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.
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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.
A panel of senior Columbia University administrators joined a meeting of Earth Institute (EI) researchers and practitioners on February 10 to discuss barriers and challenges in working in international settings. The event, “Practice Makes Perfect: Strengthening the Earth Institute’s Capacity to Support Sustainable Development,” was moderated by CIESIN director Robert Chen and drew more than 30 representatives of EI centers and programs. To encourage interaction and information sharing, the participants first met in small groups to identify key questions and problems related to purchasing, contracting, hiring, emergency planning, and insurance often faced by EI projects and staff, especially in remote areas subject to a range of potential hazards. Panelists then responded to questions from each group. Columbia has developed a Global Support Web site to coordinate information and resources related to international activities, including financial, legal, and other administrative aspects. Tuesday’s panel was the second of two panels organized by the Practice Committee of the Earth Institute Faculty.
The latest version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set was the focus of a NASA EarthData Webinar on January 29, “Discover NASA’s Updated Gridded Population of the World (GPW).” More than 150 people participated in the online seminar, the highest attendance to date in the Webinar series. GPW is a widely used and cited data set that characterizes the distribution of population around the world. It is produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Geographic information specialist Erin Doxsey-Whitfield summarized the history and development of GPW, improvements to this fourth version of GPW, and ways the data have been used in research and policy applications. GIS programmer Kytt MacManus reviewed the methods used to develop GPWv4 and the data layers in the upcoming release. A question-and-answer period with the online participants followed the presentation.
Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, has been elected chair of a NASA subgroup aimed at improving the ability of earth science data users to assess the quality and usability of data distributed by the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The usability subgroup is part of the Data Quality Working Group, one of the NASA Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG) that provide expert advice, solve problems, and improve efficiency in support of EOSDIS. Downs remains vice chair of the ESDSWG on Open Source and until recently served as vice chair of the ESDSWG on Software Reuse.
An expert panel, “Population, sustainable development, and the post-2015 development agenda,” was held January 22 at United Nations headquarters in New York. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a presentation on population dynamics, the environment, and climate change, including an overview of relevant CIESIN work on population, migration, vulnerability, adaptation, and indicator development. The expert panel was organized by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in preparation for the forty-eighth session of the Commission on Population and Development.
Senior digital archivist Robert Downs and John Scialdone, manager of data center services, attended the Winter 2015 meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP Federation) held January 6–8 in Washington, DC. Downs presented two papers, “A Scientific Data Center Perspective on Publishing Data” and “Eliciting Knowledge on Science Software Sustainability from the Earth Science Informatics Community.” He also presented the poster, ”Enabling Ongoing Access to Data Products and Services When Dependencies are No Longer Supported,” and was a co-presenter on another poster, “Human & Machine Actionable Data Citations.” In conjunction with the meeting, Downs participated in the board meeting of the Foundation for Earth Science as an elected ESIP representative. Scialdone represented the NASA Socioeconomic and Data Applications Center (SEDAC), a “Type 1” Federation member, during the Federation business meeting.
Senior digital archivist Robert Downs is one of the co-authors of a Forum contribution, “Realizing the Value of a National Asset: Scientific Data.” Published December 16, 2014 in EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, the article summarizes the conclusions and recommendations of discussions organized by the ESIP Federation since January 2013, including workshops held at the July 2013 and January 2014 ESIP Federation meetings. A key recommendation of the authors is the establishment of a U.S. National Research Council study on grand data challenges in the earth sciences, aimed at setting priorities for scientific data management and examining sustainable economic models for scientific data infrastructure.
CIESIN is pleased to announce the appointment of Alex de Sherbinin as the new associate director for science applications, effective January 1. Since joining CIESIN in October 1999, de Sherbinin has played key roles in a range of CIESIN projects and activities on topics including population dynamics, climate vulnerability mapping, climate change and migration, environmental indicators, and remote sensing applications. He continues to serve as the deputy manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN and to co-lead the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN). He holds a PhD from the faculty of geo-information science and Earth observation (ITC) at the University of Twente, the Netherlands. He takes over leadership of the Science Applications Division from CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. The division includes more than a dozen scientific staff and visiting scholars spanning a wide range of disciplines and analytic skills.
