


Bernard Grant, (NSF/ATM)

NCAR and UOP Representatives

Clifford Jacobs (NSF/ATM)

Roger Wakimoto, Director NCAR/EOL

Leroy Spayd (NOAA/NWS)

Steve Worley, NCAR/CISL/SCD


Tim Spangler, COMET

Committee Representative

Not in Attendance

Gary Lackmann (Users Committee Chair)

Mike Bevis


Gene Takle


Paul Ruscher

See: Unidata Acronym/Glossary List
See: Meeting Index

Monday, 12 May 2008

Administrative Matters (Businger)

  • The Draft Agenda was approved
  • The October 2007 meeting notes were approved.
  • Next Meeting Dates: Tuesday and Wednesday, 21-22 October 2008 in Boulder.
  • Review of Action Items and Resolutions from the Fall 2007 meeting:
  • Discussion of Resolution 2 and Action Item 5 generated considerable discussion:
    • Resolution 2 states that: The Policy Committee encourages the Program to explore the feasibility of delivering real-time air quality data to the community. Action Item 5 states: The Policy Committee requests that the Users Committee determine which of the available EPA data should be distributed using Unidata technology. (Users committee has initiated steps to identify the data.) Noting that the EPA is currently sorting out the internal issues of their data systems, Rudy Husar observed that attempts to acquire access to the data for distribution are not dead, and suggested that by the fall meeting there may be more to talk about. He further encouraged Unidata to pursue the access and distribution of the publicly available WRF/Chem air quality forecast model data.
  • The action Item 3 from the fall meeting wrt COSMIC data, yielded the comment that nine or 10 sites are now receiving COSMIC data.

Action Items resulting from these discussions:

  1. Further investigation into EPA data should be conducted prior to the fall meeting. This should take place in the context of an action item from the spring Users Committee's meeting which states: Consider EPA datastreams for LDM, possible visualization: Gauge interest and needs of AQ community a.) See Rudy's link describing some of the available datastreams b.) Set up conference call including Rudy Husar, EPA folks, and AQ faculty at some of our institutions
  2. The committee requests that Unidata schedule a presentation on WRF/Chem for the fall meeting.
  3. The committee needs a new NASA representative. Steps to appoint one should be taken prior to the fall meeting.

Director's Report (Ramamurthy)

Mohan's report opened with the statement that the 2013 Unidata funding proposal was submitted in early April. He acknowledged the committee's input to the final product in the form of edits, rewrites, and the considerable contributions through participation in the summer and fall meeting discussions. In a related item, Mohan noted that one noteworthy metric gleaned during the proposal's development was use of Unidata in graduate research. For obvious reasons these numbers are important since it's an indication of contributions to research and education as well as a future generation of users (slide 3).

Other points:

  • The 2008 DeSouza Award went to Oklahoma's Mark Laufersweiler who made a presentation on his use of Unidata tools and data in his teaching and research.
  • Two AMS awards of particular interest for Unidata were PolCom member Rich Clark's receipt of the Teaching Excellence Award and former Unidata Director, Dave Fulker's receipt of the Cleveland Abbe Award. Further, the UCAR BOT appointed Dave "Director Emeritus," a first for UOP.
  • UPC staffing changes include the addition of Dennis Heimbigner as a netCDF developer, the departure of GEMPAK developer Steve Chiswell, and the departure of Anne Wilson to the University of Colorado.
  • IDD continues steady growth that includes, now, COSMIC data flowing to the universities. IDD hosts number about 500 in 240 unique network domains but many more are behind fire walls, so to some extent the numbers are a minimum estimate.
  • New data stream news includes access to USPLN data (soon), and possible inclusion of USGS stream gauge data through CUAHSI, and EPA data (noted above).
  • GOES-R Level 2 and Level 2+ data will be available in netCDF-4 format.
  • IDV use grows. Release 2.5 was announced May 8 2008, and collaborations with the Shanghai Typhoon Institute (STI) are proving to be fruitful. The IDV is now used in over 200 institutions worldwide.
  • IDV will be the focus of a Regional Workshop at Plymouth State University May 18-20.
  • AWIPS II and N-AWIPS are hot topics for the UPC and the community.
  • Attendance by the University community at the CONDUIT meeting in New Orleans was disappointing. The Users Committee has been asked to poll the community for CONDUIT data set input.
  • Unidata successfully coordinated a data access workshop held in Portland, Oregon April 30 to May 3.
  • Announcement of Equipment Award recipients from the 2008 solicitation were made. There were three of them.


