Senior digital archivist Robert Downs joined more than 500 remote sensing scientists, data experts, and space agency representatives from around the world in Tshwane, South Africa at the 37th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE37) May 8‒12. During a session organized by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), he presented “Implementing the Group on Earth Observations Data Management Principles: Lessons from a Scientific Data Center.“ Downs also attended the GEO Work Programme Symposium (WPS) May 12‒13, which focused on coordination across GEO initiatives and priorities. There he participated in discussions about potential adoption of the GEO data management and data sharing principles by the GEO community and presented a poster about relevant experience at the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). GEO is a voluntary partnership of more than 100 national governments and over 100 Participating Organizations aimed at improving the coordination and sustained use of Earth observations in societal decision making.
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Participants in the SESYNC workshop, “Meta-Analysis of Climate Vulnerability Mapping Studies,” in Annapolis, Maryland, May 8‒10. CIESIN associate director for science applications, Alex de Sherbinin, who led the workshop, is pictured fourth from left, back row.
Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, led the workshop, “Meta-Analysis of Climate Vulnerability Mapping Studies,” at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis, Maryland, May 8‒10. Funded by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation administered by the University of Maryland, SESYNC is focused on interdisciplinary collaborations that drive data-driven solutions to socio-environmental issues. The workshop brought together more than a dozen experts on climate vulnerability mapping, with several additional team members participating remotely. During the workshop, de Sherbinin gave a presentation on the SEDAC Hazards Mapper, an interactive tool for visualizing and accessing data on exposure and vulnerability of population and infrastructure to natural hazards, available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. The overall project is seeking to identify good practices in integrating spatial data representing climate exposure, biophysical systems, and social vulnerability, and to improve climate vulnerability maps and online map tools to facilitate science-policy communication.
CIESIN staffed a booth on mapping and spatial data at an Earth Day fair at St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) in Orangeburg, New York, April 26. Standing left to right: information scientist Xiaoshi Xing; senior research staff assistant Olena Borkovska; senior research staff assistant John Squires; and senior digital archivist Robert Downs.
CIESIN data and information resources were featured at several recent community events in the greater New York metropolitan area focused on science and the environment. At the St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) campus in Orangeburg, New York, April 26, senior digital archivist Robert Downs, senior research staff assistants Olena Borkovska and John Squires, and information scientist Xiaoshi Xing staffed a CIESIN booth as part of an Earth Day Fair for STAC students and K-12 attendees from nearby schools. The booth included a poster on the concept of map projections, a projection puzzle to engage students in hands-on learning, and a multimedia “story map” about the evolution and use of CIESIN's gridded population data products over the past twenty years. The fair was jointly organized by STAC and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Later that evening, senior research associate Pinki Mondal joined other female science professionals at the 4th Annual Women in Science Night, hosted by the East Side Community High School in the East Village area of New York City. In breakout sessions that followed a panel discussion, Mondal interacted with young women students interested in science careers, discussing her current research using remote sensing to assess how food crops respond to changing patterns of temperature/rainfall in India and how mangrove forests are changing in West Africa.
Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, New York, was the venue for the 2017 Long Island GIS User Conference, which senior research staff assistants Alyssa Fico and Jane Mills attended, also on April 26. Fico and Mills gave a presentation, “Building Data for Climate Change Adaptation,” describing the Hudson River Flood Impact Decision Support System mapping tool in the context of challenges posed by climate change. The mapping tool was also presented at an April 27 event, “Hudson River on the Rise: Waterfront Planning for Communities and Nature,” at the Henry A. Wallace Center of the FDR Presidential Library and Home in Hyde Park, New York. GIS programmer Kytt MacManus, who coordinated development of the tool for CIESIN, spoke about how the tool could be valuable in resiliency planning to an audience of about 200 Hudson Estuary riverfront stakeholders, including municipal officials, community leaders, landowners, planners, resource managers, regulators, developers, and private sector professionals.
Four new members have joined the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN: Shaida Baidee of Open Data Watch; Douglas Comer of Cultural Site Research and Management, Inc. (CSRM); Dave Jones of StormCenter Communications, Inc.; and Lea Shanley of the South Big Data Innovation Hub. Baidee is co-founder and managing director of Open Data Watch, a non-governmental organization focused on monitoring and promoting open development data, and she previously served as director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group. Comer is an expert on remote sensing applications in archaeology, and is currently president of the International Scientific Committee for Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM). Jones is Chief Executive Officer, President, and Founder of StormCenter Communications, bringing to bear decades of experience in remote sensing, meteorology, and broadcasting, involving both the private and public sectors. Shanley recently became co-Executive Director of the South Big Data Innovation Hub funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, after working on a range of geospatial technology and policy issues in government and academia in Washington DC. Chaired by Myron Gutmann of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado, the UWG provides guidance to SEDAC on user needs and priorities for data and services and helps SEDAC improve data quality and usability in both research and applications.
