Gluing it all together: Eye on Earth’s role in streamlining local to regional data

The second day of the First Eye on Earth User Conference took the ideas which had emerged on theopening day, and linked them with the concept of regional and global responsibility for data sharing. The title for the day was “Streamlining environmental information: From regional to global” and plenary presentations demonstrated various initiatives that are driving this shift.

Monika MacDevette of the United Nations Environment Programme discussed UN initiatives in this context. “Citizen science is valuable in making actions local, while working towards global goals,” she said. “UNEP-live shows how we can connect to citizens by opening up information from data to the state of knowledge”.

UNEP-live is part of a new era of environmental assessments, which are dynamic, continuous, interactive and online. Costis Toregas of the Eye on Earth Summit Special Initiatives looked at Eye on Earth’s place in this new era. He talked of ‘interopability’ – the connections between everything – as being essential to understand the whole story planet Earth is telling us.

“It’s not just about the link between technology and data, but also that between humans and institutions,” he said. “We speak the same language but until now we’ve not reached our audiences. That’s why citizens are crucial for collaboration. The beauty of citizen science is that it reaches audiences that were formerly out of reach.”

Citizen science enables a connection between the data and the community. It also provides a platform for cross-boundary leadership. Eye on Earth is naturally placed to turn all these connections into concrete information that can lead to action. “Eye on Earth is the glue between government, industry, decision makers and citizens,” said Costis. We think that definition will stick!

Other initiatives presented throughout the day include GeoSUR and Group on Earth Observation. GeoSUR is an open data portal for Latin America, which works with 23 countries and 1000+ institutions at regional and global level, and provides 4000+ maps. Eric van Praag, of the GeoSUR initiative, said: “We work with regional and rescued data. It’s important to us that any data provider can participate.”

Global Earth Observation (GEO) recognizes that the need exists for international collaboration to support decisionmaking in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world. Barbara Ryan, Secretariat Director of GEO also considered the importance of citizen science. “There has traditionally been a push form providers towards using information. Today we need to have a pull from citizens.” Ryan also underlined the importance of infrastructure, but not an end in itself, rather as a means for regional input to play into. “We won’t be judged on infrastructure, but on the results they deliver,” she said.

Meanwhile, discussions progressed on the establishment of the Eye on Earth Alliance. Communities participating in the User Conference welcomed the proposal that was presented and provided feedback on a draft text of the Dublin Statement. This document will declare the intention of the communities present in Dublin to facilitate the sharing of environmental, societal and economic data and information provided by the diversity of knowledge communities to support sustainable development.

Agreement on the Dublin Statement text is in the pipeline and would be the perfect conclusion to this User Conference. This is still a work in progress, so stat tuned.