A major new report, “Data for Development: A Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity,” was launched at the United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC, April 17. The report, jointly authored by staff from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Open Data Watch, CIESIN, the Paris21 Secretariat, Simon Fraser University, The World Bank, and UNESCO, is intended to advance discussions on the importance of strong statistical systems and monitoring capacity in implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the potential to mobilize the “data revolution” in support of sustainable development, and the need to clearly identify resource needs, areas of investment, and modernization approaches in formulating the post-2015 development agenda. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and program manager Alex Fischer participated in the launch event, representing the CIESIN team that contributed to the report on the topic of geospatial and environmental data collection and SDG indicator development.
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A meeting of experts, “Development, Technology and Policy in the Big Data Era,” was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 11, in conjunction with the NetMob 2015 conference. Participants, including CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, developed ideas for how to promote the necessary intellectual, institutional, policy, and legal approaches needed to ensure that the ongoing “data revolution” benefits human development. The invitation-only meeting was organized by MIT Connection Science, the Data-Pop Alliance, The World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in an invitation-only Climate Data Partnership workshop April 7 in Washington, DC. Organized by Forum One, the workshop brought together experts from government, academia, and private industry to discuss how to continue the momentum and collaboration around climate data innovators that was started by the White House Climate Data Initiative (CDI) in 2014. The CDI brings together open government data with expertise from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools at the local level, including citizen-science crowdsourcing applications and tools to optimize sustainable practices in agriculture. The workshop coincided with the launch of the human health theme of climate.data.gov, which features data, information, and decision tools designed to help citizens, businesses, non-governmental agencies, and governments better prepare for climate-related impacts on health.
Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri, visited CIESIN at the Lamont campus March 30 to discuss potential areas of cooperation and collaboration on geospatial data and services. Later in the day, more than 100 faculty, staff members, students, and geospatial experts from around New York attended his talk, “Applied Geography for a Better World,” at the Columbia University Morningside Heights campus, moderated by CIESIN director Robert Chen. Dangermond, together with his wife, Laura Dangermond, received the prestigious Audubon Medal for Environmental Leadership at the annual Audubon Gala March 31 in New York City, honoring their achievements in technology and conservation innovation and their support of research institutions, schools, and non-profit organizations. Esri is the leading provider of geographic information system (GIS) software for a wide range of environmental and business applications. CIESIN manages the Esri site license at Columbia University and has utilized Esri software in research, education, and the development of geospatial data products and services for more than two decades.
CIESIN associate director Alex de Sherbinin and Erica Zell of Battelle Memorial Institute gave a presentation March 26 on work using remote sensing data to develop indicators of urban heat stress in New York City and Philadelphia. Their presentation to a New York City inter-agency working group on urban heat islands was one of the concluding events in an 18-month project funded by NASA in support of the U.S. National Climate Assessment. The project′s goal was to develop urban heat stress and urban heat island indicators using a combination of remote sensing and socioeconomic data to meet the needs of urban policymakers and other stakeholders. The following day, de Sherbinin and Zell also described their work for Earth Institute staff at a seminar hosted by CIESIN at the Lamont campus in Palisades, New York.
CIESIN senior research staff assistant Ilyun Koh demonstrates the SEDAC Population Estimation Service to attendees of the New York Hall of Science “Big Data Fest,” held March 28 in Queens, New York. In the background is senior research associate Meredith Golden.
The New York Hall of Science (NYSci) in Queens, New York, hosted a “Big Data Fest” at the museum from 11 am to 5 pm March 28, with hands-on, interactive data experiences, and demonstrations for kids of all ages. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave a public talk, “Can Big Data Help Save Our Planet?″ and demonstrated the SEDAC Population Estimation Service throughout the day. He was joined at the CIESIN exhibit table by senior digital archivist Robert Downs, senior research associate Meredith Golden, and senior research staff assistant Ilyun Koh, who showed users how to use the Climate and Health ANalysis for Global Education Viewer (CHANGE Viewer) and the National Priorities List Superfund Footprint Mapper. CIESIN is part of a team led by NYSci that is developing “Connected Worlds,” an interactive, immersive exhibit on sustainability being installed in the Great Hall, an iconic space from the 1964 World′s Fair under renovation in conjunction with NYSci's 50th anniversary.
Norfolk, Virginia, and Greenbelt, Maryland, were the sites of several different meetings aimed at addressing user needs for earth observation data and improving data usability and quality. On March 23 in Norfolk, associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman attended the kickoff meeting of the eighth phase of the Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP-8), an initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to test and implement connections between geospatial data and services in support of user-driven information needs. Two mapping clients and the Population Estimation Service developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN will be used in AIP-8 to demonstrate the integration of population and remote sensing data for disaster response and other applications as part of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS).
Yetman and CIESIN director Robert Chen then participated in the 4th GEOSS Science and Technology Stakeholder Network workshop in Norfolk March 24-26. Yetman chaired a plenary session, “From Data to Knowledge Sharing,”and Chen co-chaired a breakout session, “Global and Regional Observation Networks Sustainability and Capacity Building.”