CIESIN director Robert Chen, senior digital archivist Robert Downs, and senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin joined more than 22,000 scientists and educators at the fall American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting December 14-19 in San Francisco. Downs co-chaired three sessions on open source scientific software, and Chen and de Sherbinin organized and co-chaired two sessions on integration of remote sensing and socioeconomic data. Chen, Downs, and de Sherbinin also gave a number of co-authored oral and poster papers on topics ranging from community requirements for sustainable science software practices to examples of data integration across the engineering, social, and Earth sciences to new policy-relevant indicators for transboundary river basins. In addition, Downs served as a judge for the outstanding student paper awards, and de Sherbinin gave a presentation on what is new in the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) dataset at the NASA booth in the exhibit area. The fall AGU meeting is the largest worldwide conference in the geophysical sciences, providing an unparalleled opportunity for interdisciplinary scientific interaction and outreach.
Population data and mapping was the topic of a webinar December 10 organized by the World-Wide Human Geography Data (WWHGD) Working Group, a global voluntary partnership focused on spatial data and mapping. Representatives of a range of organizations including the United Nations Population Division, the U.S. Census Bureau, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Esri, and CIESIN provided overviews of their population-related data, tools, and applications. CIESIN director Robert Chen was one of the six presenters, describing CIESIN′s population data activities since the late 1990s. The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN is currently developing the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set, adding aditional demographic information such as age and sex structure to the estimate. Chen also touched on other relevant tools such as the SEDAC Population Estimation Service and the Terra Populus data access system under development by the Minnesota Population Center (MPC) in partnership with CIESIN.
CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin and Pietro Ceccato, research scientist with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, attended the Second Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) Applications Workshop in Huntsville, Alabama, November 18–20. Ceccato gave an oral presentation, “Using MODIS and VIIRS in Vector-Borne Disease Risk Characterization,” and de Sherbinin authored a poster on remote sensing and socioeconomic data integration. The workshop provided the earth science and applications communities with an update on instrument performance, data characteristics, and data access for the Suomi-NPP satellite. Launched in 2011, the satellite is named after Verner E. Suomi, a pioneer in satellite meteorology from the University of Wisconsin.
For the Second Workshop on Sustainable Software for Science: Practice and Experiences (WSSSPE2) held November 16 in New Orleans, CIESIN digital archivist Robert Downs presented the lightning talk, “Community Recommendations for Improving Sustainable Scientific Software Practices.” Co-authored with former CIESIN associate director Christopher Lenhardt, now with Renaissance Computing Institute; Erin Robinson of the Foundation for Earth Science; Ethan Davis of University Corporation for Atmospheric Research; and Nicholas Weber of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the paper presented recommendations for improving community engagement, increasing awareness, and creating incentives for scientific software sustainability. The recommendations were subsequently discussed in a breakout session on Exploring Sustainability.
The Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its 21st meeting in Yokohama, Japan, November 24–26. The TGICA coordinates data efforts across the three IPCC working groups and between the IPCC assessments, including oversight of the IPCC Data Distribution Centre (DDC). CIESIN director Robert Chen, who serves as an ex officio member of the TGICA and co-manager of the DDC, contributed to discussions on user needs and guidance materials. The task group meeting included a special session on data and scenarios for climate change research in Japan, with presentations by representatives from key Japanese ministries involved in the IPCC. CIESIN operates the DDC in collaboration with the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC) and the Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ).
Representatives of a range of data archives and repositories from the natural, social, and health sciences and the humanities met in Ann Arbor, Michigan, November 20–21 to examine how to integrate repositories focused on particular scientific domains into the national data infrastructure. Organized and hosted by the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan, the workshop also included participants from several national projects that are developing common scientific data infrastructure, including the Shared Access Research Ecosystem (SHARE) and the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS). CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the meeting both as manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and as a member of the ICPSR Governing Council. The meeting was supported by the Sloan Foundation.
Former CIESIN scientist Deborah Balk of Baruch College, presents at "Geography 2050," held November 19 at Columbia University's Low Library. Lee Schwartz, Geographer of the United States, is seated to the right.