  • Unidata 2013 review discussion: NSF will likely be proposing a reverse site visit to take place 25-26 June at NSF.
  • The UPC can consider extending and possibly solidifying collaborations with the Oceans community by taking steps to develop a virtual community with OCI.
  • Collaborations with Shanghai Typhoon Institute are positive. There was a suggestion that collaborations with groups in China and India could possibly be developed in a similar manner, tapping into human capital in those countries.
  • CONDUIT is helping TIGGE to populate NCEP data in the three TIGGE archives.
  • Unidata should track developments in NSF’s virtual organization initiative. Unidata is a form of virtual organization.

Action Item : 4. A future meeting should include a presentation by John Orcutt, UCSD, on the Ocean Observing Initiative cyberinfrastructure.

Budget Report (Mitchell)

We're ending the award period facing a tighter budget future than we've seen in a few years. But the recent decision by the President's Council to delay merit increases to coincide with the new fiscal year has been favorable to our budget. That, along with attrition, a vacancy in GEMPAK and LEAD positions and carryover for both FY08 and (projected for) FY09 have helped us leverage our resources as we transition to the new five-year proposal. We project to end FY08 with $4.48 million in total expenditures with a total budget of $5.59 million.

Our core funding has increased slightly over the last two years after modest increases early on in the award period. Despite recent funding on the two newest non-core projects, SDCI and TC-IDV, we're facing the lowest level of non-core funding in six years for FY09. We have been aggressively pursuing various funding opportunities to offset that, however, and hopefully our efforts will pay off in the next fiscal year.

The key issues that we'll monitor closely for the next few months are spending, the vacancies in the LEAD and GEMPAK positions, and NSF's response to the Unidata 2013 proposal, which includes funds for two new engineers, two part-time students, and one part-time visitor. We're optimistic that the budget picture will improve in the next award.


  • The cost of doing business in Unidata is increasing by about 4% (~$180K?), with most of the change resulting from salary increases.
  • With funds remaining from the LEAD project, LEAD will seek a no-cost extension to the award.
  • There is increased pressure on Unidata core funds based on (among other things) the conclusion of some key projects (NASA, THREDDS for example) which has increased the pressure on core funds. Thus, it seems appropriate that Unidata seek increased funding outside of its core funds.

Users Committee Report (Lackmann)

During the meeting, Leigh Orf, Users Committee member, made a presentation on creating a case study archive using THREDDS. The presentation described the process used, some of the problems encountered, and the benefits from having gone through the process.

Other noteworthy events during the meeting include:

  • Presentation of the DeSouza Award to Mark Laufersweiler.
  • 2009 Users Workshop Discussion
    • The theme for this workshop has been tentatively identified as "Observations: how these data can be used in teaching and research."
  • Student Sean Arms made presentations on Datapedia and THREDDS server using free BSD.
  • USPLN data will soon be available, thanks in large measure to the efforts of Chris Herbster.
  • Member Eugene Cordero suggested conducting a virtual meeting each year to lower the committee's carbon footprint. The suggestion generated considerable discussion, and there was agreement that the 2009 Workshop Planning sub-committee would implement the suggestion and evaluate the results. Committee members thought that using social networking systems would facilitate a virtual meeting process.

Agency Report

NSF (Jacobs)

Cliff opened his presentation by mentioning the disparity between the optimistic budget picture painted during the fall meeting's NSF report, and the subsequent reality of much lower funding for NSF in FY 2008.

At this point, NSF anticipates a 7% projected annual growth through 2014.

The FY09 budget request for NSF is $6.85 billion which is a 13% increase from FY08's request. Here are some of the significant changes:

  • Water processes: $10M
  • CDI: (Cyberenabled Discovery and Innovation)
    • Data to knowledge: $100M
    • Complexity in Natural, Built, and Social Systems:
    • Virtual Organizations
  • Interdisciplinary Research: $76M
  • Climate Change: $221M

Geosciences-specific budget requests:

  • 13.8% increase for Atmospheric Sciences
  • 13.9% increase for Earth Science
  • 13.9% increase for Ocean Sciences

There is strong support for climate change research activities, for research on the dynamics of water processes in the environment, for near-term priorities of ocean research, and for cyber-enabled research and discovery.

In GEO, MFERC (Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction), Ocean observatories and the Alaska Region Research Vessel are undergoing design and cost reviews prior to the start of construction. A recently completed new South Pole Station was dedicated in January. This represents a major achievement for the foundation. The request for MRI or major Research Instrumentation for FY09 is $115M.

