Twelve new articles on the use of NASA remote sensing data and information in Earth science research are featured in the 2012 version of Sensing Our Planet, an annual collection prepared by the National Snow and Ice Data Center on behalf of the NASA Earth Observing Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The articles highlight a wide variety of natural and social science research activities enabled by access to Earth observations and related data from EOSDIS. In one article, former CIESIN staff member Adam Storeygard, now an assistant professor of economics at Tufts University, discusses his use of night-time lights and population data to better estimate economic activity around the world over recent decades. He and his colleagues Vernon Henderson and David Weil from Brown University obtained the data from the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) in Boulder and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The 2012 collection is available for free, both in print and online.
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A new book on Environmental Tracking for Public Health Surveillance has been released as part of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) Book Series published by CRC Press. Edited by Stanley A. Morain and Ameilia M. Budge of the University of New Mexico, the volume includes a range of papers on the use of Earth observations and other geospatial environmental and socioeconomic data in public health applications. CIESIN senior research associate Meredith Golden and director Robert Chen contributed to a chapter, “Data discovery, access and retrieval,” prepared by Steve Kempler of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. This chapter highlights the many data resources and services relevant to public health available from a variety of sources, including the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and the Columbia Superfund Research Program Web site, both operated by CIESIN. The volume is the 11th in the ISPRS Book Series, which began in 2004.
Two new papers focusing on issues related to vulnerability to environmental change were co-authored by CIESIN staff. Associate research scientist Susana Adamo and senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin are co-authors (with former staff member Liana Razafindrazay) of the article, “Áreas de Alta Vulnerabilidad Ambiental en América Latina y el Caribe: Una Perspectiva Regional a Escala Subnacional” (Areas of High Environmental Vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Regional Perspective at the Subnational Level), appearing in Notas de Población. The paper integrates data on population distribution, poverty, and hazards from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Alex de Sherbinin is also a co-author of the article, “Transition Towards a New Global Change Science: Requirements for Methodologies, Methods, Data and Knowledge,” appearing in the journal Environmental Science & Policy. The paper addresses gaps in progress on the part of the scientific community in dealing with the challenges of global change, and calls for innovation in methodologies, knowledge, and data towards building solutions. It is an outcome of the European Science Foundation’s Forward Look activity, ‘‘Responses to Environmental and Societal Challenges for our Unstable Earth (RESCUE),’’ Working Group 3 on Requirements for Research Methodologies and Data.
Robert Downs, senior digital archivist at CIESIN, has been honored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) with the designation of ACM Senior Member. ACM Senior Membership recognizes individuals with a minimum of 10 years of professional experience who have distinguished themselves through technical leadership and technical or professional contributions. There were 117 recipients in 2012.
Downs, who has a PhD in information management from the Stevens Institute of Technology, conducts research on the development and use of data and information systems and coordinates CIESIN digital data archiving activities including operation of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). He is a scientific member of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Columbia University, currently serving a second term as vice-chair of the Morningside campus IRB. Downs has also contributed to the development and evaluation of ISO 16363, the international standard for the audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories. He is active in a number of different community initiatives, including the NASA Earth Science Data System Working Groups, the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners, the National Science Foundation EarthCube initiative, and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance.
A new data set and related map client have been produced in conjunction with a preliminary assessment of internationally important coastal wetlands and their vulnerability to sea level rise due to climate change. The study, “Evaluating the Risk to Ramsar Sites from Climate Change-induced Sea Level Rise,” was conducted by CIESIN as an input to the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Ramsar sites are wetlands designated as Wetlands of International Importance under an intergovernmental treaty established in 1971.
Two scenarios were evaluated: sea level rise (SLR) of up to 1 meter, which is close to what is predicted for this century by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and SLR of up to 2 meters, which is an upper bound for SLR in this century under a rapid ice melt scenario. The study also examines impediments to landward migration of wetlands, such as urban areas and populated areas. The data are available for download in spreadsheet format, and the map client can visualize the risk to coastal Ramsar sites of 1- and 2-meter increases in mean sea level.
The study recognizes that sea level rise will not be consistent globally, but is affected by coastal bathymetry and local topography and tides, and the extent of areas periodically submerged will also be affected by storm surges. There will also be many secondary SLR impacts, such as the displacement of human populations and agricultural activities, that could have additional consequences for wetland and biodiversity loss. Because time and resources did not permit this level of analysis globally, the report and associated data represent a first-order risk assessment.
