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New Project Launched to Study U.S. Atlantic Coast Vulnerability to Winter Storms

April 8, 2014

NASA has awarded a three-year interdisciplinary research project, Vulnerability of the U.S. Atlantic Coast to Hazards Associated with Extreme Winter Storms (StormEVAAC), to a multi-university team led by Yochanan Kushnir of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO). CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo is one of the project co-investigators, leading the human vulnerability assessment component of the study along with Malgosia Madajewicz of the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR). Other partners include Tim Hall of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), James Booth of City College of New York (CCNY), and Philip Orton of Stevens Institute of Technology. The project seeks to improve understanding of the coupled human-natural systems of the Northeast Coast during winter, and to deliver probabilistic information in support of decisions for adaptation and response.

Human Dimensions of Global Change Focus of Meetings in Latin America

April 4, 2014

Susana Adamo, associate research scientist at CIESIN, recently returned from three meetings in Uruguay, Brazil, and Guatemala. On March 22-23 she participated as a member in a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) in Montevideo, Uruguay. The IAI is an intergovernmental organization supported by 19 countries in the Americas that is working to increase the understanding of global change phenomena and their socio-economic implications. She then visited the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) March 25-26 in São Paulo state, Brazil to participate in a dissertation defense in the Demography Department and give a class lecture on the topic of population and the environment. CIESIN has worked closely with the Population Studies Unit (NEPO) at UNICAMP since 2008.

Adamo also attended a one-day national workshop held April 2 in Guatemala to present and discuss the report Climate Change, Rainfall Patterns, Livelihoods and Migration in Cabricán, Guatemala. The workshop was organized by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and Guatemala’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) and sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Her presentation addressed the links between dynamics of demographic and climate change in Central America, based on the study, Where the Rain Falls: Climate Change, Food and Livelihood Security, and Migration, led by CARE France, the UNU-EHS, and CIESIN.

Mapping Vulnerability in Sub-Saharan Africa

April 3, 2014

CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin attended a meeting of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Africa climate change officers technical meeting in Nairobi, Kenya April 1–4. The meeting featured speakers presenting a variety of climate adaptation projects and programs in Africa, with a particular focus on agriculture and livelihoods. He gave a presentation on an assessment of climate vulnerability in Mali, produced by CIESIN using data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) combined with third-party and remote-sensing data sources. He also discussed ongoing efforts in Niger to build capacity for vulnerability mapping. These activities are supported by the USAID program on African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC), for which CIESIN and TetraTech/ARD are providing technical support in climate science and vulnerability assessment.


Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators Data Services Updated

April 2, 2014

The Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) database and the ENTRI Conference of the Parties (COP) Decision Search Tool, interactive services provided by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, have been updated with recent data on international environmental treaties. ENTRI enables users to assess country participation in multilateral environmental agreements through simple database queries; the update includes treaty status information through August 2012. The ENTRI COP Decision Search Tool now reflects resolutions and decisions related to selected treaties through 2013. The underlying data were produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Environmental Law Center in support of the ECOLEX gateway to environmental law.

See: Environmental Treaty Status Data Set, 2012 Release
       ENTRI Conference of the Parties (COP) Treaty Decision Search Tool

IPCC Report: Managing the Risks of Climate Change is Critical

March 31, 2014

flooding in Lahore, Pakistan

The Working Group II contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5), Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, was released March 31 in Yokohama, Japan. The Report concludes that the effects of climate change can already be seen and the world is not well-prepared for risks that may result from climate change. High levels of warming will challenge opportunities for response.

The Working Group identified three elements contributing to risk from climate change: vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way), overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods. Observed impacts are found worldwide, throughout diverse climates and from small islands to large continents, in wealthy countries as well as poor.

