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Oceans 2007: First Day


There were two keynote talks this morning: BJ Penn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Richard Spinrad, Assistant Administrator at NOAA.

Mr Penn spoke first, but I want to start with Dr. Spinrad. He spoke about the interoperability mandate for IOOS and GEOSS, but stressed that the design must be couched in the value to society -- which I interpret as emphasis on user-centered design.

Dr. Spinrad spent a few minutes on the importance of unmanned vehicles (aircraft and seacraft) for the 3 Ds: jobs that are Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous.

He then recounted several uses for reliable, high-bandwidth connections to NOAA Exploration Vehicles (E/V). The first was something familiar to us here at CMOP, if not by the catchy name: "Scientists on-call," where shore scientists participate in data analysis and decision-making in real time. A novel suggestion: have a classroom full of students watching high-definition video vote on the next action for an underway vessel!

One other idea that I had not previously encountered: the suggestion that algal blooms might be induced intensionally to control atmospheric CO2.

Mr. Penn pushed two themes: that environmental sustainability is a top priority for the Navy, and that submarine technology proliferation mandates increased training of US sailors with active sonar systems.

Mr. Penn cited a self-sustaining geothermal-powered army base on the East Coast, and increased wind power at Guatanamo Bay accounting for 25% of total demand, which reduces the carbon footprint of the base by an amount equal to 2500 cars.

More and more nations and non-governmental groups (e.g., drug cartels) are acquiring quiet diesel submarines. The US Navy therefore needs to train with active sonar systems, despite the risk to marine mammals. Mr. Penn explained that since the Navy instituted 29 various sonar mitigation measures, there have been zero "beachings" of marine mammals attributable to sonar.


NEPTUNE and VENUS were allocated a dedicated all-day track. I had a chance to speak with Benoit Pirenne, the Associate Director of Information Technology at NEPTUNE to gather some information about how they hire and manage their software developers. The short of it:

  • Overall expected yearly operational budget for NEPTUNE: $10M, though only recently have they been able to pursue these funds
  • IT resources during development: 7 developers and 2 CO-OP students, plus 2 quality assurance staff, plus 4.5 operations and support staff.
  • Projected resources once the system is online: 6 developers and 6 operations/support.
  • Not much interest from local computer science departments.
  • The lack of competitive salaries can make hiring difficult, but emphasis on the science can help.
  • They use Splunk and Ant.

Murray Leslie gave a talk about the 5 aspects of the software development methodology at NEPTUNE:

  1. Service Oriented Architecture
  2. Agile methods
  3. Continuous integration (especially automatic build tools such as Ant)
  4. Team organization (emphasis on dedicated QA)
  5. semi-formal Risk Management