Status report, 2011-08-08

Period: 2011-04 to 2011-07

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 third meeting, on 2011-08-08, 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

We have mentored three excellent Google Summer of Code projects, which
will soon conclude. This has been a great deal of work but has
contributed to our code efforts and has also raised our profile in
various ways.

We have created and are promoting a Science Code Manifesto.

Our profile is growing: we are being invited to speak in a few places,
or take part in various events.

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:

  • Complete the Google Summer of Code and attend the Mentor Summit;
  • Take part in panels at the First International Workshop on Climate Informatics in New York and the Science Online London conference;
  • Give a talk to the National Centre for Atmospheric Science in Reading;
  • Organise a Climate Code Workshop;
  • Grow networks of interested climate scientists;
  • Obtain at least one financial sponsor.

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

  • fundraising;
  • institutional networking.

3. Activities

3.1. Corporate

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). Nick’s personal
circumstances have improved and he now has somewhat more time to spend
on Foundation work as a result.

We are still looking for funding which would allow us to work
full-time for the Foundation. Nick Barnes was invited to apply for a
fellowship from the Shuttleworth Foundation, which would have provided
a salary-replacement grant for one year, a large travel budget, and
access to project funding. Unfortunately the application was not
successful. Other NGO sources of funding have been suggested,
including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Open Society
Foundations.

3.2. Planning and Framework-Building

We have done a lot of planning work relating to Google Summer of Code.
See below.

3.3. Engagement with Climate Scientists

We have created the network@climatecode.org and
friends@climatecode.org mailing lists. The former is for technical
discussion of climate science software issues. The latter is for
higher-level strategic or policy discussions. Activity on both lists
is very limited at present.

We are conducting a research project, sending a questionnaire
concerning software to the corresponding author of every paper
published in the new Nature Climate Change journal. It is too early
to discuss the results.

3.4. Publicity

We have made eight posts on the Climate Code Foundation blog, of which
six were guest-written by our Google Summer of Code students.

Our article about the Clear Climate Code project has been accepted,
following minor revisions, for the IEEE Software special issue on
climate science, for publication in 2011-11/12. Final files for this
are due this Wednesday 2011-08-10.

We have written a Science Code Manifesto,
http://code.google.com/p/climatecode/wiki/ScienceCodeManifesto which
states the case for publication of science software source code, and
identifies the key issues and the responsibilities of various
stake-holders. This is intended to be the focus of a lot of activity
in the coming months as we seek endorsements. We have bought the
sciencecodemanifesto.org domain for this purpose.

3.5. Code Activities

We have been mentoring 3 students on Google Summer of Code projects,
see below.

3.6. Networking

We have taken part in a Royal Society policy study on Science as a
Public Enterprise, including making a written submission and attending
an open Town Hall Meeting on 2011-06-08. We met several of the “great
and good” of UK science there, including Philip Campbell of Nature and
Paul Nurse of the Royal Society. This has led to further networking,
including meetings with Timo Hannay of Digital Science and Nick von
Behr of the Royal Society, and a forthcoming meeting with Olive
Heffernan of Nature Climate Change.

Our involvement with the OSID project (Open Science Information
Demonstrator) came to an end; Rufus Pollock of the Open Knowledge
Foundation is taking that development work forwards.

We have been invited to send someone to the First International
Workshop on Climate Informatics in New York City on 2011-08-26. Nick
Barnes will be going. Our Google Summer of Code students should all
be there. We have not been able to obtain funding for the travel
costs.

We have been invited to take part in a panel at Science Online London
on 2011-09-02. Nick Barnes will take part.

Nick Barnes visited the National Centre for Atmospheric Science in
Reading in 2011-05. He has been invited to return to give a
presentation in 2011-09. He met Arfon Smith there, of the Zooniverse
project, and has started a conversation with him about a possible
crowd-sourced project on arctic sea ice.

Nick Barnes has been invited to speak at the Second Symposium on
Advances in Modeling and Analysis Using Python, at the AMS annual
meeting in New Orleans in January. We would like to attend, but do
not have any funding for travel or accommodation.

Julien Emile-Geay (of the Common Climate Project) has invited us to
visit his group at USC, including providing travel and accommodation
costs.

We are invited to the Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit, in
California in 2011-10. Google pay travel costs. We are considering
whether the value of this as a networking activity justifies the
climate damage incurred by the travel.

3.7. Financial

We still have no corporate sponsorship.

Since our last status report, we have paid £11.90 in travel and
subsistence, bringing total costs to date to £1766.56. These expenses
have been managed through Ravenbrook Limited.

The work we did for OSID paid £5181.26. To simplify the accounting of
our outstanding costs, we invoiced this through Ravenbrook Limited,
who paid us the remainder, £3364.10.

Google Summer of Code should have paid the Foundation $1500 ($500 per
mentored project), but this has not yet been received.

We have received £1.07 in interest, and our total bank balance is
£3365.17.

There are pending unclaimed expenses of perhaps one or two hundred
pounds.

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). After being accepted as a
mentoring organisation and reviewing the 15 or so student applications
we shortlisted 5 students. Funding levels are set by Google and we
were allocated 3 slots, that is we could choose 3 students to be
funded in the GSoC programme. On the basis of their proposals and
interview we selected: Daniel Rothenberg, Filipe Fernandes, and Hannah
Aizenman. Daniel is working on a clear implementation of a published
temperature network homogenization algorithm (the Menne and Williams
2009 USHCN algorithm); Filipe is working to make ccc-gistemp more user
friendly by packaging it as a standard GUI and improving its speed;
Hannah is working on a web server to allow easier access to and
visualisation of various paleoclimate records and reconstructions. We
are collaborating with the Common Climate Project (formerly called
OCP) to co-mentor Hannah.

All of these projects directly address the Foundation’s goals, and
will hopefully lead to further indirect contributions, by being a
bridge to further collaborations and assisting others in pursuing our
goals.

The GSoC project is coming to an end in 2011-08; all 3 students
successfully completed midterm evaluations in 2011-07, which
importantly for them is the checkpoint for receiving almost half of
their funding. All the students have said they would like to continue
working with us in some capacity after the programme finishes.

Daniel has been collaborating with scientists at NOAA as part of his
project, and his work prompted the NCDC deputy director Scott Hausman
to thank Google for selecting him.

So far we are encouraged by our participation in GSoC. The Foundation
is the only climate science focussed organisation in GSoC and one of
only a handful of science based organisations. We think that GSoC is
one of the ways in which the Foundation can reach out to (science and
climate science) organisations and improve their practice, and our
experience so far strengthens our convictions. A possible future
activity of the Foundation could be to assist science groups in
securing funding, such as Google Summer of Code, for internships that
have a strong software element.

4. Plan

Our plans for the next quarter (to 2011-10-31) 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.

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 have brought us into contact with numerous climate
science groups. We will foster these relationships.

We will continue our GSoC activities until this year’s programme
finishes and will spend some time evaluating the programme.

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 will continue our questionnaire-based research into software
practices in climate science. Interested participants 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 will continue with our blogging activities, and seek further
opportunities for publication.

4.5. Code Activities

The Google Summer of Code programme continues, we expect that this
will spur some further volunteer development.

4.6. Networking

Having established two mailing lists (network@climatecode.org – The
Climate Code Network, and friends@climatecode.org – Friends of the
Climate Code Foundation) we will continue to nurture these.

4.7. Financial

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

We have now reached the anniversary of the Foundation, without
securing any reliable source of funding. We have foregone
approximately £50,000 in consultancy income to do Foundation work.
This is unsustainable. We are considering rescoping our work going
forward.

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 2011-11.