International Virtual Observatory Alliance

May 14th 2005

Processes and Reporting for Projects and Working Groups

Andy Lawrence, University of Edinburgh

(1) Introduction

There is currently a kind of missing middle in IVOA working practices. At the top level, general community cohesion, sense of purpose, political direction, and event planning are very good. Detailed technical work within working groups has also been excellent. This is remarkably difficult across international boundaries so we should be proud of this achievement. However the co-ordination of working group activities has been rather weaker. It is not clear to WGs how to report; WGs are perhaps not given clear enough direction; the agreed standards process is not always properly followed; progress against roadmaps is not sufficiently monitored ; and there is perhaps not sufficient crosstalk between WGs. This note responds to an IVOA Exec action to clarify procedures.

(2) Project Reporting

We do need to know what is going on within partner projects, but this is an informal obligation. Generally speaking this has been done quite well. Nontheless it is worth summarising and sharpening procedures. I suggest :

(3) Interest Group Reporting

Reporting by IGs should be relatively low key and informal. This informality is a key distinction between WGs and IGs, and means that for example, IGS won't want to be WGs just to be more "important" - WGs are much more work, and need to deliver a product. For IGs I suggest :

(4) Working Group Reporting

The key issue for WGs is carefully following the standards process. This is discussed in section 6. However we also need to consider how they communicate progress, and how this is monitored. The WGs have so far not been given a clear charge. I suggest :

(5) Top Level Technical Milestones

We have now made a clear distinction between the IVOA Roadmap which has very general goals, and is a public statement, and the Technical Milestones which is a "working roadmap" of technical targets. The idea is that we should take this more seriously as a way of directing and co-ordinating the work of the WGs. I suggest :

(6) Standards Process Checklist : The Eightfold Path

We have an agreed and well thought through standards process, based on the stages of Working Draft (WD), Proposed Recommendation (PR) and Recommendation (R). This process is itself a Recommendation of the IVOA. (There is also an agreed document format). I do not suggest any changes to this process. However the process has not always been followed properly. This seems to be mostly because there is some confusion about how it works. So here is a suggested checklist.

     STEP                             APPROVER

(1) write WD                          WG
    submit WD-doc                     Doc co-ordinator
(2) review internally
    two reference implementations
    write PR-doc
(3) advance to PR                     WG chair
    submit PR-doc                     Doc co-ordinator
(4) issue RFC to     WG chair
    set up wiki page for comments
    set 4 week deadline
(5) if comments substantial 
    revert to step-2                  WG chair
    doc becomes WD again
(6) request Exec to approve as R      IVOA chair
(7) Exec vote                         IVOA Exec
(8) submit R-doc                      Doc co-ordinator

(7) Example RFC

We perhaps need a simple guideline format for an RFC. This wouldn't be compulsory but could help. Below is recent example from the Registry group

Email to :
From     : Tony Linde, chair of Registry WG
This is a request for comments on the IVOA Resource Identifier
specification, version 1.1, which is currently at PR status (and has
languished there for several months due to my forgetfulness) and which we
propose promoting to a Recommendation.

The wiki page for comments is:

And the deadline is 20th February.

Please do not reply to this email but post your comments to the above page.