Columbia′s Low Library was the venue for a major symposium, “Geography 2050,” held November 19 and organized by the American Geographical Society (AGS) in collaboration with the Earth Institute, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). More than 200 participants from government, the geospatial industry, nongovernmental organizations, and academia gathered to consider key trends and surprises likely to shape the future of the U.S. and the planet. Speakers included Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute; Lee Schwartz, Geographer of the United States; former CIESIN scientist Deborah Balk of Baruch College; Robert Cardillo, new director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA); and Barbara Ryan, secretariat director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). CIESIN director Robert Chen moderated a session, “Climate, Risk, and Opportunity,” and represented the Earth Institute in symposium planning and discussions. CIESIN′s 25 years of work applying geospatial technology and data to pressing interdisciplinary problems was given special recognition during the program and reception.
The symposium was sponsored by HumanGeo, Spatial Networks, MapStory Foundation, National Solar, and Boundless and represented the first event in a planned multi-year strategic dialog involving the AGS, the Earth Institute, and other partners.
More than 200 data experts from the natural, social, and health sciences gathered November 2–5 in New Delhi, India, for SciDataCon 2014, an international conference to examine data sharing and integration approaches in support of global sustainability initiatives. CIESIN director Robert Chen presented a paper on the evolution of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) over the past two decades in support of sustainability science and sustainable development. He also participated in panels on the sustainability of data archives and the need for international partnerships and collaboration. SciDataCon was organized by the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) and the World Data System (WDS) of the International Council for Science, and hosted by the Indian National Science Academy. A forum for WDS members was held on November 2, and the CODATA General Assembly met November 6-7. Prof. Geoffrey Boulton of the Royal Society was elected as the new CODATA President. The CODATA Global Roads Data Development Task Group, led by CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin, was renewed for another two years.
As part of an end-of-project debrief for the African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC) project held October 30 at the headquarters of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington DC, CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin presented the Mali Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping exercise. The event, “Climate Change Impacts on Agriculture and Food Security: Implications for Developing Climate-Resilient Agriculture Programs,” highlighted lessons learned from vulnerability assessments conducted under the three-year ARCC project led by Tetratech/ARD, on which CIESIN was a subcontractor. Panelists described methods and results on the one hand, and uptake by policy audiences on the other. CIESIN climate scientist Sylwia Trzaska also discussed results of the climate projections and downscaling work conducted for the project.
The NASA Applied Sciences Program has granted a three-year award to ImageCat, Inc. in collaboration with CIESIN, to utilize remote sensing data to improve estimates of building exposure to earthquake and related hazards. The project builds on a one-year feasibility study completed in early 2014 that demonstrated the potential value of medium-resolution remote sensing data in estimating building structural characteristics in urban areas that lack sufficient building data for risk assessment. ImageCat, an international risk management innovation company, is working with partners in the insurance industry to develop and test products for eventual commercialization. Ron Eguchi, ImageCat’s president and chief operating officer, is the project's principal investigator. CIESIN director Robert Chen is a co-investigator along with ImageCat executive vice president Charles Huyck and consultant David Tralli.
Leading researchers in the areas of urban, human settlement, and population mapping gathered at the First Global Human Settlement Workshop, hosted by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, October 20–22. CIESIN programmer Kytt MacManus gave a presentation on a range of relevant population and urban settlement data products developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), and reported on progress developing version four of the Gridded Population of the World (GPWv4) data set. Lamont Research professor and SEDAC project scientist Christopher Small also participated in the workshop, giving a keynote talk on the spatio-temporal dynamics of human-modified landscapes, based on integrated analysis of remote sensing and gridded population data. The workshop aimed to foster community and facilitate collaboration between various individuals, agencies, and research institutions working to develop new settlement and population data resources.
MacManus subsequently travelled to Krakow, Poland, to attend the 7th Annual European Forum on Geography and Statistics (EFGS) October 22–24. The forum shared knowledge on integration of statistical and geographic data developed by many European and global groups. For a session on best practices, MacManus highlighted lessons learned in developing gridded population data sets.
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