CIESIN deputy director, Marc Levy, was a lead author of chapter 12 on human security, a topic highlighted in the Report for the first time. Among this chapter's key findings are that societies in conflict are more vulnerable to climate change; that migration is a widely used strategy for adapting to climate impacts; that climate change is likely to amplify conflict risk; and that climate change threatens to disrupt geopolitical security dynamics.  

Levy was among 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, who produced the report. The IPCC further enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers. CIESIN senior research associate Valentina Mara was a contributing author for chapter 13, on livelihoods and poverty.  CIESIN data and reports, as well as journal articles written by CIESIN staff, were cited in several chapters of the report.

For the past two decades, IPCC’s Working Group II has developed assessments of climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. The latest Working Group I report, which focused on the physical science dimension of climate change, was released in September 2013. The Working Group III report, which focuses on mitigation, is scheduled for release in April 2014. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle concludes with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of human induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for mitigation and adaptation. CIESIN co-manages the IPCC Data Distribution Centre (DDC), which makes available data from IPCC assessments and other reports, and contributes on an ongoing basis to the IPCC Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA).

See: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5)

CIESIN Staff Participate in DC-Area Technical Meetings

March 28, 2014

Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, participated in the 2014 meeting of the NASA Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG) at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, March 24–26. At the meeting, he served as co-chair of the open source working group and presented the poster, "Workflow for Evaluating SEDAC Data for Dissemination," based on processes developed for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

Nearby in Crystal City, Virginia, CIESIN associate director for Information Technology, Sri Vinay, attended the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee (TC) meeting March 25–27. He participated in the kick-off discussion for the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) Architecture Implementation Pilot phase 7 (AIP-7), where he raised the possibility of integrating the SEDAC Population Estimation Service (PES) with mobile applications. Vinay also attended sessions related to OGC Web services, metadata, and the National Science Foundation's EarthCube initiative. CIESIN is a University member of OGC.

Mark Becker’s Life and Work Celebrated and Student Scholarship Fund Announced

March 27, 2014

More than 300 friends, colleagues, students, and family members gathered at the Dolce Palisades Conference Center in Palisades, New York, March 23 for a memorial service and celebration of the life of Mark Becker, CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications who died in a multi-vehicle accident February 26 at the age of 53. The event highlighted Becker′s efforts over three decades to protect the watershed in northern New Jersey through the Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network (Bergen SWAN), which he co-founded with his partner of 30 years, Lori Charkey. CIESIN director Robert Chen chronicled Becker′s many professional accomplishments in 15 years at CIESIN, including collaborations across Columbia University and major contributions to a diverse set of research activities. Other speakers included CIESIN colleagues Kytt MacManus and Jim Carcone, who spoke of their colleague′s unique ability as a mentor for both students and staff and his significant impact on many lives and on the environment. The service incorporated stories and readings by friends and family, a video of Becker playing guitar with his grand-nephew, and remembrances of his love of music, water, plants, chimes, and stones. The public memorial was followed by a private reception at Columbia’s Lamont campus.

A student scholarship fund in honor of Mark Becker has been established at the Earth Institute. The fund will be used to support student training and education in geospatial methods and technologies. Becker′s family has also suggested donations in his memory to Bergen SWAN or to other charitable organizations.

See: Mark Becker Scholarship Fund (donation site; please specify “Mark Becker” in comment field)
       A Life Well-Mapped: Tribute to Mark Becker, by R.S. Chen
       CIESIN Mourns Loss of Associate Director Mark Becker, by Marc Levy For Mark Becker of Hillsdale, Environmentalism Was in His Nature

