Jul 23, 2014

White House releases plan to improve use of and access to data from Earth-observation systems

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The White House has released a new plan to better coordinate how the government conducts, manages and maintains its Earth-observing scientific systems.

Earth-observing systems—everything from weather satellites to agricultural and geological survey spacecraft—annually add up to $30 billion to the U.S. economy. It provides Americans with critical information about natural resources, climate and weather, disasters, land use, ecosystems, and ocean trends, White House officials said.

The goal of the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations (pdf), which was just released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is to help the government “maintain and advance its Earth observing systems in ways that help protect life and property, stimulate economic growth, maintain homeland security and advance scientific research and public understanding.”

Building on a previous strategy published in 2013, the recent plan has several key priorities.

Among them are: continuity of sustained observation for public services; continuity of sustained observations for Earth system research; continuity of investment in experimental observations; planned improvement in sustained observation networks and surveys for all observation categories; and the continuity of, and improvements to, a “rigorous assessment and prioritization process,” according to the plan.

Although it provides guidance for setting up a portfolio of Earth observation capabilities, agencies can deviate from the plan’s rankings and priorities when necessary for managing specific systems, White House officials noted.

The plan also supports President Obama’s Big Earth Data Initiative, which seeks to improve the availability, accessibility and usability of data collected from federal civil Earth observations. Doing so will make information products using this information easier for citizens to find and use, the administration contended.

For more:
- read the White House fact sheet on the plan
- read the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations