Ethan Alpert (ethan@niwot.scd.ucar.EDU)
Fri, 23 Oct 92 11:26:49 MDT

I am beginning to feel frustrated with some of the conventions discussions.
What is making me frustrated is the continued belief that introducing 
esoteric names like: CTD, ADCP, PO, Acoustics, ROV, IPTS-68, will actually 
aid in the development of a "generic" netCDF application. This could not
be farther from the truth.
I think we need to draw a line in the sand that separates, and makes a 
distinction between, conventions that help describe the contents of a netCDF 
file to a scientist and conventions that help describe the contents of a 
file to a "generic" application and while we are at it we could define exactly 
what a "generic" application means.

As far as I'm concerned I would define a generic application as an application
that presents the variables and ancillary information(metadata) of the netCDF 
file to the user; allows the user to script computations on the data; and 
finally allows the user to view the data and/or results of computations.  To 
require an application to "understand" thousands of discipline specific naming 
conventions is unrealistic.  Signell, Sirott and myself have been pulling for 
more conventions that help communicate the structure and geometry of the data 
because these are things that a "generic" application has a chance of 
understanding and manipulating. If you don't believe me take a look at AVS and 
EXPLORER, whose data formats primarily describe structure and geometry, which 
can handle an extremely diverse sets of data.

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the utility of discipline 
specific conventions for describing data. However, these conventions
should be looked at in the context of describing the data to a scientist not
to a generic application.

IMHO, we should resolve the problems with describing geometry in netCDF files
before we haggle over how many ways we should name temperature variables.

This involves standardizing how dependent and independent variables are 
described, how the coordinate sytem of the independent variables is described,
and  how to describe logical groupings of variables that make up a single data 

Ethan Alpert  internet: | Standard Disclaimer:
Scientific Visualization Group,             | I represent myself only.
Scientific Computing Division               |-------------------------------
National Center for Atmospheric Research, PO BOX 3000, Boulder Co, 80307-3000