Training in Geoscientific Tools
||Vani Cheruvu, an NCAR postdoc,
receives advice on coding scientific visualizations from instructor
Dennis Shea, an NCAR associate scientist, during the February 2006
NCL workshop. These workshops provide an in-depth level of user
service that dramatically increases their productivity and ability
to make effective use of the tools and facilites we provide.
Staff in CISL and ESSL have collaborated to provide a series of
training workshops for NCL, a free, interpreted language designed
specifically for geoscientific data analysis and visualization.
These workshops went on hiatus in FY 2005 due to resource constraints,
and they were revitalized in FY 2006 by popular demand from the users.
A total of 28 local and non-local workshops have been offered since
the year 2000, with 330 students in attendance. These free workshops
are four days in length with morning lectures and hands-on afternoon
labs. Students are encouraged to bring their own datasets to the class
so that by the end of the workshop they have produced meaningful
results from their data.
NCL workshops support
the NCAR strategic priorities of "Developing and providing advanced
services and tools," and "Engaging a broader and more diverse
community" in the atmospheric and geosciences. The courses are taught
by a climate analysis expert who provides a unique, scientific
perspective on learning NCL, with support from an NCL visualization
expert. The hands-on labs provide an environment for one-on-one
interactions with instructors and allow students to apply the course
material to their own scientific analysis problems. Based on results
from a visualization and analysis survey conducted in 2005, these
workshops are highly regarded, and there is a strong desire in the
user community to see them continued.
A goal in FY 2006 was to offer at least three NCL workshops, adding
more if the demand was great enough. We offered a fourth local workshop,
and one in Silver Spring, Maryland for a group of NOAA scientists, with
NOAA financial support. Plans have been made to offer four more local
NCL workshops in FY 2007, with the possibility of additional non-local
classes if requested. Based on comments from the survey noted above,
there was a high level of interest in online training, which is
something we plan to investigate. A final goal for next year is
to consider training possibilities for PyNGL and PyNIO, software
components that provide Python interfaces to NCL's file input/output
and visualization capabilities. Training for these interfaces would
first require offering training courses in Python itself, which we
believe is best left to an outside Python expert. A first step has
already been taken in this direction, with CISL staff attending a
Python course for the purpose of evaluating the class for usefulness
within our scientific environment. The next step is to develop a
plan for how to incorporate Python training with follow-up courses
in PyNGL and PyNIO.
This project is supported by NSF core funding.