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Promoting EU engagement in GEOSS

The 5th GEO European Projects Workshop (GEPW-5) took place at the Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London, on 8-9 February. It was the latest in a series of workshops designed to foster and enhance European participation within GEO and to increase co-ordination between GEOSS implementation and existing, or future, Earth Observation projects in Europe. The particular focus of this workshop was to build on the outcomes of the GEO-VII Plenary and the GEO Ministerial meetings which took place in Beijing in November 2010.

The meeting was organised by the European Commission in co-operation with the UK GEO representatives at the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

In the region of 100 participants attended the workshop, representing some 35 EU Research Framework Programme-funded projects, as well as European and national organisations. An exhibition of posters was organised in parallel.

The workshop had three main agenda points:

  • The preparation of the European input to the 2012-2015 GEO Work Plan;
  • The  implementation of the GEOSS Data Sharing Action Plan in Europe; and
  • The future of GEO and GEOSS from a European viewpoint.


   The London Zoo

The participants were briefed by the GEO Secretariat on the present status of GEOSS implementation and on the current status of the preparation of the 2012-2015 Work Plan. Individual projects then had the opportunity to present their own priorities for inclusion in the new GEO Work Plan. Many points were raised, including those on system and architecture components, data and data management, products and services needs versus new capabilities and the need for improvement in the WP Organisation (to support cross SBA interoperability and for ensuring continuity of relevant activities).

A clear message arising from the discussion was the proposal to increase the relevance of in-situ data and to privilege those projects based on open standards and on open access. The need for Europe to insist on the creation of pan-European harmonized data sets and databases was emphasized. Speakers repeatedly raised the question of deficiencies in the area of data collection and management and in the role of the users.

The discussions which took place concerning the management aspect of the future Work Plan indicated that there is support for a simplification of it. The number and organisation of Tasks need to be addressed. There was strong support for: a focus on delivering strategic targets; a professional methodology for management at the SBA and targets level; and a consistency of treatment for the SBA and Transverse areas.

Leading the discussions on Europe's contribution to the Data CORE, the EuroGEOSS project made a series of practical demonstrations in the areas of biodiversity, drought and forestry, showing participants the process of committing data resources to the GEOSS Data CORE.  During discussions, many participants indicated their intention to populate the GEOSS Data Core. Further guidance would however be welcomed. In addition, the traceability of information in a system of systems and the challenge of meeting the conflicting requirements of source recognition and freedom of use were issues raised.

It was felt that the situation across the Societal Benefit Areas is quite uneven. There are certain areas that are organised with data management structures/data centres, which can deliver access to data more easily than in other domains (the Marine sector and GMES Marine Core Services is an example). It was generally felt that the process would become easier if the data/resource producer is guaranteed some recognition and a clear system of traceability is developed.

The session on the future of GEO was led by the EUGENE project. EUGENE is proposing a structured European approach for selected SBAs. The overarching goal of EUGENE is to contribute to the establishment of a strong European GEOSS component by 2015. EUGENE is looking to address gaps and see how Europe can both strengthen its engagement in GEO and derive benefits from the implementation of the GEOSS. This session enabled the Workshop participants to look beyond the three SBAs of Climate, Disasters and Water that EUGENE is specifically addressing and consider also the other six SBAs and the transverse areas of architecture and data, capacity building, science and technology and user engagement.

The European Projects Workshops provided an excellent opportunity for both information exchange and a dialogue on policy and coordination. In the words of one participant, "The most striking aspect of the GEPW-5 meeting for me was that the discussion has changed from talking about project plans to presentation of results and how we can build on these results. GEO, with a substantial contribution from European projects, has delivered both hidden and visible results that provide added value for society. Now is the time for the promotion of the benefits of earth observations outside the GEO".