CIESIN staff were among more than 20,000 scientists, educators, students, and other experts participating in the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) December 3–7 in San Francisco. In a Union session, “Scientific Observation Network Interoperability in the 21st Century,” CIESIN director Robert Chen gave an invited presentation, "Integrating Data and Networks: Human Factors" and participated in a subsequent panel discussion moderated by Len Hirsch of the Smithsonian Institution. Senior digital archivist Robert Downs presented two posters, one comparing sustainable approaches for long-term data stewardship, co-authored with Chen, and a second on analysis of data citations to assess the scientific and societal value of data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), co-authored with Chen and senior information specialist Joe Schumacher. Downs also co-convened oral and poster sessions on open source technologies, and gave a poster presentation, “Adopting Open Source Software to Address Software Risks during the Scientific Data Life Cycle,” co-authored with CIESIN associate director of information technology Sri Vinay. Schumacher helped staff the popular NASA exhibit booth, and Downs demonstrated the NASA-funded Climate Health Analysis for Global Education (CHANGE) Viewer mapping tool developed by CIESIN in partnership with IAGT, Inc. The AGU has been increasing its activities in key areas of interest to CIESIN, including Earth and space science informatics and the role of Earth science in public policy and decision making.
The U.S. National Research Council released a report, “Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis,” on November 9. CIESIN Deputy director Marc Levy served as a member of the study committee that produced the report, which was commissioned by the U.S. intelligence community. The committee found that climate change in the coming decade will contribute to significant social and political stress, generating security problems for the U.S. The report points out that current U.S. government capabilities to monitor and evaluate such challenges are not adequate. It recommends a systematic whole-of-government strategy for collecting and analyzing information, and for periodic “stress testing” of critical countries, regions, and systems to better understand climate vulnerabilities.
CIESIN data center services manager John Scialdone and senior digital archivist Robert Downs represented the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) at the 2012 Earth Science Data System Working Group (ESDSWG) meeting held November 13–15, 2012 in Annapolis, Maryland. Downs presented two posters, the first, “Data Center Audit for Continuous Quality Improvement,” authored with CIESIN director and SEDAC manager Robert Chen, and a second, “The NASA Earth Science Data Systems Software Reuse Working Group: 2012 in Review,” authored and presented with Chris Mattman, Paul Ramirez, Cameron Goodale, and Andrew Hart of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Downs also presented a summary of the Data Quality initiative that was proposed for the ESDSWG during the plenary session on November 15. The ESDSWG develops recommendations and coordinates efforts to improve NASA’s distributed Earth science data systems.
More than 250 experts on scientific data and information gathered in Taipei for the 23rd International Conference of CODATA, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council for Science (ICSU). CIESIN director Robert Chen, in his capacity as CODATA’s secretary-general, had a prominent role in the conference, chairing a session on local to global data challenges, serving as a panelist in a session, “What Do We Mean by Open Access to Data?,” and moderating a closing panel session, "The Importance of Data for Future Earth.” He also presented a paper co-authored with CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin on the 2012 Environmental Performance Index and 2000–2010 Trend EPI, in a session that featured several case studies on the use and impact of environmental performance indicators in Asia. Keynote speakers at the conference included Nobel laureate Y.T. Lee, current president of ICSU; Sálvano Briceño, chair of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) program of ICSU; and Geoffrey Boulton of the University of Edinburgh. Geographer Michael Goodchild, who has chaired the User Working Group of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), was the recipient of the 2012 CODATA Prize and participated in the conference by video link. The conference was held on the campus of Academia Sinica, a major research institution in Taipei.
CIESIN and SEDAC web-based services remain online, but our offices have been closed in the aftermath of the Sandy megastorm. The Lamont campus where we are located continues to operate on back-up generators with no timeline yet for restoration of power by the local utility. We are attempting to monitor and respond to user requests, but appreciate your patience if replies are delayed. Travel conditions in the area are still difficult, and only limited shuttle service will be available starting Thursday between the Morningside Heights and Lamont campuses. Many of our staff do not have power or Internet connectivity in their homes at this point. We hope that all of our colleagues, friends, and users affected by Sandy are safe and getting back to normal quickly.