The World Data System (WDS) of the International Council for Science (ICSU), in collaboration with the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and the Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers de Grenoble (OSUG) and with support from the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), hosted a two-day exploratory meeting April 12–13 in Grenoble, France. The meeting, Data Initiatives in Africa—Opportunities and Challenges for Research and Sustainable Development, highlighted different data initiatives taking place in Africa, including those led by the IRD; presented the work of the WDS; and explored how the WDS might support development of data networks and the certification of data repositories. Two projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were included among the presentations at the meeting. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a lightning talk on SERVIR West Africa, a joint venture between NASA and the USAID for which CIESIN serves as a subcontractor. SERVIR provides state-of-the-art, satellite-based earth monitoring data, geospatial information, and tools to help improve environmental decision-making in developing nations. Kenan Mogultay of the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change project (WA-BiCC), a five-year USAID-supported project which CIESIN also supports, described preliminary efforts to set up a clearinghouse mechanism for environmental data in West Africa.
CIESIN geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff (right) presents a poster on the Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2014) data set at the 2017 American Association of Geographers annual meeting April 5. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications at CIESIN, is on the left.
The 2017 annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) drew more than 9,000 geographers, spatial data experts, and other scientists and scholars from around the world to Boston April 5–9 to focus on the latest in research and applications in geography, sustainability, and geographic information science. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a presentation on mapping and modeling climate change migration, and served as a panelist in two separate sessions on environmental migration. Geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff presented a poster on the Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2014) data set to be released in the near future by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. As part of the Symposium on Human Dynamics in Smart and Connected Communities: Methods and Practices for Estimating Gridded Global Population held April 7, Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, described the High Resolution Settlement Layer (HRSL) data developed with Facebook’s Connectivity Lab. Haibin Xia of East China Normal University, who is visiting CIESIN this year, chaired a session on remote sensing techniques for understanding populations and culture and presented “The Spatial Distribution and Change of Chinese Population with Agent-based GIS” in this session.
CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs joined more than 600 data science researchers, scholars, librarians, and technologists in Barcelona, Spain, April 5–7 at the 9th Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA). During the poster session, Downs presented “Evaluating and Documenting Interdisciplinary Data to Support Research and Applications,” co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen, and “Creative Commons Licensing of Gridded Population of the World Version 4 (GPWv4) Data at SEDAC,” co-authored with Chen and Rina Pantalony of the Copyright Advisory Office of the Columbia University Libraries. SEDAC is the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center managed by CIESIN. Downs was a co-convener for the proposed Data Versioning Interest Group session on data versioning, and gave a presentation on scientific data versioning at SEDAC. As a co-chair of the RDA Interest Group on Repository Platforms for Research Data (RPRD) Interest Group, he co-convened the group′s April 7 session, “IG Repository Platforms for Research Data,” at which he presented “Selection of FEDORA with VITAL as a Digital Repository Platform for Preserving Scientific Data.”
The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN recently released the 2016 update of the Natural Resource Protection and Child Health Indicators (NRPI-CHI), a data collection that supports the use of selection criteria to determine low-income countries’ eligibility for development assistance from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). For the past ten years, CIESIN has updated the NRPI-CHI annually as part of a diverse basket of indicators used by the MCC. To receive MCC funding, countries must perform above the median for low-income countries on a high proportion of indicators in three categories considered instrumental to good governance: ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom. The Natural Resource Protection Indicator (NRPI) and Child Health Indicator (CHI) are based on proximity-to-target scores ranging from 0 to 100 (at target). Each country is measured in terms of how close it gets to the target, which is defined for the NRPI as 17% coverage of terrestrial land area weighted by biome (the so-called Aichi Target of the Convention on Biological Diversity), and for the CHI as 100% coverage for access to water and sanitation, and child mortality levels that are equivalent to the highest performing country. The 2016 release includes a consistent time series of NRPI scores for 2012 to 2016 and CHI scores for 2010 to 2016.
The annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference tackled the theme, “Responsible Land Governance: Towards an Evidence-Based Approach,” March 20–24 in Washington, D.C. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy chaired a session, “Reducing the Risks of Agribusiness Investment,” and also gave the presentation, “A Cost-Effective Approach to Meeting Data Needs for Multi-Purpose Land Governance in Africa,” in the session, “Using Remotely-sensed Data to Improve Land Use Efficiency.″ The presentation, co-authored with senior research scientist Markus Walsh, drew on examples from the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) to show how a portfolio approach to data technology can generate more value than focusing on one data technology at a time. Levy leads CIESIN's participation in AfSIS; Walsh is its chief scientist. The Land and Poverty conference attracted more than 1,200 participants from government, academia, civil society, and the private sector from around the world involved in the land sector.
