SSEC VisPy project awarded Chan Zuckerberg Initiative grant

May 27, 2020 | Eric Verbeten

A University of Wisconsin–Madison Space Science and Engineering Center project aimed at growing a Python programming community was selected for funding in May 2020 by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The one-year grant seeks to build and expand the framework around VisPy (short for Visual Python), a powerful, community-driven programming library used to visualize data.

SSEC scientific programmer David Hoese. Credit: David Hoese

“VisPy is useful to the scientific community and provides ways to do fast visualizations,” says David Hoese, SSEC scientific programmer and principal investigator of the project. “Compared to other visualization techniques that rely on the central processing unit, VisPy uses the graphics processing unit and allows it to produce visualizations based on large data sets.”

VisPy is an open source, Python library that grew organically from the collaboration between other Python projects including visvis, galry, glumpy and pyqtgraph. According to Hoese, when VisPy was launched in 2013 it quickly attracted an active community of developers and users. However, after several years of heavy development the maintainers of the VisPy project were no longer able to keep pace with, and direct, the library’s growth. Currently, VisPy has a community of several thousand users, with tens of thousands of downloads since it was first released.

VisPy is a powerful, community-driven programming library used to visualize data, including imagery created from satellite data. Credit: David Hoese

Hoese’s VisPy project aims to address this problem by creating a framework and code of conduct for the community that is designed to attract new members. Reducing the barriers to entry by making the robust programming language easy to understand and accessible is crucial, says Hoese, while at the same time, setting community standards. Other goals include creating contributor guides, governance documents, training videos and presenting at the 2021 SciPy Conference.

“With this project we aim to bring many more users to the community and cultivate more contributors to continue the development and improvement of this useful tool,” says Hoese.

This work is supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Cover photo credit: VisPy Development Team