Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why we need your help

Why am I asking for your help?

Let me start with the weather models and data you see on this blog.

My group maintains a very large infrastructure to support high-resolution modeling and weather prediction in our area:

(1) Hundreds of processors and over 400 terabytes of data storage.
(2) Collecting weather data from over 70 local weather networks
(3) Maintaining and improving complex weather prediction codes
(4) Studies of local weather features.

There are about a half-dozen of us working on this. The problem: the sources of funding are drying up.

The UW used to support staff members that contributed to our efforts, but State budget cuts are resulting in major staff cuts of UW-supported positions.

State agencies, a major supporter, are pulling back because their budgets are in crisis.

Federal agencies are reducing grants in order to reduce the deficit, and the stimulus money is ending.

Sort of a perfect storm.

Our facility is essential a community resource and my hope is that the community...those interested in weather prediction and local weather...can help support it. Our work is on the web for all to use and it helps educate students regarding the potential of high-tech weather prediction. Can local efforts like ours remain viable in the current economic environment?

Anyway, that is why I am asking for community help and you can do so on the link shown on my web page and also here.

Supporting UW students and the department.

The second contribution link is for another and equally important purpose--supporting UW atmospheric sciences students and the department.

Tuition is rising rapidly and our undergraduate students need help. Many of our students are taking outside jobs to support themselves, some of them spending so much time at it that is reducing their effectiveness at school. We really need funds to provide more scholarship aid for undergraduate students. We particularly need scholarship funds for out of state students who pay very high tuition. If we are going to be a nationally top institution, we need to attract the best students from throughout the country, and rapidly increasing UW tuition makes this difficult. Attracting top students is very much in the State's interest...we attract the best and many of them stay here. The best students help energize the department in other ways, including their participation in the research program

We also need funds to support graduate students. The department desperately needs a fund to support first-year graduate students...we have none now. Only grant support is now available, and this demands that a student, who may not be sure of his/her interests, commit to a research area too soon. A graduate support fund would allow us to admit very good students for whom we have no research funding.

And then there are more general needs. For example, other major departments have funds to bring in top scientists for colloquia and seminars. We have nothing.

Anyway, please consider the above needs. Many small donations will help, and, of course, if any of you have the means to provide a major gift, that would be extraordinary.

My department is considered one of the best in the world and our local prediction capabilities are unique..the question is how long can we keep this going as the funding situation deteriorates.

Thanks, cliff


  1. I'm sorry to ask this Cliff, as I'm a big fan of your work and think you and your department do a fantastic job. However, with UW wasting millions on sports facilities and the upgrade of Husky stadium, which has nothing to do with academics -- the reason a University exists -- I can't with good conscience give the UW any money. They have proven that they are not good stewards of the public or private endowment.

    Any explanations to that kind of disparity?

  2. Joel, the whole point here is that these donations go directly to support Dr. Mass' department. We don't have to debate the politics of the overall UW finances to support program a that we are interested in.

    I was happy to make a donation and will make more donations in the near future.

  3. Hopefully Tim Eyman will eventually get a real job so we can return to civilization. In the meantime I'm heading to the above link so we can donate (more) money that I'd prefer to simply pay via taxes.

  4. Joel,
    The stadium work has very little to do with the academic part of the UW. The money for the stadium is coming not from the academic budget, but from donations and revenue from the sports program. In other words, if they canceled the stadium it would zero effect on fixing the budget problems of the rest of the university. So my choice--as the department and research budgets sink, do I give up or ask the community to help support a community facility? Anyway, it is your decision on what you want to do... mine is to try to find a way to stabilize things until the financial situation improves....cliff

  5. That's a lot of computing power and infrastructure costs to maintain! Had you costed and consider running this in the cloud instead and only paying for the computing power you use? Curious to see if the cloud services from Microsoft/Amazon etc could be of benefit here.

  6. The cloud is actually very expensive and has a long way to go before it would be a good option for Cliff. The cost to store 1TB of storage in the Amazon cloud is about $150/mo so Cliff's 400TB of storage would cost him $60,000 per month to store in the Amazon cloud. Also, the Amazon cloud is object based so he'd need to rewrite software to access it and likely it would perform at a fraction of what he's seeing with his local SAN. So in short, cloud is an interesting idea, but not viable in the short to medium term.

  7. So what can I do as one of those good students, who's unsure of absolute research interests and may not have been admitted due to this lack of funding?

  8. Cliff, congrats for thinking of a novel way to fill the new funding gaps. The same thing is happening in the School of Oceanography and I'm sure, in many other science departments around UW and around the country. Whole programs that provide essential teaching and public services as well are on the brink of disappearing.

    Maybe a need to start a WA state coastal oceanography blog!!