Also March 24-26, senior digital archivist Robert Downs attended the annual meeting of the Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. Downs helped present the results of the Open Source working group, which he co-chairs, and also presented the poster, “Data Lifecycle Recommendations for Improving the Usability of Data Quality Information for Earth Science Data″ in support of the Data Quality working group. He also co-authored posters on the identification, provenance, and preservation of earth science data.
CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in a meeting of the United States delegation to the Belmont Forum E-Infrastructures and Data Management Project March 17–18 in Tucson, Arizona. The Belmont Forum is an initiative by national scientific funding agencies to collaborate in addressing the challenges and opportunities of global environmental change. Chen is one of more than a dozen U.S.-based members contributing to phase 1 of the project, established in 2013 to develop proposals and plans for possible cyberinfrastructure investments and strategic science policies by the Belmont Forum members. The U.S. delegation reviewed a number of proposed collaborative research actions and discussed options for phase 2 of the project that will begin later in 2015.
March 19-20 in Washington, DC, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy attended a workshop sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), “Building Capacity in 21st Century Social Sciences.” The workshop brought together more than 30 invited experts to explore ideas for more effectively harnessing the power of the social sciences to help address high priority “grand challenges″ facing the country and the world. A key question addressed in the workshop was how the social science community can build capacity and organize itself to collectively tackle these challenges, working across disciplines and scales.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is a co-author of a new paper, “The Roads Ahead: Narratives for Shared Socioeconomic Pathways Describing World Futures in the 21st Century,” appearing in the journal Global Environmental Change. The paper presents qualitative descriptions of future societal development for each of the “shared socioeconomic pathways” (SSPs) that the scientific community has developed to support analysis of climate mitigation and adaptation. The five narratives in the paper describe plausible future changes in demographics, human development, economy, institutions, technology, and environment. The paper is an output of an international scenario process carried out under the auspices of the International Committee on New Integrated Climate change assessment Scenarios (ICONICS).
Alex de Sherbinin, associate director of science applications, is also a co-author of New York City Panel on Climate Change 2015 Report Chapter 6: Indicators and Monitoring, appearing in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in February. The chapter builds on an approach laid out in the 2010 New York Panel on Climate Change report, examining how to establish a climate resiliency indicator and monitoring system for New York City that is more responsive to current and future climate change.
CIESIN, SEDAC, and other related Web sites such as the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) will be unavailable for about four hours on Friday, March 20, beginning at about 11:30 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), due to electrical system upgrades in the building housing our computer servers. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please contact CIESIN User Services if you have any questions or concerns.
Several staff members at CIESIN have been working in an advisory capacity with a variety of national and international organizations:
- Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, is assisting the Transboundary Water Assessment Program (TWAP) in its final project phase with inputs on the socioeconomic content of its over-arching report, Cross-cutting Perspectives on Transboundary Waters, which looks at results across river basins, lakes, aquifers, and large marine ecosystems. He attended a meeting of the co-authors at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, March 2–3.
- At United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, March 10–12, associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska shared her climatology expertise at a review meeting of UNEP’s CLIM-WARN (climate warning) early warning system for climate extremes, including heat waves, forest fires, floods and droughts.
- The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado, has instituted a review panel to provide independent critical assessment and guidance on NEON's cyberinfrastructure. Sri Vinay, associate director for information technology, participated in a review workshop March 11–12 as a member of the panel. CIESIN director Robert Chen is also a member of the NEON Board, which is meeting March 19–20.
- Deputy director Marc Levy participated in a March 5 workshop at the University of Texas, Austin, to explore initial work of a project, Complex Emergencies and Political Stability in Asia (CEPSA). Levy is a member of CEPSA′s advisory board. CEPSA is a three-year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva Initiative to understand insecurities that shape vulnerability in Asia and potential strategies to build government response capacity.
- CIESIN director Robert Chen attended the spring meeting of the Governing Council of the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 5–6. ICPSR is an international consortium of more than 700 academic institutions and research organizations and the largest social science data archive in the world. Chen's term as one of twelve Council members extends through February 2018.
More than 400 scientists and specialists involved in research data development and management gathered in San Diego March 8−11 for the Fifth Plenary of the Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international initiative to promote open data sharing across disciplines, borders, and technologies. CIESIN director Robert Chen co-chaired a breakout session of the RDA-CODATA Interest Group on Legal Interoperability of Research Data on March 10, reviewing a draft set of principles to address legal barriers to data sharing. CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs gave several oral presentations on data management and preservation issues and a poster on the usability of scientific data documentation. He also participated in the RDA “Adoption Day″ event at the San Diego Supercomputer Center on March. The sixth RDA plenary will be held in Paris September 23–25.
A side event, “Financial Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity Development” was held March 2 at United Nations headquarters in New York City in conjunction with the 46th meeting of the UN Statistical Commission. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and program manager Alex Fischer participated in the panel discussion, which presented preliminary results and a draft report from a project to assess needs and costs associated with monitoring the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under negotiation as part of the “post-2015” development agenda. The side event was organized by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the World Bank, PARIS21, Open Data Watch, and CIESIN. Levy and Fischer, along with several other CIESIN staff members, are contributing to the report, which is expected to be released in final form in April as an input into the Financing For Development (FFD) conference in July 2015.