11:00 Software Transitions at Unidata, Presentation (Ramamurthy, Rew)

To set the stage for the discussion, Mohan made a brief presentation summarizing the status of the GEMPAK/AWIPS-II that included the following highlights:

  • N-AWIPS/GEMPAK, used within the National Centers, will be migrated to AWIPS II in 2011.
  • N-AWIPS will be “frozen” in summer 2008 except for bug fixes and emergency updates.
  • The GEMPAK software is Unidata's most widely-used analysis and display software.
  • Its strengths include, among others:
    • Publication quality output
    • Comprehensive and robust model output diagnostics, including support for ensemble model output
  • On the negative side, GEMPAK does not run on Windows and is unable to directly access data from remote servers [Mention Gary’s summary of strengths and weaknesses of the three applications]
  • As IDV continues to evolve, developers will be adding more GEMPAK-like capabilities to the software.
  • UPC staff are working closely with the NWS on AWIPS-II development. Two UPC staff attended a training session on the software during the week of the 12th of May.


  • The NWS moratorium on N-AWIPS development is expected to impact the Unidata community.
    • GEMPAK users have expressed their concerns mainly through exchanges in the GEMPAK e-mail list, GEMBUD. Everyone agrees that the transition will be significant in the GEMPAK community.
    • The decision to transition was not Unidata's, but Unidata is determined to facilitate by the means available to it.
  • The committee agreed with the idea that this is a strategically significant event for Unidata.
  • The transition is consistent with the goals in the Tools section of Unidata's Strategic Plan.
  • GEMPAK developer Steve Chiswell's departure from the UPC further complicates the situation. Unidata is moving deliberately to fill the vacancy, to facilitate the transition.
  • Unidata needs to allay user concerns and provide reassuring words that the UPC stands behind the final version of GEMPAK from NCEP [this is especially urgent as the 5-year proposal is currently under review].
  • A letter signed by Mohan, Policy Committee Chair, Businger, and Users Committee Chair Lackmann will be sent to the GEMPAK community
  • It is too early for Unidata to make a definitive commitment to support AWIPS II due to the many unresolved issues and resource considerations chief among these is resolution of the licensing question.
    • For Unidata to fully support the transition, it must have assurance that AWIPS II will be totally open source
      • It was pointed out that terms of the contract with Raytheon specify open source status for the product.
  • Unidata has to remain fully-informed about the transition and a part of that is enhanced working relationships with the NWS which have always been strong, but they are being refined still further.

Action Item: A draft of the letter to be sent to the GEMPAK community will be circulated for committee comment and suggestions.

NOTE: It should be noted that in the week following the Virtual Meeting the above-referenced letter has been commented on and revised by suggestions from committee members. The message was sent to GEMPAK users on 19 May. Here is a link to a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the 3 visualization/analysis packages in question.

12:00 CF Conventions Support by Unidata (Rew)

Continued development of the Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata conventions (cfconventions.org) is a critical step in supporting interoperability for Earth science data from different sources. They are intended for use for both model output and observational datasets. Russ noted that there is growing use, acceptance, and dependence on CF.

The CF Standard Names transition, with 0.5 FTE dedicated at BADC, has been very successful. The CF Conventions transition has been moderately successful, but needs more resources. There's a suggestion that a jointly-funded position at Unidata could support the development.


The first reaction questioned why this was a policy issue, because it was clearly something Unidata should be doing. Russ answered that two characteristics of this proposal distinguished it from a management decision about how to allocate Unidata's resources:

    1. The request came from an international group for a long-term institutional commitment of resources to support infrastructure for climate research and interoperability.
    2. The proposed position would not be a developer, but a domain specialist who would help coordinate CF conventions discussions and advancement.

Mohan stated that providing more support for CF was consistent with Unidata’s strategic plan and our desire to provide cyberinfrastructure leadership and stewardship. There was a request for a draft resolution providing direction to the Unidata Program Center.

The current draft resolution is still being discussed via email, and no motion for its adoption has been made:

Consistent with Unidata's strategic plans and with efforts to facilitate climate data services development, the Policy Committee endorses an emphasis on both the CF Conventions layer in Unidata software and on helping to advance the development of the CF Conventions for the benefits to the current Unidata community and for interoperability of tools and data in other communities. The Policy Committee encourages the UPC to find the most effective and efficient means to implement a CF Conventions layer in Unidata software.

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