The prompt and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a major priority of the 70th President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Mogens Lykketoft. The High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was held at UN Headquarters April 21 to increase international awareness and political momentum related to the so-called global goals. Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs participated in a moderated dialogue during the opening ceremony of the debate, and he and CIESIN director Robert Chen were among the participants in the High-Level Lunch on Partnerships for SDG Implementation. Chen then participated as a discussant in the panel, “Harnessing the Data Revolution for SDGs: Opportunities and Challenges,″ as part of “Technology and Data for the SDGs,” the second of two interactive discussions. The event was broadcast live on UN Web TV and summarized in a briefing note by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.
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Douglas Sathler, visiting associate professor at CIESIN (right) and Susana Adamo, CIESIN research scientist, discuss Sathler's presentation on the socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental patterns of Brazil's Legal Amazonia. The presentation was given April 21 at the Lamont campus of Columbia University.
CIESIN visiting associate professor Douglas Sathler gave a lunchtime talk April 21, presenting an exploratory analysis of the socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental patterns of municipalities in the “deforestation arc” of the Legal Amazonia in Brazil. In collaboration with CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo and Everton M. Lima of Unicamp in Brazil, Sathler aims to support the design of policies for local sustainable development in these municipalities for the preservation and regeneration of the forest.
Sathler is a professor with the Institute of Humanities at Brazil’s Universidade Federal dos Vales do Jequitinhonha e Mucuri (UFVJM), Diamantina, Minas Gerais. He coordinates the network Population, Space, and Environment, of the Brazilian Association of Population Studies, and is chief editor of Revista Espinhaço, a journal of geography and geosciences. His sabbatical at CIESIN is supported by CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel), a public foundation within the Brazil Ministry of Higher Education.
Former CIESIN research scientist Deborah Balk has been named a recipient of the prestigious 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, one of 33 awardees among nearly 200 nominations. Now a professor at the Baruch School of Public Affairs, City University of New York (CUNY), Balk is also associate director of the CUNY Institute of Demographic Research. Her award will fund research on climate-related vulnerability in the 21st century and the related roles of urbanization and migration. Balk and her team continue to use georeferenced population and urbanization data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, which she helped develop while lead project scientist for SEDAC. She is currently a member of the SEDAC User Working Group.
CIESIN staff members participated in a range of technical meetings in the U.S. and Japan March 30–April 8, addressing many different aspects of science data management. The Journal of Map & Geography Libraries also released the third in a series of special issues on geospatial data management, curation, and preservation, guest edited by Robert Downs, senior digital archivist.
Director Robert Chen attended the annual meeting of the Science Advisory Board of the Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory March 30–31 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, beginning his second three-year term as a member of the Board. The Board reviewed recent progress in developing the CCSI, including efforts to improve integrated data management across climate and ecological domains and between modeling and observational activities.
Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, traveled to Tokyo April 4–6 for a meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Council for Science World Data System (ICSU-WDS). The Committee, which serves as the ICSU-WDS governing body, reviewed a range of WDS issues, including plans for the WDS Forum and International Data Week in Denver, Colorado, in September 2016.
Robert Downs participated in two technical meetings on the management and interoperability of scientific data, held in College Park and Greenbelt, Maryland, April 4–8. The first meeting April 4–6, organized by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems (CCSDS), focused on the development of new standards and reviews of previously published standards. Downs gave a presentation on “Evaluating the Trustworthiness of a Scientific Data Center to Inform Continuous Improvement,” co-authored with Chen. The second meeting, organized by NASA Earth Science Data Systems Working Groups (ESDSWG) April 6–8, covered different topics on earth science data interoperability. Downs presented the poster, “The Data Paper: An Opportunity to Improve Data Discovery, Exploration, and Use,″ and with members of the ESDSWG Data Quality team he co-presented three other posters. He also co-presented the ESDSWG-Data-Recipe 2015 Report: Recommendations to Create Data Recipes.
Susana Adamo, research scientist, participated in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Second Expert Group Meeting on the forthcoming World Economic and Social Survey (WESS) 2016 in New York City April 7–8, where she reviewed and commented on the section on access and use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) data and environment/climate change statistics.
Chen also attended a meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) April 7–8 in Boulder. At the meeting, the Board transferred control of NEON, Inc., the non-profit consortium managing NEON's construction, to Battelle. Chen then joined the other directors in resigning from the Board.
As part of the special issue of Journal of Map & Geography Libraries, Robert Downs authored the editorial, “Reflections on the Management, Curation, and Preservation of Geospatial Data.” Downs served as guest editor of this issue, as well as the two previous special issues in the series.