Bellagio Conference Focuses on Spatial Data for Fragile States

March 26, 2014

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and program manager Alex Fischer convened a group of g7+ Fragile State representatives, global spatial data experts, and policy makers at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy, March 17–21, to advance practical ideas for leveraging new spatial data and information technology, on behalf of countries in post-crisis transitions. The 22 conference participants included representatives from the governments of Haiti, Sierra Leone, and Timor Leste, and technical experts from Google, Esri, the United Nations Environment Programme, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Ushahidi, the GPC Group, and the United States Bureau of the Census. Tatiana Wah, director of the Haiti Research and Policy Program at the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University, also participated. The conference included representation from the Secretariat of the g7+ association, which is a voluntary consortium of so-called “fragile” states–countries affected by conflict and currently in development transition. The conference framework was both diagnostic and action-oriented, with participants identifying the special needs of fragile states and inventorying proven cost-effective approaches to working with spatial data. The group crafted a prototype strategy drawn from this evidence and plans to compile its findings into a blueprint and initial toolkit for the g7+ Secretariat to present to its member countries at its annual meeting in May.

CIESIN Scientists Publish on Climate and Population Issues

March 25, 2014

The journal Population and Environment has released a special issue on "Population and Climate: Research Innovations and Bridges to Policy" based on a panel held at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia in November 2012. The issue begins with an introduction written by Adrian Hayes of ANU and CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo. Adamo has also co-authored a chapter with senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin on “Migration and Environmental Change in North America” in the volume, People on the Move in a Changing Climate: The Regional Impact of Environmental Change on Migration, edited by Etienne Piguet and Frank Laczo.

Alex de Sherbinin is also author of “Environmental Treaties,” a contribution to the Encyclopedia of Remote Sensing edited by Eni Njoku. With Anthony Oliver-Smith, professor emeritus from the University of Florida, he co-authored “Resettlement in the 21st century,” for the “Crisis” issue of Forced Migration Review.

Climate Change Science Institute Acquires New Space and Director

March 13, 2014

Climate Change Science Institute Scientific Advisory Board

The Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) recently consolidated its staff in a new space and welcomed its new director, Jack Fellows, formerly of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and one of the co-founders of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The CCSI is a cross-cutting ORNL initiative aimed at advancing knowledge of the Earth system, describing the consequences of climate change, and evaluating and informing policy responses to climate change. CIESIN director Robert Chen is a member of the CCSI Scientific Advisory Board, and recently participated in the Board′s Annual Meeting March 11–13 at ORNL in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. CCSI and CIESIN staff work together in a number of venues, including the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) and the NSF Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network (DataNet).

Use of Geospatial Data and Tools in Monitoring and Evaluation Reviewed

March 10, 2014

Susana Adamo, CIESIN associate research scientist, participated in the fifth annual MEASURE GIS Working Group meeting in Washington DC on March 4, which focused on the topic of the evolution of geographic information systems (GIS) in monitoring and evaluation of development interventions. Adamo presented work on climate vulnerability mapping in Mali based on CIESIN′s contributions to the African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC) program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). MEASURE evaluation is funded by USAID and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Memorial Service and Celebration of the Life of Mark Becker to be Held March 23

March 9, 2014

A memorial service and celebration of the life of Mark Becker will be held Sunday, March 23, at the IBM/Dolce Conference Center in Palisades, New York. The conference center will open at noon and the service will commence at 1:00 pm. Mark′s family, friends, colleagues, students, and fellow environmentalists will join in commemorating the life and accomplishments of this remarkable person, whose work as a geographer, teacher, mentor, and environmental activist has had long-lasting impacts, from local to global.

For further information about the event, and to register online, please RSVP here.

See: CIESIN Mourns Loss of Associate Director Mark Becker
       Earth Institute Blog: A Life Well Mapped For Mark Becker of Hillsdale, Environmentalism Was in His Nature

Digging for Historical Data in Washington DC

March 7, 2014

Linda Pistolesi (left) and Erin Doxsey-Whitfield (right)

CIESIN geographic information specialist Linda Pistolesi and senior research staff assistant Erin Doxsey-Whitfield joined David Van Riper of the University of Minnesota in Washington DC February 24–26 to search for historical population and administrative data for the Terra Populus project. Terra Populus, or TerraPop for short, is an innovative effort to integrate census data, including samples of individual and household records, with a range of other environmental and socioeconomic datasets including land cover, climate, and human infrastructure. Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, TerraPop is led by the Minnesota Population Center’s (MPC) in partnership with CIESIN and the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan.

