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March 2, 2019


HDF5 Technical Advisory Board Charter

1.     Background

HDF5 is a data model, library, and file format for storing and managing data. It is designed for flexible and efficient I/O and for high volume and complex data. HDF5 is portable and extensible, allowing applications to evolve in their use of HDF5. The HDF5 Technology suite includes tools and applications for managing, manipulating, viewing, and analyzing data in the HDF5 format. Since its first release in 1998 HDF5 became a de-facto standard for storing observational and modeling data. It is widely used in academic research and in industry .

HDF5 software is released under an open source BSD license. It is developed and maintained by a nonprofit company, The HDF Group with the mission to sustain Open Source HDF Technologies and to provide free and open access to data stored in the HDF5 file format.

It is in the best interest of The HDF Group and its mission to establish HDF5 Technical Advisory Board (the Board) whose purpose is to advise The HDF Group technical leadership on the HDF5 roadmap and to help The HDF Group company to build HDF5 community capable of sustaining Open Source HDF5 software in the future.   

 2.     Purpose

The Board is created for working with The HDF Group leadership and shall limit its activities to advising on technical matters that directly concern the evolution and sustainability of Open Source HDF5 software. The specific purposes on the Board include the following:

  • Represent a community that uses HDF5
  • Advise on and participate in creation of the short-term and long-term roadmaps for HDF5
  • Provide guidance for technical development of HDF5
  • Help with building HDF5 developers’ community
  • Mentor HDF5 software developers and maintainers
  • Encourage and facilitate community contributions to HDF5 libraries and command-line tools including defect removals, new features, regression and performance testing, documentation, and training materials
  • Prioritize development activities

 3.     Relationship of the Board to The HDF Group

It is the sole prerogative of The HDF Group to act on the Board’s advice and to define direction of the Open Source HDF5 software development.

4.     Membership

Composition: The Board shall consist of 9 members that represent diverse HDF5 community and 2 members of The HDF Group. Members will be selected and appointed by the Board. The Board may create committees of non-members to help with activities to achieve the goals as established by the Board.

Term: A term of membership shall last for two years, with half of the membership appointed each year. Term will begin on September 1.  

Footnote: Half of the initial Board members (i.e., created by The HDF Group in Summer 2018) may serve 3 years to guarantee continuity of Board’s activities.

 5.     Organizational Structure

Officers: The Board will have a chair that is a member of The HDF Group, vice chair and recording secretary who are elected for the term. Elections will be held at the first meeting of new membership year.

 6.     Rules

The HDF Group will provide resources for the Board to communicate.

At the beginning of the calendar year the Board will identify goals and objectives to be achieved during the year. Those will be summarized in a document that will be available to the HDF5 community. By the end of the calendar year the Board will publish a report on its activities and achievements.

The members are expected and encouraged to discuss the goals and objectives approved by the Board.

Meetings: The Board will meet on a regular basis as agreed on by the members. The Chair will schedule the meetings, and send notices of upcoming meetings along with agenda at least seven days before a meeting.

Meeting notes:  Notes and recordings of each meeting will be kept and available to the members within 5 days after a meeting. Notes and recordings will be public.

Recommendations: Board’s recommendations will be submitted in writing to The HDF Group and will be made public. The HDF Group will respond in writing and make its response public.

Provision for altering this document: Board members can propose amendments or revisions of the Charter if the Charter becomes outdated or if it hinders the ability of the Board to achieve its purpose. Changes should be approved by majority of the members during the regular Board meeting.


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  1. Venkat:

    Some initial feedback:

    Membership: Can anyone nominate themselves for the TAB, or, do they need to be nominated/selected by the TAB?

    How will TAB help with building the HDF5 user community? The current Purpose seems to more developer focused.


  2. I think there should be explicit verbiage in the charter regarding the thinking cap board members are expected to be wearing. By this I mean whether the board members are expected to advise primarily from a position of representing their home organization's self interests? Or, are board members expected to advise primarily from a more benevolent position of what they believe is best for long term health of HDF5, HDF5 community of users and THG overall.

    These are two different ways of advising. Either probably achieves the same goal but the former is potentially a more contentious (but also probably more authentic and honest) approach that results in moving things in the best average direction due to everyone attempting to pull it in their direction.

    Now, as the TAB is asked to consider various issues, it may be the case that one or the other modality of advising may be the best way to engage the board. In any event, I think this subtle issue is something that should be explicitly culled out and explained in the charter so current and future TAB members have the correct orientation.

    1. Maybe we just need to endeavor to be clear which of these two positions we're coming from when advocating a particular position or approach? I can imagine wanting to do both, even on the same topic!

      1. That makes sense. But, it is something I think all board members should be on board with (wink) ensuring they communicate when relevant.

        And, I guess I think it is still worth mentioning this point in the charter/rules so that everyone has same expectations.

  3. Regarding "By the end of the year, the TAB will publish a report...", can I suggest that we set a deadline for ourselves of completing that report by middle of Feb of the succeeding year? I mean there may be a lot of work completing near the end of the calendar year. Many people leave for holidays then too so it isn't optimal timing to be trying to collaborate on completing a report of progress. I think sometime early in the following year (is there a yearly venue during that time of year that might serve as motivating deadline) would be better deadline to set for completing prior year's report.

  4. Recommed removing the word "type" in the phrase "BSD type license" because with the word "type" there, it sorta reads like its a variant of a BSD license and not just the BSD license.

  5. As Mark suggested, I removed "type". It was 5 clause before and therefore we always used "BSD type license", but now it is pure BSD.

    Thank you for catching this!