Along with more than 50 representatives from European statistical offices, CIESIN geographic information specialist Kytt MacManus participated in the European Forum for Geostatistics (EFGS) 2012 Conference, held at the Czech Statistical Office (CZSO) in Prague, Czech Republic, October 24–26. The primary focus of the conference was the role of geostatistics in connection with the United Nations' plans for a global system of geo-information management (GGIM). MacManus gave a presentation, “Methods of Reconciling Geographic Boundaries in Integrated Research,” which featured SEDAC’s Low Elevation Coastal Zone Population and Land Area Estimates data set. He also participated in a session on the topic of production and use of geostatistics from the global perspective.
CIESIN has begun collaborating with ImageCat Inc. USA, an international risk management innovation company with offices in Long Beach, California, on a new NASA-funded project to develop and test methods of assessing global building exposure for disaster forecasting, mitigation, and response. Building on ongoing work with the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) initiative, this new one-year project will explore the feasibility of combining remote sensing data from various sources with population data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), to better characterize the built environment in ways useful for catastrophe (CAT) modeling and loss estimation. The project's principal investigator is Ron Eguchi of ImageCat, and the three co-investigators are Charles Huyck of ImageCat, David Tralli of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and CIESIN director Robert Chen. The grant is one of 17 recent awards by the NASA Applied Sciences Program.
Senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin has been appointed an honorary Fellow of the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). This distinction is awarded to exceptional scientists for the purposes of providing skills, advice, and guidance to UNEP-WCMC. The Fellow in turn receives opportunities for collaboration and cooperation on a variety of projects with the center. Recognition for de Sherbinin is related to his work on the Natural Resource Management Index (NRMI), which includes the eco-region protection indicator. This indicator relies heavily on UNEP-WCMC's World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). The NRMI is used to help determine a country’s eligibility for funding by the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Map of coastal proximity zones in South America. PLACE III provides land area and urban and rural population estimates for people living within 200km, 100km, 10km, or 5km of their country’s coastline.
Version 3 of the Population, Landscape, and Climate Estimates data set (PLACE III) has been released as part the National Aggregates of Geospatial Data Collection, produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. PLACE III provides national-level estimates of resident population and land area in relation to the environmental characteristics of their location (for example, by biome, climate zone, coastal proximity, and elevation) in a tabular format. Population estimates are available for 1990, 2000, and 2010 for 232 statistical areas (countries and other territories recognized by the United Nations). New features in version 3 are separate estimates for urban and rural populations and a pivot table to facilitate data selection and analysis.
The PLACE III data set is especially useful for those who are not familiar with specialized geospatial software and methods. The data set is organized so that users can quickly find the specific countries and variables of interest. It may be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet or as a comma-separated file (CSV) that can be opened by any text editor. Spreadsheet users may filter data by country, urban or rural classification, and other categories such as geoRegion (a geographic entity defined by the UN, similar to continent), geoSubregion (regions smaller than continents but larger than countries), and income group or lending category (World Bank global classifications of poverty and lending attractiveness).
Population and land area estimates have been generated for a variety of themes, including biomes of the world, climate classifications and predictions, elevation levels, distance from the coast, and population density zones. PLACE III facilitates comparative research at the national level by providing access to a range of useful summary variables on such questions as approximately how many people live within 10 kilometers of the coastline in South American countries; roughly how many rural Africans live in deserts and xeric shrublands; or how populations are distributed by elevation in southern Asia. Data from previous versions of PLACE have been used and cited in a number of scientific articles in both the natural and social sciences.
SEDAC has released a new version of its Web site with several important enhancements. A new theme menu option enables users to view only those data and information resources directly relevant to specific topics such as agriculture and food security; climate impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation; and hazards and disaster risk. Users may also now view SEDAC data holdings at the collection level, i.e., by groups of related data sets, rather than by individual data set. Data downloads have been simplified, and a new map “widget” has been added to the map gallery to provide rapid browsing of available data layers. The new Web site also provides access to new and updated data sets on environmental indicators, historical sulfur dioxide emissions, and national-level population, landscape, and climate estimates (see Recent Releases on the home page).
