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Five Years after Brussels: a First Review of GEOSS

For the past five years an expanding group of Member countries and Participating Organizations has come together under a voluntary framework to implement the GEOSS initiative. Over the coming months an evaluation team will examine the progress that has been made toward achieving the strategic goals that are intended to achieve the GEOSS Vision: “a future wherein decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations and information.”

On 22 January, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Monitoring and Evaluation Working Group launched the planned mid-term evaluation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). It established an Evaluation Team comprised of representatives from GEO Members and Participating Organizations. This Team will carry out the first progress evaluation under the leadership of Charles Hutchinson of the University of Arizona, representing the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing and the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners. Nominations to the Evaluation Team were presented at the GEO-VI Plenary meeting in Washington, DC. As with all GEOSS activities, the time and resources for the evaluation are voluntary contributions from the GEO Members and Participating Organizations.

During the January meeting, the Team received its charge from the Monitoring and Evaluation Working Group and charted a plan to conduct and complete the evaluation in order to submit the report to GEO in time for the 2010 GEO Ministerial Summit.

Hutchinson noted that, “the timeline for conducting the review is very aggressive, but we are confident that we can fulfill our charge.”

The “GEOSS Mid-term Evaluation” is the first formal review of the GEOSS initiative since the approval of the 10-Year Implementation Plan at the Third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels, Belgium in February 2005. The evaluation will examine the progress that has been made during the first five years of building GEOSS. In particular, the evaluation will look at the strategic foundation that has been laid for GEOSS as well as progress along the path to implementing GEOSS and the impacts of GEOSS in the Earth observing community.

From the outset, GEO recognized the need for a strong monitoring and evaluation component to identify the strengths and weaknesses in the design and implementation of GEOSS and provide critical feedback to refine planning and goals. And, in 2007, the GEO Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to completing a mid-term evaluation of GEOSS for their next Ministerial Summit in 2010.

This mid-term evaluation will be a cross-cutting evaluation of GEOSS and will be followed in subsequent years by additional reviews focused on subsets of the nine Societal Benefit Areas and five Transverse Areas in which GEOSS operates. The Team will evaluate the progress that has been made on GEOSS implementation by reviewing available documents and records and collecting feedback from the providers and users of GEOSS.

Your feedback is requested

Direct feedback from the Earth observation community is necessary to complete this evaluation. GEOSS is both voluntary and user-focused, and the Evaluation Team would like to offer you the chance to contribute to this undertaking. The evaluation team is conducting a survey, interviews, and reaching out to participants to locate other documents and reviews of GEOSS and its components.

The survey is available online and members of the Team are working to establish a presence at upcoming meetings and conferences to collect feedback directly from the users of GEOSS. If you know of research literature, white papers, or other items such as evaluations of GEOSS that could be helpful to the team, or if you have further questions, please contact Team member John Adamec by email at

The GEOSS initiative was created as a dynamic venture that could respond to the evolving needs, resources and priorities of Earth observation users and providers. The successful completion of this first evaluation will establish a key linkage for ensuring continued progress in the planning and implementation of GEOSS.