Status report, 2011-04-07

Period: 2010-12 to 2010-03

Nick Barnes and David Jones

1. Introduction

This report describes the recent work and current status of the
Climate Code Foundation. It is to be presented to the Foundation’s
Advisory Committee at its second meeting, on 2011-04-07, and will be
published on the Foundation’s website.

The intended readership of this document is all Foundation staff and
Committee members, and anyone interested in the work of the
Foundation.

Readers may find this document unusually frank. That is in keeping
with the transparent operation of the Foundation.

2. Overview

For personal reasons, we have been unable to devote as much time to
the Foundation in this period as we would like.

We have broadened our network among climate scientists, and are
forming links with several earth science software groups.

We have been successful in becoming a mentoring organisation for
Google Summer of Code, and expect to mentor 3 or 4 students this year
to work on software projects advancing our corporate goals.

We have not obtained any sponsorship funding, nor have we found anyone
to carry out fundraising activities for us. This remains our main
concern looking forward.

In the next quarter, subject to funding, we plan to:

  • mentor 3 or 4 Google Summer of Code students;
  • organise a Climate Code Workshop;
  • rapidly create networks of interested climate scientists;
  • outsource fundraising;

We would like the committee to provide general strategy advice and
also specific advice on:

  • fundraising;
  • institutional networking.

3. Activities

3.1. Corporate

The advisory committee elected Kate Willett as chair at the last
meeting on 2011-11-30. It has appointed two additional members, Paul
Edwards and Venkatramani Balaji. It has taken on the role of
scheduling and arranging meetings.

We finally have a bank account.

We have a logo, provided for free by a graphic artist associate,
suitable for print or online use, and in various aspect ratios.

Our staffing level has not changed: activities are still carried out
by David Jones and Nick Barnes (Nick has had to take on part-time
consultancy work for financial reasons). For personal reasons, this
spare time has been very scarce. We hope that will improve in the
next quarter.

3.2. Planning and Framework-Building

We are doing a lot of planning work relating to Google Summer of Code.
See below.

3.3. Engagement with Climate Scientists

We have been approached by Julien Emile-Geay at USC, one of a small
group of US climate scientists (at USC, NCAR, and Columbia) regarding
a project they planning called the ‘Open Climate Project’. This is
intended to provide a flexible open framework for Holocene
paleoclimate reconstruction from proxy datasets. All the data and
source code will be open, and interested members of the public will be
able to use it. They intend to mentor one or two students through the
Google Summer of Code, under the Foundation umbrella (see below).

We have also been in touch with Andre Erler at UToronto, regarding a
software project for processing very large climate datasets in Python.
We are guiding him in licensing and publishing this code.

We are in touch with Rodrigo Caballero at Stockholm University,
regarding his CliMT project (an open-source climate modelling toolkit
in Python using Fortran modules). We expect to do some work together,
but the scope and details are still to be decided.

We are talking to UKOLN about holding a first Climate Code Workshop in
the next few months.

3.4. Publicity

The first issue of Nature Climate Change features a news article about
data and code availability.
http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n1/full/nclimate1057.html Nature Climate Change vol. 1, pp. 10–12 (2011). doi:10.1038/nclimate1057

Nick was interviewed for this article, and we think the Foundation
comes off well in it. We provided a figure for the article, which
gave us the opportunity to reflect upon the processes behind
“reproducible science” and the advantages of that.
http://climatecode.org/blog/2011/02/nature-figure/.

We have made two posts on the Clear Climate Code blog and six on the
Climate Code Foundation Blog. We frequently take part in discussions
on comment threads and other web forums, arguing for the use of
software to improve reproducibility in climate science, and for
greater clarity in science software broadly, and for the release of
more climate science software.

We have written an article about the Clear Climate Code project for
the IEEE Software special issue on climate science. This is still in
draft; the submission deadline is 2011-04-08.

3.5. Code Activities

David has continued work on ccc-gistemp. We have improved
visualisation tools, including code to generate an SVG/PDF diagram for
Nature Climate Change.

We expect to mentor 3 or 4 students on the Google Summer of Code (see
below), to work on ccc-gistemp and other Foundation projects between
May and August 2011. This should accelerate and broaden our code
development activities.

3.6. Networking

Nick gave a lightning talk at a symposium held to honour Peter
Murray-Rust on 2011-01-18. This was well received and we established
connections with several other people including Alex Wade at Microsoft
Research.

We have both been working as data-wranglers on a UK government funded
pilot project on science visibility (OSID: Open Science Information
Demonstrator), on which Peter Murrray-Rust is PI. This involved us in
a meeting at the Royal Society in 2011-03, establishing some
interesting contacts there.

Google Summer of Code has given us several networking opportunities.
Detailed below in a separate subsection.

3.7. Financial

We still have no corporate sponsorship.

We approached a ‘green IT’ consultancy firm in 2010-12, following
particular recommendations, with a view to ‘outsourcing’ our
fundraising for a percentage commission. They were initially very
keen and agreed to take on this work, but it was subsequently vetoed
by their corporate management in 2011-02.

We have approached some senior contacts in the IT industry and in
computer science, to ask about funding. Although they agree with our
goals, we have not had any success in securing sponsorship.