Al Pinto, senior media designer and a member of the team at CIESIN that developed the Hazards Mapper and HazPop mobile app, leads a demonstration of the mapping services at the Data Science Day @ Columbia event held at Lerner Hall, Columbia University Morningside campus, April 6. Senior systems analyst and programmer Frank Pascuzzi, left, was also a member of the team.
CIESIN’s new Hazards Mapper and related iOS app, the Hazards and Population Mapper (HazPop), were demonstrated at the Data Science Day @ Columbia event April 6 at Lerner Hall on the Columbia University Morningside campus. Staffing CIESIN’s exhibit booth were members of the development team, including associate director for Information Technology Sri Vinay, developers Frank Pascuzzi and Al Pinto, and associate director for Geospatial Applications Greg Yetman, along with CIESIN director Robert Chen. The booth included a poster co-authored by the team with GIS programmer Kytt MacManus, “Visualizing Population Exposure to Hazards.” Senior research associate Paola Kim-Blanco also presented a poster on the validation of intercity roads data using crowd-sourcing methods. The hazard mapping tools enable users to visualize recent data on earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and other hazards in relationship to population, settlements, and major infrastructure such as dams and power plants. The Hazards Mapper is available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, and the initial version of the HazPop app may be downloaded through Apple iTunes. The event, sponsored by Columbia's Data Science Institute, drew more than 600 attendees from both the public and private sectors.
Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, gave a lightning talk April 5 at a Food Security Symposium organized by the World Wide Human Geography Data (WWHGD) Working Group and hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia. His talk highlighted three grand challenges regarding food security data related to population and food security mapping and modeling. His presentation and an audio file of the panel discussion are available through the WWHGD Web site (free registration required).
Currently in an initial testing phase, the HazPop mobile application developed by the NASA SEDAC operated by CIESIN is available through iTunes.
A new mobile application, the Hazards and Population Mapper (HazPop), enables users to display recent data on hazards such as earthquakes and tornados in relationship to population, major infrastructure, and satellite imagery. The initial version of HazPop is now available for mobile phones and tablets running Apple′s iOS9 operating system via the iTunes store. HazPop draws on three data sets available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)—Gridded Population of the World v3, Nuclear Power Plants Locations v1, and Global Reservoirs and Dams v1.1—along with NASA real-time active fire and aerosol optical depth (AOD) data, earthquake alerts from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and flood and tornado alerts for the US from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Users can visualize the location of active fires over the past 48 hours, earthquake alerts over the past seven days, and yesterday′s air pollution data measured from space. A key feature of the app is the ability to obtain an estimate of the total population in proximity to the user′s current location or to a recent hazard event or other point of interest.
HazPop is designed for use by disaster risk managers, humanitarian response organizations, public health professionals, journalists, and others needing a quick assessment of the population potentially exposed to a major hazard event or developing emergency. It is not intended to support in-depth risk assessment or estimation of actual disaster losses. The initial version has been released to enable further testing of the app and associated data services by a broad user community. User feedback on HazPop is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo, visiting research scientist Douglas Sathler, and user services manager Joe Schumacher attended the 2016 annual meeting of the Population Association of America (PAA) March 30–April 2 in Washington, DC. Adamo presented a paper co-authored with research associate Paola Kim-Blanco on migrants in urban areas of developing countries and their exposure to environmental hazards. Sathler presented a poster on deforestation and local development in the Brazilian Legal Amazonia, co-authored with Adamo and Everton Lima of the University of Campinas. Schumacher staffed an exhibit booth at the meeting, showcasing the new version of the Gridded Population of the World data set and other georeferenced population data products and services available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Each year the PAA meeting brings together more than 2,000 scientists and other professionals engaged in research on population issues.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) convened a meeting at its Washington, DC, office March 21–22 to review the draft North America Regional Assessment, part of the UNEP Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6). The North America Assessment, produced by a team of more than 30 leading environmental experts, takes stock of the current state of the region′s environment and evaluates a range of promising options for tackling the most pressing priorities facing the region. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, who co-chairs the assessment, participated in the meeting, which also involved officials from the US Department of State and from Environment and Climate Change Canada, members of the GEO-6 High-Level Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Advisory Group (HLG) and the GEO-6 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), and several Coordinating Lead Authors of the assessment. Outcomes of the meeting included approval of the draft assessment, an initial draft of assessment key messages, and agreement on revisions for the final version and its delivery at the second United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2016. CIESIN is one of the GEO-6 Partner Centers of Excellence.
