CISL staff recognized for outstanding performance

By Staff
12/30/2005 - 12:00am


  CISL's Tim Scheitlin
  Tim Scheitlin, assistant manager of the CISL Visualization and Enabling Technologies Section (VETS), gives a demonstration on atmospheric research to visitors in the Visualization Laboratory. For many years, the VisLab has been instrumental in educating policy makers who run the country.
  CISL outreach team
  CISL staff accept UCAR's 2005 Education and Outreach Award. The award is given for efforts that have a significant impact on scientific, mathematical, or technical education or that significantly enhance the public’s understanding of scientific or technical issues. L to R: Darin Oman, Don Middleton (VETS manager), Joey Mendoza, Susan Cross, Tim Scheitlin (assistant VETS manager), Dianne Bernier, and John Clyne. (Photo: Bob Henson, UCAR.)
  NCL team
  Dave Brown, Dave Kennison, Mary Haley, and Fred Clare of CISL and Dennis Shea of ESSL accept UCAR's 2005 Scientific/Technical Advancement Award. The award is given for efforts leading to substantial improvements in scientific and/or technical capabilities, including advances in hardware or software engineering, computer science, and applied science. (Not pictured: Richard Grubin and Sylvia Murphy.) (Photo: Bob Henson, UCAR.)

A dozen members of NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL) were honored this month for increasing public understanding of NCAR/UCAR research and helping scientists around the world to effectively access, analyze, and visualize Earth systems data.

UCAR president Rick Anthes presented CISL staff with awards for exceptional performance at the annual UCAR holiday party and special recognition ceremony, held December 16, 2005, at UCAR’s Center Green facility.

The Outstanding Accomplishment awards, UCAR's most prestigious honors, have been given each December since 1967. Nominations are submitted by program managers and division directors and reviewed by an interdivisional committee. Award categories are Education and Outreach, Administrative Achievement, Scientific/Technical Advancement, Mentoring, and Outstanding Publication.

CISL staff were recognized in two of the five categories: Education and Outreach and Scientific/Technical Advancement.

Highlighting urgent environmental issues

Anthes presented the award for Education and Outreach to Dianne Bernier, John Clyne, Susan Cross, Joey Mendoza, Don Middleton, Darin Oman, and Tim Scheitlin of CISL.

Over the last ten years, the outreach team has delivered hundreds of educational presentations for audiences of different ages and levels of scientific insight.

“These presentations visually demonstrate a wide range of geoscience concepts, highlighting some of the most pressing and urgent environmental issues facing society today,” Anthes said. “Advanced techniques combined with a 3D projection system and narrated visualizations offer science in such a manner that everyone in the audience understands it on some level.”

The outreach team regularly hosts visitors in the NCAR/CISL Visualization Laboratory, a complex facility that combines supercomputers tailored for graphics-intensive use with an electronic collaboration environment called the Access Grid. The Access Grid is an ensemble of network, computing, and other resources that supports group-to-group videoconferencing and geographically distributed scientific research.

“The VisLab has been a ‘must see’ experience for such diverse visitors as university students, NCAR workshop attendees, members of the French Parliament, the FBI, and IMAX film producers,” said Anthes. “The state-of-the-art videoconferencing Access Grid system has saved thousands of dollars in travel costs, prompting NCAR to adopt the technology across all of its campuses.”

Anthes noted that the outreach team has supported UCAR’s public visitor program by giving K-12 students a glimpse of science that they will always remember. He also cited the innovative, mobile “visualization theater” that CISL staff have used to reach thousands of people at scientific and technical conferences.

Software for the international Earth system sciences community

Anthes presented the award for Scientific/Technical Advancement to David Brown, Fred Clare, Richard Grubin, Mary Haley, and David Kennison of CISL for developing the NCAR Command Language (NCL). Sharing the award were Sylvia Murphy and Dennis Shea of NCAR’s Earth & Sun Systems Laboratory (ESSL).

NCL is an interpreted programming language that makes it possible for researchers to easily and effectively access, process, and visualize geoscientific data.

  • NCL lets scientists browse data in multiple formats, including netCDF, HDF4, HDF4-EOS, GRIB, binary, and ASCII.
  • NCL includes many features for geophysical data analysis, allowing scientists to manipulate data from a variety of disciplines. Sample functions include statistics and correlations, regridding and interpolations, and spherical harmonic transformations.
  • NCL visualization capabilities include contour plots, XY plots, vectors, streamlines, mapping, and basic graphic primitives.
  • NCL runs on many different operating systems, including Solaris, AIX, IRIX, Linux, MacOSX, Dec Alpha, and Cygwin/X on Windows.

NCL is a critical piece of software cyberinfrastructure that enables the discovery and the communication of scientific knowledge, said Anthes.

“NCL's most essential (and perhaps least glamorous) role is providing our community with publication-quality graphics, essential for scientists who publish images in professional journals,” he observed. “NCL also provides support for literally hundreds of functions that do a variety of essential tasks. These range from specialized climate analyses to simple commands for converting data between data file formats. NCL has been embraced broadly across the international Earth system sciences community, spanning research and education, and many organizations and agencies. For example, over the last five years, NCL has been downloaded 8,000 times.”

Anthes noted that NCL is the result of a monumental effort in software engineering documentation, training, and consulting. The NCL software environment consists of more than a million lines of C, Fortran, and Python code.

Also, said Anthes, “the NCL effort has balanced the development and delivery of powerful capabilities, crafted and tuned to our community's special needs, with a strong element of outreach, support, and training. As an example, in the last five years, the NCL team has held 17 local workshops and seven workshops at universities and government facilities across the United States.”

Anthes concluded by recognizing the NCL team's commitment to supporting the university community and fostering the transfer of knowledge and technology.