NASA scientists, data managers, and data product and service developers met in Annapolis, Maryland, March 21–23 for the annual meeting of the Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG). Robert Downs, senior digital archivist for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, participated in the meeting and presented the poster, “Improving the Quality of Scientific Data throughout the Data Lifecycle: A Case Study.“ Downs has contributed to ESDSWG activities since its inception in 2004, focusing recently on data quality and software reuse and citation. The annual meeting serves as a venue for reporting on the progress and results of topical working group activities during the past year and for planning new activities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of NASA's Earth science data systems and the use of NASA data to support research, applications, and education.
Two recent publications address ways to improve sustainability through voluntary certification of commodities and through development of “big data” approaches. The paper, “Is voluntary certification of tropical agricultural commodities achieving sustainability goals for small-scale producers?: A review of the evidence,” was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. University Professor Ruth DeFries of the Columbia University Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B) authored the paper together with CIESIN research associate Pinki Mondal and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, and Biodiversity International. The paper finds that that voluntary certification programs can help communities meet sustainable development goals, but are not a panacea for improving smallholder income or social outcomes.
A special issue of the Renewable Resources Journal features a report on the 2016 Congress on Harnessing Big Data for the Environment, including a summary of the presentations by invited speakers. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave one of the plenary talks at the Washington DC meeting, focusing on the challenges of harnessing the rapidly growing deluge of environmental and socioeconomic data to support monitoring and decision making related to sustainable development. The Congress and the special issue were organized by the Renewable Natural Resources Federation (RNRF), a consortium of organizations advancing science, education, and applications in managing and conserving renewable natural resources. Videos of speaker presentations are available here.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy joined a panel on the teaching of environmental peacebuilding at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association February 21‒24 in Baltimore, Maryland. During the roundtable discussion, Levy reflected on lessons learned from his experience in offering environmental security courses over the past two decades. Levy is an adjunct professor in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, where he teaches graduate courses on environment-security linkages. He also co-directs Columbia’s Certificate Program in Environment, Peace and Security. Founded in 1959, the International Studies Association is one of the oldest interdisciplinary associations dedicated to understanding international, transnational, and global affairs.
Data repository managers, digital resource project leaders, and representatives from several Federal agencies met at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, February 28 and March 1 to take part in the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD) Big Data Workshop: Measuring the Impact of Digital Repositories. CIESIN's senior digital archivist, Robert Downs, served on an initial panel of repository managers who discussed issues, tools, and methodologies for measuring the impact of digital repositories. He gave a presentation on “Measuring the Impact of a Scientific Data Center,” briefly highlighting efforts over many years by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to track scientific citations of its data. The workshop sought to identify current metrics, tools, and practices for assessing and communicating the impact of digital repositories; technical, social, and financial obstacles; and research topics designed to advance the creation and adoption of high quality evaluation criteria.
More than 100 experts and stakeholders from around the world met February 21–23 at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle to participate in and advise on the launch of Radiant, an initiative to develop a unique geospatial and imagery platform to help address the developing world’s greatest social, economic and environmental challenges. Established by the Omidyar Network and BMGF as the Open Imagery Network in August 2016, Radiant seeks to promote open access to geospatial data, support knowledge transfer and analytical tools for global development practitioners, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship worldwide. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the Thought Leaders Summit, chairing two breakout sessions with participants from academia and consulting organizations. Radiant seeks to build upon existing open repositories of Earth observations and other geospatial data, and to capture and integrate rapidly expanding sources of imagery in support of sustainable development.
In addition to sudden natural disasters such as hurricanes or flash floods, slow-moving climate change events such as drought can cause displacement and migration, explains CIESIN research scientist and demographer Susana Adamo in an interview for the radio show, “The Briefing Powered by Dartmouth,“ broadcast on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121. Speaking with the host, Mike Mastanduno, Dartmouth College dean of faculty and an expert in international relations, Adamo discusses current research and concerns about climate change and human migration. The program is airing Saturday, February 18, at 8 am EST with re-broadcasts February 19 at 6 am and 7 pm. “The Briefing” is a new weekly satellite radio show that aims to provide historical and factual perspectives on the week’s news. To hear an excerpt from Adamo’s interview, go here.
Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, joined more than 4,000 federal geospatial technology professionals at the 2017 Esri FedGIS Conference, “GIS–Improving Our Nation,” February 13–14 in Washington, D.C. He gave an invited presentation, “Population Data for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” as part of the session, “GIS Data for the SDGs.” His presentation focused on the implications of using different population data sets for developing indicators linked to the SDGs, which were adopted by the international community in September 2015. Drawing on recent discussions at an expert meeting on geospatial settlement, infrastructure, and population data organized by CIESIN February 1–3, Yetman highlighted differences among several global population distribution data sets to illustrate the issues surrounding the selection of input data sets in developing indicators for any of the SDGs.