Marc Levy, deputy director at CIESIN, spoke recently about threats to human security from climate change. His presentation February 26 was part of a series, “Climate Change—How Safe are You?” sponsored by the Centre for Coastal Science and Management at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Levy’s talk focused on three phenomena: the increased difficulty of regulating violence and conflict under challenging climate conditions; how efforts to manage climate change in one area can shift risks to another; and how interactions between complex linked systems can rapidly impact human security. Identifying and understanding these unsettling risks is a critical first step to managing them.
Levy also participated in a meeting of the Taskforce on Impacts of Extreme Weather on US/UK Food Security, held February 23–25 in London. Sponsored by the United Kingdom’s Science and Innovation Network and Global Food Security Programme, the task force brings together academic, industry, and policy stakeholders to characterize plausible large-scale risks to the world food system stemming from extreme climate phenomena.
Panelists at UN side event discuss role of earth observation data in the emerging set of sustainable development indicators, February 27. Left to right: Chu Ishida, JAXA; Rifat Hossain, World Health Organization; Robert Chen, CIESIN; Stefan Schweinfest, UNSD/UN-GGIM; Barbara Ryan, GEO; Tatjana von Steiger Weber, Switzerland; Enrique Ordaz, National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), Mexico. Credit: UN Cartographic Division.
The potential integration of earth observation data into the emerging set of sustainable development indicators under consideration as part of the post-2015 development agenda was the focus of a dialogue held February 27 at United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City. Moderated by CIESIN director Robert Chen, the side event included three case studies illustrating the current use of earth observations and other geospatial data in national statistical systems, water sector monitoring, and other environmental and resource applications. To help set the context, introductory remarks were given by Tatjana von Steiger Weber, minister, the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN; Barbara Ryan, executive director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO); Stefan Schweinfest, director of the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) and the UN Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) Secretariat; and Chen. More than 80 individuals attended the event, which was co-organized by Switzerland, GEO, the UN-GGIM Secretariat, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The event is one of a series of activities preceding the start of the 46th Session of the UN Statistical Commission March 3.
The kickoff meeting of a new European project, ConnectinGEO, was held in Barcelona February 18–19. Funded by the European Union, ConnectinGEO aims to help develop a European Network of Earth Observation Networks (ENEON) and to fill in key data gaps within the overall framework of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman participated in the meeting, presenting an overview of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and other CIESIN projects and resources.
More than 50 science journalists, science communicators, scientists, and students gathered at the Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose, California, February 16–18 for the 2nd Kavli Symposium on Science Journalism. The focus of the meeting was on data mining and innovative data tools that could benefit the international community of science journalists. CIESIN associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin presented a keynote address, “Big and Open Data for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” highlighting the need for investments in monitoring and data for the SDGs, the importance of open data, and the promise and limitations of so-called “Big Data” for filling data gaps. He also highlighted the work of the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), including its task group on global roads open access data, which he leads. The symposium was organized by the Kavli Foundation and the World Federation of Science Journalists.
In order to improve user experience and understanding of user demographics and needs, the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) is introducing “single sign-on” access to all EOSDIS elements, including the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The new User Registration System (URS) facilitates streamlined user registration and profile management, allowing users to take advantage of the wide array of EOSDIS data and services using a common username and profile. SEDAC is planning to implement the URS system on or around February 20, 2015. SEDAC users will be able to access SEDAC Web pages without logging in, but will need to register with URS before downloading data. User profile information is not shared outside of EOSDIS, and users are able to control which EOSDIS site or service can access the profile.
SEDAC users are welcome to register in advance here. Those who already have a URS login obtained from other EOSDIS Web sites should use their username when downloading data from the SEDAC site. Please contact SEDAC User Services if you have any questions about user registration.
CIESIN director Robert Chen and deputy director Marc Levy are among a group of 40 authors of a new report that finds that the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a “major improvement” over the prior Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, the independent review of the 169 draft SDG targets points out that only 29% are well-defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, whereas 54% need more work and 17% are weak or non-essential. The report, which was released by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in partnership with the International Social Science Council (ISSC), noted that the language describing many of the targets was vague and that goals were often isolated from each other. The report emphasizes the need for an overarching goal to articulate the ultimate ambition of the SDGs as a whole. Levy was lead author of the review of Goal 16 on peace, justice, and accountability, and Chen co-authored a chapter on monitoring and review.
Five experts have begun four-year terms with the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The new chair is Myron Gutmann, director of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado Boulder and former associate director for social, behavioral, and economics sciences at the National Science Foundation. He replaces Molly Macauley of Resources for the Future. The other new members are William Hoffman of the World Economic Forum; Theresa Pardo of the Center for Technology in Government at the State University of New York at Albany; Adam Storeygard of the Department of Economics at Tufts University; and Leah Vanwey from the Department of Sociology at Brown University. The UWG provides strategic guidance regarding SEDAC user needs and its interdisciplinary data and services.
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