Hi Matt,

This may not be something specifically for the mission statement (depending on how wordy we want to get), but I'm very interested in using yt (or something that encompasses yt) as a workflow tool so that my simulations are completely reproducible.  What I could imagine is something like this:

1.  Generate initial conditions, cosmological or otherwise.  IC parameter file goes into a database, along with details about the code that's used to generate my ICs (inits/MUSIC/grafic hash, outputs of make show-config and make show-flags, etc.)

2.  Run simulation.  Run-related and performance information is collected in a database.  (what supercomputer?  How many CPUs?  Environmental variables?  Which version of MPI?  What date(s) did the job run on?  What nodes?  Copy of Enzo restart parameter files and perhaps hierarchy files, for later query?)

3.  Back up Enzo data to mass storage (or perhaps some subset of the data, depending on how big the sim is).  What directory is it in?  Should it be world-readable, group-readable, etc.?

4.  Do analysis.  Record all details of analysis and plot making, so that I can go back and retrace all details.

At that point, I would know _precisely_ how and with what commands/code/parameter files/etc. the plots that are in my papers, and everything leading up to that, is generated.  This helps when you go back to deal with the referee ("how DID I make that stupid plot?  What was sigma8 again?"), but also for reproducibility, since in principle somebody could just go back, look at the database, and be able to do precisely what I did.  Also, if somebody wanted to use archival data - something we hope to do more of in the future, as simulations grow in expense and complexity - there'd be no confusion about the provenance of that data.

If I had to sum this up in a sentence, it'd be "Transform yt into a tool for easily and transparently tracking all aspects of simulation generation, execution, and analysis for the purposes of reproducibility."

Anyway, maybe that's unrealistic, but it'd be awesome.  The few workflow tools that I have been exposed to suffer from excessive generality, and thus are a bit too cumbersome to be easy to use, and thus too cumbersome to be actually used.


On Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 12:43 PM, Matthew Turk <matthewturk@gmail.com> wrote:
Hi everyone,

I hope you'll take the opportunity to read and respond to this email,
even if you're not a heavy-developer, or even a heavy-user, of yt.
Your feedback and contributions would be greatly, greatly appreciated,
particularly as this will help guide where yt development,
community-building and (optimistically) use will go.  I know that
sometimes the signal-to-noise on the yt lists can be a bit low, but I
think this is a particularly useful discussion to have.

A few of us have been brainstorming, in person, in IRC, etc about the
direction yt has been going.  There are a number of reasons for doing
this -- to provide focus, to provide an idea of the
off-in-the-distance goal, and to have a public statement of what we're
about, which shows ambition, concern for the values that go into a
scientific code, and an interest in providing access to that code.
This boils down to coming up with a mission statement, which will help
both focus our goals on what we want to provide, as well as describe
those areas we do not want to provide.  Much of this is based on the
contents of “The Art of Community” by Jono Bacon, specifically around
page 71 in the PDF available on www.artofcommunityonline.org/get/ .

“Mission statements are intended to be consistent and should rarely
change, even if the tasks that achieve that mission change regularly.
When building your mission statement, always have its longevity in
mind. Remember, your mission statement is your slam-dunking, audacious
goal. For many communities these missions can take decades or even
longer to achieve. Their  purpose is to not only describe the finish
line, but to help the community stay on track.”

To develop a mission statement, which will act as a precursor to a
strategic plan, we need to construct answers to three questions.
These will provide the initial basis for a broader mission statement.
For reference, here are some “principles” we came up with several
years ago:


As I mentioned above, a few of us have been spitballing answers to
these questions, and it has reached the point where we really need to
bring this forward, to conduct these discussions in public, to bring
some clarity and engagement to the process.  Ultimately, once we have
sketched out a couple broad goals and bullet points, this can then be
distilled into a short, pithy block of text that serves as a "Mission
Statement."  Below are some potential bullet points, but I feel
strongly that it's important that these get refined and discussed.

= What is the mission? =
 * To create a fun, community-led, open source tool for asking and
answering astrophysical questions through simulations, analysis and
 * To create reproducible, cross-code questions and answers from
astrophysical data
 * To construct a consistent language for asking questions of
simulation data from many sources
 * To encourage researchers to participate in constructing a community code

= What are the opportunities and areas of collaboration? =
 * Development of new tools, new techniques, and adding support for new codes.
 * Adding components to the GUI
 * Providing outreach-capable frontends
 * Improving visualization qualities
 * Adding new methods of accessing data
 * Performance analysis & optimization
 * Deployment to new platforms
 * Designing new web pages
 * Writing documentation and recipes
 * Spreading the word
 * Support for Cartesian non-astrophysical simulations (weather, earthquakes)
 * Extension to non-Cartesian coordinate systems
 * Mentoring new developers

= What are the skills required? =
 * Thoughtful process
 * Careful quality control
 * Ability to communicate
 * An investment in “the answer”
 * Eagerness to participate in an open fashion

What other bullets, ideas, inclinations do people have?  If we can
start a discussion, maybe we can draft some text.  This would
certainly help with focusing our strategies for presenting yt to
others, directing our development in conjunction with our scientific
goals, and collaborating as a community.

Thanks very much for any thoughts,

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