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Dr. Robert S. Chen

Annual Message from the Director:  2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 20102009 | 2008 | 2007

Earth Institute Profile

Dr. Robert S. Chen - Director of CIESIN Columbia University

Robert S. Chen is the director of CIESIN and a senior research scientist. He served as CIESIN’s deputy director from July 1998 to April 2006 and as CIESIN’s interim director from May 2006 to January 2007. Dr. Chen is also the manager and co-principal investigator of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), a data center in the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System.

Dr. Chen has contributed to activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for more than a decade and currently serves as an ex officio member of the IPCC Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impacts and Climate Analysis (TGICA) and co-manager of the IPCC Data Distribution Center (DDC). He is a co-chair of the indicators work group of the U.S. National Climate Assessment and a member of the Science Advisory Board of the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is also one of the co-principal investigators of the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN), a multi-university initiative led by the Earth Institute with support from the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment (RISA) program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Dr. Chen has provided leadership on national and international scientific data management issues in a range of venues. He is a member of the Board on International Scientific Organizations (BISO) of the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) and recently joined the Science Advisory Board of Creative Commons. He serves as one of the co-chairs of the Data Sharing Working Group of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a voluntary intergovernmental initiative aimed at developing a Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). In October 2012, he completed two four-year terms as secretary-general of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science (ICSU). He was a member of the ICSU ad hoc Strategic Coordinating Committee on Information and Data in 2009–11 and the Committee on Spatial Data Enabling USGS Strategic Science in the 21st Century of the NRC Board on Earth Sciences and Resources in 2009–10.

At Columbia University, Dr. Chen is a member of the faculty steering committee for the Columbia Global Centers|East Asia. He serves as an ex-officio member of the Earth Institute (EI) Faculty and as a member of its Practice Subcommittee and the EI Task Force on Sustainable Development. As director of one of the EI’s larger centers, he has helped lead several EI cross-cutting activities in areas such as cyberinfrastructure development, disaster risk assessment, and climate adaptation. He is a member of the EI’s Scientific Committee for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations. He is also active in the Alliance Program, which fosters faculty and student interactions between Columbia, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, and in PositiveFeedback, an arts and climate science consortium led by the EI, New York University’s Center for Creative Research, and the City University of New York’s Institute for Sustainable Cities.

During more than 20 years at CIESIN, Dr. Chen has helped initiate and manage a wide range of projects and data development efforts, including CIESIN’s widely used Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set, its Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) service, its global poverty data collection, and the Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center. He is currently leading or co-leading research and data development projects on topics such as earthquake risk assessment, environment and security, climate adaptation, and sustainability education. As a member of the Scientific Leadership Group of Terra Populus, he is helping the Minnesota Population Center to develop an integrated data resource on population and environment as part of the DataNet initiative of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). He is also contributing to a NSF-funded project led by the New York Hall of Science (NYSci) on Interaction Research in Complex Informal Learning Environments (IRCILE). From 2002–2005, Dr. Chen co-led an interdisciplinary study on global natural disaster risks, conducted in collaboration with the World Bank, the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, and other partners, that received a “Good Practice Award” from the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group in 2006.

As CIESIN’s director, Dr. Chen has helped establish a range of external partnerships and ensured CIESIN participation in key national and international networks. These include the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA), the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), the ESIP Federation, the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association (GSDI), the Alliance for Earth Observations, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), the ICSU World Data System (WDS), and the recently launched Research Data Alliance (RDA). Under his leadership, CIESIN has also developed collaborative agreements such organizations as the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability (AIEES) at Seoul National University, the China Earthquake Administration, Indicus Analytics, the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, the United Nations Cartographic Section, and the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

Prior to joining CIESIN, Dr. Chen served on the faculty of the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Program at Brown University. He has held research fellowships at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, and the National Research Council in Washington, DC. He received his PhD in Geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds Masters degrees in Technology and Policy and in Meteorology and Physical Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His undergraduate degree was in Earth and Planetary Sciences at MIT.

Selected Publications and Presentations

Janetos, A.C., R.S. Chen, D. Arndt, and M.A. Kenney et al. 2012. National Climate Assessment Indicators: Background, Development, & Examples. Washington, DC: National Climate Assessment, U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Kenney, M.A., R.S. Chen, J. Maldonado, and D. Quattrochi. 2012. Climate Change Impacts and Responses, NCA Report Series Vol. 5c, Societal Indicators for the National Climate Assessment. Washington, DC: National Climate Assessment, U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Downs, R.R., and R.S. Chen. 2012. Towards Sustainable Stewardship of Digital Collections of Scientific Data. GSDI World Conference (GSDI 13) Proceedings, Québec City, Canada, May 14–17.

Chen, R.S. 2011. Book Review: A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming. Environ Health Perspect 119:a182-a182.

Downs, R.R. and R.S. Chen. 2010. Self-assessment of a long-term archive for interdisciplinary scientific data as a trustworthy digital repository. Journal of Digital Information 11 (1), ISSN: 1368-750.

Uhlir, P.F., R.S. Chen, J.I. Gabrynowicz, and K. Janssen. 2009. Toward implementation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems data sharing principles. Journal of Space Law 35 (1):201–290. Simultaneously published as Uhlir, P.F., R.S. Chen, J.I. Gabrynowicz, and K. Janssen. 2009. Toward implementation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems data sharing principles. 2009. CODATA Data Science Journal 8:GEO2-GEO91.

de Sherbinin, A., R.S. Chen, and M. Levy. 2007. What does climate change mean for the hazards community? Natural Hazards Observer XXXI (6):11–13.

Arnold, M., R.S. Chen, U. Deichmann, M. Dilley, A.L. Lerner-Lam, R.J. Pullen, and Z. Trohanis, eds. 2006. Natural disaster hotspots case studies. Washington, DC: The World Bank.

Chen, R.S., and E. Sydor, eds. 2006. Where the poor are: An atlas of poverty. Palisades, NY: CIESIN, Columbia University.

de Sherbinin, A., and R.S. Chen. 2006. Global change: Revealing humanity’s impact on the environment. Earth Imaging Journal (May/June):12–17.

Downs, R.R. and R.S. Chen. 2005. Organizational needs for managing and preserving geospatial data and related electronic records. Data Science Journal 4 (December 31): 255-271. Release Date: January 25, 2006.

Iwata, S., and R.S. Chen. 2005. Science and the digital divide (editorial). Science 310 (October 21):405.

Dilley, M., R.S. Chen, U. Deichmann, A.L. Lerner-Lam, M. Arnold with J. Agwe, P. Buys, O. Kjekstad, B. Lyon, and G. Yetman. 2005. Natural disaster hotspots: A global risk analysis. Washington, DC: The World Bank.

This page last modified: Apr 04, 2013