Two new scientific data initiatives at national and international levels were the focus of meetings held October 1–3 in Arlington, Virginia and October 4-5 in Boulder, Colorado. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the first event, a planning meeting of the Research Data Alliance, a proposed new international initiative aimed at accelerating international data-driven innovation and discovery. The Alliance, which is expected to be formally launched in March 2013, is working to identify international partnerships and activities that would facilitate research data sharing and exchange, data discovery, use, and re-use, and coordination and harmonization of standards.
CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs attended the second event, a National Science Foundation (NSF) principal investigator meeting for EarthCube, a NSF initiative to develop community-guided cyberinfrastructure to integrate data and information for knowledge management across the Geosciences. Held at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) of the University of Colorado, the meeting brought together representatives from the geoscience research and education communities to discuss the development of EarthCube. Downs served as the co-facilitator and co-presenter, with Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for a session on Education, Outreach, and Social Systems. He is also the lead of EarthCube’s Education and Workforce Development special interest group.
CIESIN will again participate in the annual Lamont-Doherty Open House Saturday, October 6, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Lamont Campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York. The Open House was begun several decades ago to educate and inform the general public, teachers, and students of all ages. Research facilities will be open and tents set up over several acres of the campus, offering diverse scientific exhibits, hands-on demonstrations, lectures, and other activities organized by hundreds of scientists, staff, and students from Columbia’s Earth Institute. CIESIN’s exhibits this year will include a live demonstration of the CHANGE viewer, a tool for mapping climate change prediction data and population information; posters and demonstrations about other CIESIN projects, tools, and data; and a hands-on mapping game for children. The Open House is suitable for individuals of all ages. “Kid friendly” exhibits will be specially identified. For more information or directions, see the Lamont-Doherty Web site.
Coordinated management of scientific data used in assessing climate change impacts, adaptation, vulnerability, and mitigation is the primary focus of an international team established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA). At the TGICA's 18th meeting, hosted September 18–20 by the Voeilov Main Geophysical Observatory in St. Petersburg in the Russian Federation, the TGICA reviewed current efforts to archive and disseminate the latest outputs from dozens of climate models, to develop consistent socioeconomic and emission scenarios for use in the IPCC's Fifth Assessment, and to update and expand the IPCC Data Distribution Centre (DDC). CIESIN director Robert Chen, in his capacity as an ex officio member of the TGICA and co-manager of the DDC, led discussions at the meeting on data needs of the international research community, approaches to data attribution, and development of regional entry points to the DDC. Senior staff associate Xiaoshi Xing also participated in the meeting to help plan changes to the DDC, which is co-managed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.
Every year NASA conducts a survey of users of the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) to assess their satisfaction with the data, tools, and support provided by EOSDIS data centers and services. SEDAC is one of the NASA EOSDIS centers evaluated by the survey. A limited number of SEDAC data users received an email invitation in early September from the CFI Group on behalf of NASA, asking them to participate in an anonymous, Web-based survey about the quality and utility of SEDAC products and services, and the ease of access to SEDAC resources. The questionnaire takes approximately 10 minutes to complete, and optional comment fields are provided to address user concerns.
SEDAC users who have not yet received an invitation directly are welcome to contact the CFI Group at firstname.lastname@example.org, providing an email address and self-identifying as a SEDAC data user. Invitations should not be forwarded to others, but others may be referred to the above email address.
SEDAC encourages all of its users to participate in the survey. Feedback affects future performance, identifies high priority user needs and concerns, and helps to justify NASA's continuing investment in EOSDIS data services and support. Past surveys have provided important inputs into the development of the redesigned SEDAC Web site, and user comments help to further improve SEDAC data and services.
Bonn, Germany was the venue for the Second GEOSS Science and Technology Stakeholders Workshop August 28-31, which addressed the theme of "Supporting Science for the Millennium Development Goals and Beyond." The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is coordinating international efforts to build a Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS), intended to improve access to and the use of Earth observations for a broad range of stakeholders. Alex de Sherbinin, senior research associate with CIESIN and deputy manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), gave a presentation on spatial poverty assessments, drawing in part on poverty mapping and related data available from SEDAC. The workshop focused on contributions by the GEO community to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), featuring presentations and discussions on food and water security, natural disasters, and biodiversity and ecosystem services. A draft report is under development.
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