President Obama’s National Science and Technology Council released a framework for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation’s Earth observation enterprise.
Currently, 11 federal departments and agencies engage in Earth observation activities, collecting volumes of important data about Earth on an ongoing basis, using an array of sophisticated tools and systems. The Obama administration’s new strategy—the National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations —outlines a process for evaluating and prioritizing Earth-observation investments according to their value to society in critical areas such as agriculture, global change, disasters, water resources and weather.
Each year, the U.S. government invests significant resources in Earth observation systems to collect data about Earth’s land, oceans, ecosystems and atmosphere. Together, these systems take the pulse of our planet, providing critical Earth-system data that scientists and analysts can then turn into usable information about climate and weather, disaster events, land-use changes, ecosystem health, natural resources and more.
Ultimately, information and services derived from Earth observation data, including some as ubiquitous as weather forecasts and Global Positioning System navigation, are used by policy makers, resource managers, business leaders, first responders and citizens to make important daily decisions.
But as the nation’s Earth observation capacity has grown, so has the complexity of the Earth observation endeavor. The demand for data, the complexity of the tools required to collect those data and the sheer amount of data being collected all are increasing. The National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations aims to help federal agencies face these challenges by better organizing existing Earth-observation systems and information, and coordinating plans for future projects. In support of the Obama administration’s Open Data Initiatives, this strategy also provides specific guidance on how agencies can make these Earth observations more open and accessible to the public.
Going forward, the strategy will be used as a basis to inform a broad National Plan for Civil Earth Observations—a blueprint for future investments in U.S. Earth-observing systems, including agency roles and responsibilities as well as creative solutions to challenges related to maintaining the nation’s Earth-observing systems. The strategy also will reinforce the United States’ ongoing commitment to work with international partners through the multinational Group on Earth Observations.
Image courtesy of NASA.