Since the last committee meeting, we have spent a total of £104.49 on
travel and subsistence, bringing our total costs to date to £1754.66.
This cost has been borne by Ravenbrook Limited, and we will repay it
when we have a source of funding.

The work we have been doing with OSID will pay us £400 per day, plus
travel costs, which will probably amount to around £10,000 over a few
months. We intend to recoup our costs to date date out of this,
before paying ourselves for the OSID work.

Google Summer of Code will pay the Foundation $500 per mentored
project. We hope to be the mentoring organisation for 3 or 4
projects.

3.8. Google Summer of Code

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a programme funded by Google in which
students work on open source projects and earn a stipend for doing so
(see http://code.google.com/soc/ for
more). Students must be accepted by a mentoring organisation;
prospective mentoring organisations must pass an application process
first. We successfully applied to become a mentoring organisation
(175 organisations were accepted this year, of 417 applications). We
have had contacts from dozens of students, who are now writing and
revising proposals. The deadline for proposals is Friday, 2011-04-08.
Several students have written proposals and some of these are clearly
very strong. After the proposal deadline we will rate the proposals,
and then Google choose projects to fund. The projects run from late
May to August.

We have partnered with Open Climate Project and expect to have one or
two of their professors mentor a student under the umbrella of Climate
Code Foundation. Currently we (the Foundation and OCP together)
expect to mentor 3 or 4 students.

We are encouraged by the number of contacts we have had from students
with science backgrounds (earth and climate sciences in particular),
particularly as the GSoC programme typically attracts mostly computer
science / electrical engineering students. The Foundation is the only
climate science organisation in GSoC, out of a handful with a science
orientation. We are clearly reaching out to science students, and we
expect that mentoring them will directly advance the Foundation’s
goals.

In talking with other organisations, it becomes apparent that the
Google Summer of Code does not have high visibility in the sciences,
and some organisations that could benefit have not, simply because
they had not heard of it (for example, Murray-Rust’s Chemical
Informatics group at Cambridge, UKOLN at Bath). OCP is an example of
an organisation that will be participating, because the Foundation is
helping them to do so. This sort of outreach could be expanded and a
possible future activity of the Foundation could be to assist science
groups in securing funding for internships that have a strong software
element (Google Summer of Code is one such source of funding).

4. Plan

Our plans for the next quarter (to 2011-06-30) are set out below, but
are understood to be subject to funding and resources. These plans are
based on having 2 full-time staff members.

If personal issues continue to inhibit our activities, we are unlikely
to be able to achieve much other than continue with our blogging and
networking activities.

4.1. Corporate

If we secure funding, we may engage an intern or similar level
employee, and seek office space.

We hope to subcontract fundraising on a commission basis.

4.2. Planning and Framework-building

Covered under other headings.

4.3. Engagement with Climate Scientists

Our GSoC activities will bring us into contact with numerous climate
science groups. We will foster these relationships.

We hope to run a first Climate Code Workshop, possibly working with
either UKOLN (in Bath) or JISC on the logistics.

We will systematically identify and contact project leaders in climate
science software, and invite them to join our growing networks.

We are intending to contact all the authors who publish in the new
‘Nature Climate Change’ journal, to review their software and survey
their attitudes towards software development and release. Interested
authors will be invited to join one of our mailing lists (see below).
This survey may form the basis for a research publication next year.

We will publish white papers on our website concerning code
publication (how and why) and public engagement.

4.4. Publicity

We hope to guide our IEEE Software article through review. We will
continue with our blogging activities.

4.5. Code Activities

See notes on Google Summer of Code, above.

4.6. Networking

We will establish two mailing lists:

network@climatecode.org – The Climate Code Network – for climate
scientists active in software development, to discuss their work, find
resources, and share ideas. The content might get very technical.

friends@climatecode.org – Friends of the Climate Code Foundation – for
climate scientists and others who share our goals, to discuss strategy
and plan activities to advance those goals. The content is likely to
be high-level.

4.7. Financial

We will actively seek a third party willing to take on a fundraising
role on a commission basis.

If we have not established a source of regular funding by the
anniversary of the Foundation, in August, we will rethink all of our
plans accordingly. This will probably involve rescoping as a
spare-time activity, or possibly one run entirely by salaried
academics.

5. Risk Analysis

The following issues are particularly difficult or have aspects which
are not clear to us.

  • Fundraising. This is the largest risk because it is urgently
    required for the success of the Foundation. It is uncertain because
    we have little experience of it: we don’t know whether our strategy
    is sound or appropriate, or how best to pursue it.
  • Institutional Partnership Strategy. We want to form
    institutional-level links with climate science bodies (for example:
    Met Office, BADC, NOAA, NCDC), but we’re not really sure how best to
    go about this. What do we have to offer which is most appealing to
    these institutions – is it simply the PR value of association with
    our projects, or is it concrete services, such as presentations,
    training, sprints, consultancy, or research collaboration? What
    should we expect in return?

6. Specific Advice Requested

The main question we would like the advisory committee to address, at
each meeting, is this:

How could we improve the Foundation’s plan and strategy, to better
meet our goals?

Also, and more specifically, we would like the advisory committee to
consider and advise on the high-risk areas mentioned above.

The Committee should also schedule its next meeting, for late 2011-06.