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Advancing the GEOSS Data Sharing Principles

By Helen Wood, Co-chair, Data Sharing Task Force

abstract image depicting a data coreThe “GEOSS Data Sharing Action Plan” that was accepted last November by the GEO-VII Plenary and incorporated into the “Beijing Declaration” calls for the creation of the GEOSS Data Collection of Open Resources for Everyone. This emerging GEOSS Data-CORE is a distributed pool of documented datasets with full, open and unrestricted access at no more than the cost of reproduction and distribution. GEO Members are invited to encourage their data-providing organizations to make available datasets that fall into this category. 

The GEO Data Sharing Task Force (DSTF) has been tasked to identify the maximum possible datasets that qualify for the Data CORE and whose providers agree to make it available through GEOSS. The Task Force prepared correspondence that the GEO Secretariat sent to GEO Principals in June inviting them to update and extend their entries in the list of GEOSS Data-CORE datasets that were pledged at the Beijing Ministerial. Results from this call for information are being collated into an updated master list of GEOSS Data-CORE contributions and will be reported to the GEO-VIII Plenary in Istanbul.

Data sharing and the GEOSS Common Infrastructure

The GEOSS Common Infrastructure (GCI) is GEO’s primary mechanism for supporting the Data Sharing Principles. It includes the GEO Portal, the Clearinghouse, and the Components and Services Registry. The Data Sharing Task Force is working closely with the Architecture and Data Committee (ADC) to ensure that the GCI provides an effective means for identifying GEOSS Data-CORE datasets and data services. As described in the following article on the “Sprint to Plenary”, the registration and data search processes will also make it possible to designate and discover all of the resources pledged to GEOSS Data-CORE.

The Data Sharing Action Plan accepted in Beijing states that the procedures for registering and maintaining the metadata in the GCI should be simple or partially automated. This will facilitate the discovery of resources offered by data providers and encourage timely updates.  Based on the explanatory metadata included by the data providers, users should be able to readily and easily discover GEOSS resources via the GEO Web Portal together with details on any restrictions applicable to the use of the associated data, products and information. This will allow them to make informed choices about the data to be used.

Intellectual property arrangements

The Task Force conducted a review of legal options for the exchange of data and developed a detailed document addressing legal options for the exchange of data, metadata, and products through the GEOSS Data-CORE.

The review noted that the “legal interoperability” of data made available through the GEOSS Data-CORE is essential for the effective sharing of data in GEOSS. Legal interoperability for data means that the legal rights, terms, and conditions of databases provided by two or more sources are compatible and that the data may be combined by any user without compromising the legal rights of any of the data sources used.

The review also noted that public domain status is the best legal option for meeting the unrestricted re-use, re-dissemination, and legal interoperability of data and for promoting GEO-related societal benefits and goals through the GEOSS Data-CORE. Where databases do not have a public domain status, a common-use license can be used to achieve the equivalent.  Thus, the terms and conditions of the GEOSS Data-CORE can best be achieved through a strategic mix of statutory public-domain or common-use licenses.

The paper identifies an initial set of common-use licenses that meet all of the GEOSS Data-CORE conditions of access and unrestricted re-use of data.  The use of such licenses by data providers would help to ensure that the terms and conditions that apply to the data are certain and consistent, and thus support the GEO societal benefit goals. The voluntary adoption of common-use licenses would help to promote the contribution of databases through the GEOSS Data-CORE because most jurisdictions do not have public domain status created by statute for the datasets relevant to GEOSS.

The way forward

While notable progress has been achieved to date in the sharing of Earth observation data for broad use, further advances in GEOSS data sharing will require the full attention and engagement of GEO Members and Participating Organizations in the years to come.