The Virtual Laboratory (VLab) is a service and IT framework, being built out by OST and lead by MDL/DAB, which enables NWS employees
and their partners to share ideas, collaborate, engage in software development, and conduct applied research. The VLab will enable
the NWS to:
- Reduce the time and cost of transitions of NWS field innovations to enterprise operations,
- Minimize redundancy and leverage complementary, yet physically separated, skillsets,
- Forge scientific and technical solutions based on a broad, diverse consensus, and
- Promote an NWS culture based on collaboration and trust
The VLab operates under the following set of guiding principles:
- Transparency - The VLab and its staff are open and transparent in all communications and decision-making
- Teamwork - The VLab and its staff facilitate and support collaborative teamwork
- Flexibility - The VLab and its staff adapt to different and/or changing user needs
- Responsiveness - The VLab and its staff respond quickly to user needs
- Accountability - The VLab and its staff are accountable to its users through meaningful metrics
The VLab is built upon a set of 5 foundational capabilities (Figure 1) which are conceived to promote innovation across NWS
through communication, collaboration, and the application of the skills and expertise of NWS employees. The first phase of
the VLab promotes science sharing within the NWS and provides an Innovation Collaboration Framework which provides support
and services to facilitate the transition of innovation projects to NWS operational systems. The second phase of the VLab
will provide the other three foundational capabilities; 1) subject matter experts cadre, 2) adjunct science and software
development team, and innovation project database.
The VLab is comprised of two main components:
- Virtual Lab Portal (VLP)
- Virtual Lab Development Services (VLDS)
The VLP is built upon an open source Java portal framework. The VLP enables NWS users to share and contribute science and
participate in dynamic communities. The VLP provides tools for collaborating such as document libraries, WIKI's, message boards,
blogs, announcements, dynamic forms with workflow, content management system (CMS), and a robust roles and permissions framework.
The VLP is also the gateway to the VLDS. The VLDS provides projects with web based services to manage their projects through
issue tracking, source control, code review, and continuous integration.
In the future the VLP will include portlets that will allow users to "Share their projects" and "Share their expertise". This
sharing will increase visibility and transparency of projects and users' expertise promoting collaboration.