Recent staff changes at CIESIN include the departure of Erin Doxsey-Whitfield, geographic information specialist, to pursue other opportunities in Edmonton, Alberta. Doxsey-Whitfield joined CIESIN's Geospatial Applications Division in May 2012. She was a key member of the team for version four of the Gridded Population of the World data collection, for which she coordinated much of the data acquisition and contributed extensively to data processing and outreach. She also supported a variety of projects related to population geography, flood mapping, and social vulnerability to hazards.
Minal Patel has joined CIESIN's Science Applications Division, working primarily with deputy director Marc Levy on the UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) North American Assessment and on a solutions initiative of the UN Sustainable Development Solution Network (SDSN) Thematic Network on Data for Sustainable Development. For GEO-6 Patel is managing efforts to produce an assessment of environmental conditions and policy innovations in the U.S. and Canada. For the SDSN Thematic Network she is serving as project manager for a "solutions initiative" to develop a “living manual” on how countries can harness recent developments in sustainability science, data technologies, and decision-support methodologies to design information systems that most effectively support progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. Patel has a master of science in sustainability management from Columbia University and a bachelor of commerce with a focus on information systems. Formerly, she worked as senior advisor for the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and has more than ten years of experience in various roles in program management, finance, business strategy, and process improvement for the federal government of Canada.
Through the Alliance program, an academic joint-venture between Columbia and the École Polytechnique (EP), Sciences Po, and Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Wei Wang, an international student at EP in Paris, has arrived at CIESIN for a four-month master’s internship. Under the guidance of information scientist Xiaoshi Xing, he is working on model optimization and geospatial analysis of estimates of energy and emissions from power plants. Wang is currently majoring in environmental science at EP and holds a bachelor’s in aircraft design and engineering from Harbin Institute of Technology in China. CIESIN has hosted Alliance Program interns since 2008.
Periodic surveys of users can be a valuable and cost effective way to improve the operations of scientific data centers. In a blog post just released by the International Council for Science (ICSU) World Data System (WDS), Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications and a member of the WDS Scientific Committee, describes the utility of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey for the NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers. He describes how ACSI scores and free text responses by users help the DAACs to identify problems and issues and take steps to improve user satisfaction. The ACSI also serves as an important performance metric for NASA, providing a way to compare how the DAACs are performing in comparison with other public and private sector service providers. Based on his experience as deputy manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, de Sherbinin argues that all data centers in the WDS could benefit from conducting periodic user surveys, and that the ACSI serves as a useful model.
Modeling human mobility after medium- to large-size hazard events was the subject of a lunchtime talk by Takahiro Yabe March 11 at Columbia University′s Lamont Campus. A master’s student at the University of Tokyo, Yabe is developing a methodology that uses mobile-phone data, such as geo-location information from cell phone service providers and Yahoo! smartphone apps, to evaluate models of human behavior in emergency situations following a major hazard event. The methodology was piloted for Tokyo following the East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Work is beginning on how to use location information to tailor early warning messages based on location.
The World Bank recently released the report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability, which notes that the region has experienced hidden “messy” urbanization—widespread slums and urban sprawl—leading to adverse impacts on basic services, housing, environment, and economic development. A CIESIN team led by deputy director Marc Levy conducted a background analysis for the report in 2013, focusing on urbanization patterns based on nighttime lights and other spatial data. The report recommends a range of reforms to make the region′s cities more prosperous and livable.
A series of New York City meetings March 5–14 held in conjunction with the 47th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission addressed the development and implementation of indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the international community in September 2015. On March 5, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in a multi-stakeholder workshop, “Data Revolution Roadmaps for Sustainable Development,″ hosted by the United Nations Foundation and organized by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. He gave a flash presentation on demand-driven, cost-effective integrated information systems in a session, “Mapping Existing Tools to Identified Needs,″ based on a project he is leading under the auspices of the Thematic Network on Sustainable Development Data of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
On March 7, CIESIN director Robert Chen was one of four invited panelists discussing the topic of partnerships, innovative approaches, and solutions from data experts and data producers, at the “High-Level Forum on Official Statistics: Dialogue toward the UN World Data Forum,” a side event held at United Nations headquarters. A video of the Forum is available online through UN WebTV. Air quality data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) were also featured in a presentation by Lawrence Friedl, director of the NASA Applied Sciences Program, at an earlier side event, “Geospatial Information and Earth Observations Supporting Official Statistics in Monitoring the SDGs.″
After the adoption of the SDG indicator framework by the Statistical Commission on March 11, the SDSN Thematic Network on Sustainable Development Data met at Columbia University March 13–14. The meeting focused on the role of the Thematic Network in bringing academic expertise and perspectives into multi-stakeholder discussions about the implementation of the SDG indicator framework. Robert Chen co-chairs the Thematic Network together with Shaida Baidee of Open Data Watch and Enrico Giovannini of the University of Rome Tor Vergata.
