Minutes of the IAU FWG Meeting in Sydney
IAU Commission 5
FITS Working Group
Monday, 21 July 2003
Chair: Donald C. Wells
Recorder: Arnold H. Rots
1. Report of Significant Milestones
The following significant milestones were reached during the past
- The NOST FITS standard version 2 (NOST 100-2.0) was adopted and
- WCS: The first two papers were adopted and published; included is an
agreement on units. The third paper on spectroscopy is available in
- A FITS MIME RFC draft request has been filed.
2. GA Resolution
Don Wells presented a class C IAU GA resolution recommending the use
of the WCS standards as described in papers I and II:
recognizing the scientific requirement to accurately compare images
obtained at different observatories, in different
andpasses, and with different angular resolution,
recommends that all astronomical observatories and computing
facilities recognize and support the celestial
coordinate World Coordinate System [WCS] standard
as described in Astronomy and Astrophysics vol.395,
pp.1061-1075 and 1077-1122 (2002), in addition to
recognizing and supporting the basic FITS standard
as described in Astronomy and Astrophysics vol.376,
It was adopted by Commission 5 and will be printed in the proceedings.
3. Exhortations by the Outgoing Chairman
The business of the IAU FWG is "herding cats". It will only work
through consensus and persuasion since there is no enforcement
mechanism. Consequently, No-votes are very undesirable.
Total design freedom is bad. The purpose of standardization is to aid
the creative craftsman, not to enforce mediocre conformity.
One should proceed carefully. As an example, the IEEE agreement was
reached in 1989 after waiting five years; had it been reached earlier,
we might well have ended up with a DEC-VAX floating point standard.
Therefore: beware of hasty decisions - WCS is another case in point.
Procedures should also be orderly.
The voting process is intended to work as follows:
- technical issues are resolved at the level of the regional
committees or ad-hoc technical task forces
- wait till there are no No-votes
- beware of regional vetoes
- the IAU FWG should only deliberate polities and policy issues
We need to remin sensitive to international cultural issues. I am
surprised that there has not yet been a call for accommodating an
extended character set.
4. Nominations and Election of Officers
The following nominations were presented:
Chair: William Pence (GSFC/NASA, USA)
Vice-chair: Francois Ochsenbein (CDS, France)
Note: the original nomination of Patrick Wallace was withdrawn at the
candidate's request, in view of substantial changes in his funding
Both were elected by acclamation.
The FWG expressed its deep appreciation for the efforts and
contributions of the outgoing officers, Don and Ernst.
How should the membership of the IAU FWG, and the rules that control
it, be structured? The only changes that have happened since the WG
was instituted were by attrition. Clearly, there is a need for
turnover in the membership, as well as for rules that govern this
turnover and the selection of new members. Something like a
nominating committee will need to be established and while we are at
it, we might as well consider the same questions for electing officers.
This is an issue that will need to be worked out in the next triennium.
6. Proposal Procedure
There are a number of suggestions floating around for changes to the
procedures that govern the handling of proposals. In particular, the
- Concurrent discussion in the regional committees
- Simultaneous voting in the regional committees
- Not voting by a regional committee should be interpreted as a no-vote
There was some discussion on this last issue and the consensus seemed
to be that a regional committee's not voting should be considered as
an abstention, not a No-vote (i.e., veto).
Clearly, some thought needs to be given to the regional representation
(and especially lack thereof) provided by the three existing regional
Again, these procedures need to be tackled in the next triennium.
7. Pending Proposals and Level of Conformance
Questions have been raised about what level of conformance should be
expected, especially in connection with the two pending proposals
concerning bintables. The crucial question is:
Should all functionality be implemented by all conforming software?
One could take the view that the three bintable conventions, by their
presence in an appendix, already enjoyed protected status and
therefore do not need formal standard-level status.
Clarification of the conformance requirements for full-fledged
standards and recognized conventions is highly desirable.
It is our intent to restart these two proposal with an explanatory
preface, through all regional committees.
8. VO Standard Development
Commission 5 has received a request (granted) from the VO community to
organize a VO standards working group. The intent is that the VO
standards process move considerably faster than the FITS standards
process. Since the VO is an evolving-standards environment (as
opposed to OFAF: Once-FITS-Always-FITS) this may well be feasible.
Clearly, coordination of efforts is desirable.