[PYTHON MATRIX-SIG] NASA Research Announcement - Astrophysics Data Program

Paul Barrett barrett@compass.gsfc.nasa.gov
Thu, 6 Mar 1997 13:12:11 -0500

One week ago, NASA Research Announcement 97-OSS-02 was released.  This
NRA is for the Astrophysics Data Program or ADP.  This program
solicits basic and applied research proposals for three types of
investigations.  Two of them are for research involving space
astrophysics data and are of no concern here.  The third type is for
applied research to provide new and/or improved tools that enhance
space-based astrophysical observing, data analysis, and/or data
management.  Participation in this program is open to all categories
of organizations, domestic and foreign, including educational
institutions, for profit, and not for profit orginizations, NASA
Centers, and other U.S. Government agencies.  Therefore, an ADP
proposal is an excellent opportunity to enhance the numerical and data
analysis aspects of Python and to encourage wider use in the
scientific community.  The proposal deadline is 1997 May 27.

A fellow scientist at Goddard, Joe Harrington, and I have had
preliminary discussions about such a proposal and have arrived at the
following consensus:

1) To make Python more accessible to the scientific community,
Numerical Python needs to be provided as an easily installable
package, preferably having pre-built binaries for common platforms
available.  A binary package will make it much more likely that a
scientist will install the package to evaluate it.

2) A basic (or standard) data analysis environment must be developed.
Modules to be included in this package would almost certainly include
the numeric module, the netCDF module, the GIST module, and the PIL
module which would provide basic array, file, plotting and graphic
capabilities, resp.  The basic numerical python package would allow
most scientists to quickly and easily plot or display their data.
Note that most of these modules are already being developed and only
need to be integrated into a standard data analysis environment.

3) Though an ADP proposal can request financial support for up to
three years, a more conservative, and probably better, approach would
be to request financial support for only the first year, while
including in the proposal an outline of our long term goals.  A
successful first year, i.e. reaching over 75% of our goals, would most
likely lead to continued support for another two or three years.
Financial support can be rquested for both hardware and programmer
support.  Our initial thoughts would be to hire one programmer.

4) Since the ADP supports space astrophysics data analysis, this
proposal must include some aspect directly related to the topic.  We
would therefore propose to develop several astronomical libraries.
Two that come immediately to mind are the StarLink Astronomical
library and the Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) library, the
latter being the standard file format for astronomy.

5) To make this proposal of general use, and hence more viable, we
would work to develop C libraries that can be used by SWIG.  So in the
event that Python does not take root in the astronomical community
(God forbid!), these libraries could still be used by other
scripting-type languages, such as Perl, Guile, and Glish.

Well, if you have read this far, the purpose of this message is to see
who else in the Python community might be interested in collaborating
on such a proposal and to request from the Python community any
comments that they might have about our proposal.


| Paul Barrett  -  Astrophysicist  -  Universities Space Research Association |
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