The workshop, “Data to Decisions: Valuing the Societal Benefit of Geospatial Information,” was organized by the GEOValue community, in collaboration with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), NASA, and the U.S. Geological Survey, in Paris March 10–11. The workshop sought to define case studies and use cases that assess value by tracing the information flow end-to-end from geospatial data acquisition system to decisions by end users related to managing disasters and ecosystems. CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs presented a poster paper on spatial information for disaster planning and the reinsurance industry, co-authored with associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman, research staff assistant John Squires, and director Robert Chen. Downs also attended a pre-workshop tutorial March 9 on cost-benefit analysis, sponsored by the workshop organizers and the Association of European Operational Research Societies (EURO). GEOValue is an international group concerned with the value and socioeconomic impacts of geospatial information for decision making.
Some 50 high level representatives of leading international research institutes assembled in Laxenburg, Austria, March 7–9 for the second annual workshop, “The World in 2050” and to participate in the kick-off of the technical phase of the project. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is pictured second from upper right, front row; Jeffrey Sachs is second from the left at the bottom.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy joined Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs and some 50 other representatives of research institutes from around the world in Laxenburg, Austria, March 7–9 for the second annual workshop of the project, “The World in 2050” (TWI2050). The workshop included the kick-off of the technical phase of the TWI2050 project, which was launched in March 2015 by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The project aims to develop equitable pathways to sustainable development within safe planetary boundaries in order to build human and environmental resilience to global change.
Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications and deputy manager of SEDAC, participated in an expert meeting, Land-Based Indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 15.3, in Washington, DC, February 24–26. The meeting was convened by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and co-hosted by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-STAP). Participants focused on refining a proposed indicator of land degradation that will be presented at the forthcoming session of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) in Mexico City. This indicator would be complemented by additional data and indicators on land use/cover change, change in land productivity, and change in above- and below-ground carbon, that could also support reporting processes for the UNCCD, CBD, and GEF.
CIESIN has begun working with Facebook’s Internet.org initiative to conduct systematic validation and quality assessment of high-resolution gridded population data, as announced by Facebook at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 22. Last year, Facebook launched a project to utilize high-resolution (50-centimeter) remote sensing imagery in combination with the Gridded Population of the World version 4 (GPWv4) data set, to produce a 5-meter population map in order to better understand population and settlement patterns in rural areas of the developing world. Their main objective is to optimize strategies for extending Internet to these populations as part of the organization’s larger goal to bring connectivity to the four billion people who are not yet online. Recognizing the potential value of these data for a wide range of applications, Facebook decided to work with CIESIN to assess and improve the quality of the data. Facebook plans to make the new population distribution data for more than 20 developing countries openly available by summer 2016 and to continue expanding the data’s coverage to additional countries.
A workshop on climate vulnerability and risk mapping and identifying best practices was held February 16 at the National Socio-Ecological Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis, Maryland. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, organized the workshop, in which twelve scientists and two individuals from decision making communities worked together over three days to design a protocol for assessing existing studies, including outputs of method (conceptual models, data, and spatial analysis techniques) and mapping (clarity of communication and adherence to cartographic convention). The goal was to develop best practice guidelines for use in climate vulnerability and risk mapping. Such mapping is increasingly used for targeting adaptation programs and for local planning. Saleem Khan, visiting Fulbright-Nehru Fellow at CIESIN, was one of the participants in the workshop. SESYNC is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Bogdan-Mihai Cîrlugea discusses his work validating OpenStreetMap data for integration into the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS), at a presentation of his master's research February 11 at the Lamont Campus, Palisades, New York.
A presentation, “Validation of OpenStreetMap for Integration into the gROADS v1,” was given by visiting staff associate Bogdan-Mihai Cîrlugea at the Lamont campus in Palisades, New York, February 11 at the conclusion of his five-month visit to CIESIN. Launched in 2004, OpenStreetMap (OSM) is the largest collaborative project to date to create free and editable cartographic data of the world. Cîrlugea’s work advances understanding about OSM's data structures and the potential advantages and limitations of using the OSM roads data set in geospatial research and applications. The work is the basis of Cîrlugea’s thesis for his master’s degree in environmental engineering, with a specialization in environmental modeling and monitoring, from l’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausannne (EPFL) in Switzerland. It is also a contribution to the work of an international task group of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science, which is developing a digital, publicly-available database of intercity roads, the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS). The current version of gROADS is available via the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.
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