CIESIN staff members and a former visitor have authored several new papers on diverse topics. Senior digital archivist Robert Downs and director Robert Chen are co-authors of the chapter, “Curation of Scientific Data at Risk of Loss: Data Rescue and Dissemination,” in the book, Curating Research Data Volume One: Practical Strategies for Your Digital Repository. They document efforts by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to rescue data from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a major international assessment of the world′s ecosystems, conducted 2001–2005. The book is edited by Lisa Johnston and published by the American Library Association.
Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, has authored the chapter, “Remote Sensing and Socioeconomic Data Integration: Lessons from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center,” in the CRC Press book, Integrating Scale in Remote Sensing and GIS. The chapter highlights a range of examples in which remote sensing data have been combined with other environmental and socioeconomic data to produce new products designed to support both interdisciplinary research and applications.
Information scientist Xiaoshi Xing and de Sherbinin are co-authors of an article on historical land use change in China published in Nature Scientific Reports. The lead author, Yuanyuan Yang of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, visited CIESIN in 2013‒2014 while a doctoral student in land use management at Jilin University in China. The article describes a spatially-explicit modeling framework for reconstructing historical land use change in Zhenlai County in northeastern China.
Participants on day two of the meeting on settlements, infrastructure, and population data, organized and hosted by CIESIN at Columbia's Lamont campus February 1–2.
Understanding where people live and where their buildings and other infrastructure are located is critical to improving health care and other essential services, reducing vulnerability to hazards, expanding access to markets, and supporting other aspects of sustainable development. Numerous public and private sector organizations around the world are working to produce geospatial data on human settlements, the built infrastructure, and population distribution, drawing on a growing array of data sources including satellite-based radar, night-time light sensors, and high-resolution imagery. Following up on an initial meeting held at SciDataCon 2016 in Denver last fall, CIESIN invited more than 25 experts from academia, private companies, international organizations, and development agencies to the Columbia University Lamont campus in Palisades, New York, February 1–2 to compare methods, explore opportunities to collaborate, and assess how to make data more usable for a range of applications. The group then met February 3 on the Morningside campus with more than 15 representatives of stakeholder organizations, to identify user needs and priorities from the perspective of United Nations agencies, development organizations, funders, and other interested parties.
Participants in the meeting agreed to collaborate on an intercomparison study in Nigeria, to improve understanding about the advantages and limitations of different settlement, infrastructure, and population data sets and their appropriateness for different applications. There was also strong support for efforts to better coordinate data access and documentation, improve consistency and transparency of data and methods, and share data, computing resources, and expertise. Recognition is clearly growing among users and other stakeholders of the importance of these data as an essential foundation for monitoring and decision making with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and as a unique resource to enable better integration of data across boundaries, time periods, and the public and private sectors.
The meeting was supported by a Cross-Cutting Initiative grant from the Earth Institute and by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Participants included experts from Facebook, Google Earth Engine, Esri, ImageCat, the European Commission's Joint Research Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the World Bank, the WorldPop project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management, and several different universities in the United States, United Kingdom, and China.
The return on investment (ROI) of scientific data repositories was the subject of a workshop at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, January 25‒26. Representatives from a diverse group of repositories participated in the workshop, including Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist. Participants examined current approaches for evaluating the ROI of scientific data repositories, and explored potential methodologies for measuring and reporting the ROI in various settings. Downs gave presentations on approaches for measuring the value of scientific data centers and evaluating their impact, drawing on CIESIN′s long experience in operating the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). The workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation.
When major storms or other extreme events occur, key organizations such as emergency management and utilities, transportation, and communication networks must mobilize quickly to activate and position resources and make a range of decisions to ensure public safety, reduce the severity of impacts, and improve recovery times. Representatives of a diverse set of Federal, state, and local agencies, public and private utilities, and other business groups met January 26 in Philadelphia for the second Data Driven Decision Making (D3M) workshop, held to examine how improved access to diverse earth science and socioeconomic data could help improve disaster decisionmaking in specific use cases related to flooding, power restoration, and regional situational awareness. During the meeting, CIESIN director Robert Chen gave presentations on a range of decision support tools and data sets relevant to these use cases, including the Hazards Mapper and HazPop mobile app available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), as well as data on building footprints, critical infrastructure, impervious surfaces, and social vulnerability. CIESIN is working with StormCenter Communications, Inc. to incorporate the SEDAC Population Estimation Service into StormCenter′s GeoCollaborate tool, which provides a disaster data Daily Dashboard for the Fleet Response Working Group (FRWG). The FRWG is a public-private working group of the All Hazards Consortium (AHC), co-organizer of the D3M workshops with the ESIP Federation.
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