|Workshop, August 5-6, 2011, Boulder,Colorado|
1. Please describe your research and education activities and their broader impacts. Highlight
the cyberinfrastructure tools, scientific instruments, computing needs, data networking
requirements and related CI resources required and utilized in your work. Please feel free to also
mention partner organizations and/or collaborators.
Unidata is a community-drive data facility, funded by the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences
Division at the National Science Foundation, to provide the data services, tools, and
cyberinfrastructure leadership that advance Earth system science, enhance educational
opportunities, and broaden participation. Hundreds of institutions worldwide participate in the
Unidata data sharing network and many more institutions use Unidata tools and technologies in
education, research, and operations. While Unidata’s primary mission of serving the academic
community remains unchanged through the years, the user base has broadened and its activities
and responsibilities grown as community needs have evolved.
To fulfill the above mission and as the enabler of a broad community, the Unidata Program
- Acquires and distributes real-time meteorological data for education, research, and
- Develops software for accessing, managing, analyzing, visualizing, and effectively using
geosciences data .
- Provides comprehensive support to users of its products and services.
- Conducts training workshops on Unidata software packages.
- Facilitates advancement of standards, conventions, and interoperability.
- Provides leadership in geosciences cyberinfrastructure and fosters technological change.
- Assesses and responds to community needs.
- Advocates on behalf of the university community on data issues and negotiates data
- Fosters community interaction and engagement to promote sharing of data, tools, and ideas.
- Grants equipment awards to universities to enable and enhance participation in Unidata.
Software provided by Unidata
- Analysis & Visualization
- Data Distribution
- Data Access
- THREDDS Data Server
- Data Management, Infrastructure, and Conversion Software/Middleware
Collaborations: Unidata collaborates with many academic institutions in the U. S. and abroad,
federal agencies – most notably - NOAA, research laboratories, and the private sector.
Unidata is a service organization. As such, it undertakes virtually no activity without considering its
broader impact on its community. Below are examples of Unidata’s broader impact contributions:
a. Enhance infrastructure for research and education, advancing discovery and
- Unidata-provided cyberinfrastructure is used widely for research and education at several
hundred universities world-wide. Unidata has fostered diversity by including nontraditional
disciplines, expanding its users in community colleges, and democratizing data
and tool provision to international institutions.
- Over the past five years, Unidata software and data systems have contributed to the
publication of over 500 scientific papers on a broad range of topics in the geosciences.
- Unidata systems and technologies are integral parts of many projects including but not
limited to SuomiNet, THORPEX, GEON, EarthScope, IPY, and Google-UCAR Africa
- One of the most shining examples of Unidata’s broader scientific impact is the use of the
netCDF-CF data format in the IPCC Fourth Assessment activities. NetCDF advances
resulted in its adoption as a standard for data access in the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model
data archive at PCMDI. As pointed out by Meehl et al (2007) its adoption precipitated a
new era in climate research. Researchers at all levels and in diverse geographic locations
now can use multi-model output in their work, further enabling them to contribute to the
global research community.
- The adoption of the IDV framework by GEON is another example of a Unidata tool that
has had a broad impact on geoscience research. GEON IDV, an extension of the Unidata
IDV, is a tool for exploration and display of data in solid earth geophysics. It has
demonstrated IDV’s value in seismic tomography and mantle geodynamics by providing
new insights in the exploration of geophysical data (Meertens et al., 2006).
- The democratization of access to data and tools is resulting in attracting and educating
tomorrow’s scientists. At one institution, the transformation enabled by Unidata led to a
tripling of the undergraduate majors in the meteorology.
- Unidata systems have facilitated experiential as well as hands-on learning with real-world
and real-time data. The software Unidata provides has enabled students to use the same
tools of the trade that scientists and operational practioners use. In the process, Unidata
facilitates integration of research and education, a long-standing NSF goal.
- Unidata-developed cyberinfrastructure, in addition to being used widely in universities, is
broadly adopted and used by other stakeholders in government and the private sector.
Many data services in NOAA, NWS, NASA, NCAR, and other organizations and
projects are now built upon the formats and tools that have are developed at Unidata.
b. Broaden the participation of underrepresented groups
- Unidata infrastructure is being used at universities in 23 out of 27 EPSCoR states,
including many institutions that have a large number of students from underrepresented
sectors of society. Unidata-provided products and services help contribute to and promote
the development of research activities in areas of strategic importance to the NSF
- Through universities, Unidata assists in preparing a diverse workforce for the different
sectors of the atmospheric sciences enterprise.
- Unidata technologies have improved course offerings, providing venues for professional
development workshops for high school science teachers, and ultimately to enriching a
summer program called Minority Outreach Science Enrichment Program at the
University of Missouri-KC.
c. Disseminate information and data to enhance scientific and technological understanding
- The UPC uses many avenues for disseminating information to enhance scientific,
technological, and educational impact of the program. These include a comprehensive
website, e-letters, RSS feeds, online forums, webcasts of presentations, and targeted
- In addition to direct dissemination by the UPC, Unidata universities and colleges carry
out their own outreach activities facilitated by the Unidata infrastructure. College of
DuPage, the Midwest’s largest single campus community college, makes considerable
use of Unidata’s datastreams and tools for disseminating real-time weather products to
outside users. An Automated Volcanic Ash Forecast System at the University of Alaska-
Fairbanks, uses Unidata systems in its operations. At the University of Hawaii, Unidata
systems are pivotal in supplying the Mauna Kea Observatory with custom forecasts to
facilitate astronomers in their work.
- Unidata infrastructure is being used at NASA Space Centers and in emergency
preparedness and management during Katrina, the Challenger disaster, NTSB
investigations, and the Columbia Scientific Balloon facility for mission launches.
- At the Boston Museum of Science, the WeatherWise exhibit successfully uses data
delivered by Unidata and visualizes it using a Unidata-supported tool.
2. From your perspective, describe the most significant obstacles that limit your teaching and
research collaborations in terms of hardware, software, network access, problems with data
standards and data sharing mechanisms, training needs, sustainable funding and any other
issues that need to be addressed and resolved to enable enhanced CI in support of your work.
- Workforce and human capacity, including scientific and computing literacy and related
- Infrastructure: Inadequate computing and networking resources, availability of software
- Interoperability of data services – lack of agreement on standards, conventions and
formats across the geosciences, different vocabularies, and different expectations and
cultures for computing and data sharing in different disciplines, countries, and
- Data discovery and access: Free and open sharing and comprehensive data discovery