Much of the visit took place at the International Collection of the United States Census Bureau Library and the United States Library of Congress Geography and Map Reading Room, where the team accessed historical maps and census tables for more than 50 countries. These resources will be used to extend the spatial and temporal coverage of the TerraPop database. The team also met February 26 with staff from the Census Bureau's Population Division to share information about related data development efforts, including the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS) and version four of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection. 

CIESIN Researcher Reinforces Collaboration with Universities

March 4, 2014

CIESIN Alex de Sherbinin (center) with director of the National Research Center for Resettlement, Shi Guoqing (right), and vice director, Chen Shaojun (left), Nanjing, China, February 27, 2014.

CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin travelled to Vietnam, Malaysia, and China February 15–28. In Vietnam and China he conducted field visits associated with ongoing work on climate change resettlement. He visited the Mekong Delta with the assistance of Le Thanh Sang of the Southern Institute of Social Sciences (SISS), the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) and in China, observed the Three Gorges Dam and China South-North Water Transfer project resettlement with former CIESIN visiting scholar Ruishan Chen of the National Research Center for Resettlement (NRCR) of Hohai University, Nanjing. While in China, de Sherbinin was appointed a visiting professor at Hohai University and a senior advisor for teaching and scientific research at NRCR.

In Malaysia, de Sherbinin participated in the launch workshop February 20 of the Malaysia Environmental Performance Index (EPI) in Kuala Lumpur, and made a presentation on the 2014 Global EPI for senior staff of the Malaysian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, held in Putrajaya February 21. The visit to Malaysia was conducted as part of a broader Memorandum of Understanding between CIESIN and the University of Technology Malaysia (UTM), where de Sherbinin is a former visiting scholar.

See: Mekong Delta and Three Gorges Dam: World’s First Climate Change Resettlements? (blog)

CIESIN Mourns Loss of Associate Director Mark Becker

February 28, 2014

Mark Becker Leads CHANGE Viewer Training

CIESIN is sad to report that associate director for Geospatial Applications Mark Becker died in a multi-vehicle accident on Wednesday, February 26. He was 53. The accident occurred at about 10:45 a.m. on the New York State Thruway in Woodbury, New York.

In his 15 years at CIESIN Mark made contributions that will be felt for a long time. 

To continue reading and to leave a personal comment visit our tribute to Mark.

Upcoming Presentation: The Importance of the Geographic Perspective and Geospatial Technologies

February 21, 2014

CIESIN and the Columbia University Digital Social Science Center will host a presentation by geographer Joseph Kerski on Wednesday, February 26, from 10:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m. at Studio@Butler, 208b Butler Library. Kerski is education manager for the geospatial company Esri. The presentation, “Sleepwalking into the Future: Why the Geographic Perspective and Geospatial Technologies are Critical to 21st Century Education and Society,” will be of interest to students, educators, and staff looking to learn more about the importance of geospatial information and tools in education and everyday life. Anyone planning to attend who does not have a university ID card should provide a name to CIESIN User Services at by February 24, then check in with the Library Information Office, located to the left on entering Butler Library.

See: Esri Blog: The Importance of the Geographic Perspective in Education

Improved SEDAC Web Site Released

February 20, 2014

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has released an updated Web site incorporating a number of design and layout modifications and an updated Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) database. The SEDAC home page now features an interactive map carousel that highlights a selection of SEDAC data uses, maps from the SEDAC Map Gallery, useful SEDAC tools and applications, major topical themes, and other relevant resources. A new mapping tools page improves access to a range of interactive mapping applications that use SEDAC data and services, including the National Priorities List (NPL) Superfund Footprint Mapper, the Climate and Health Analysis for Global Education (CHANGE) Viewer, and the NASA Worldview tool. This is the fourth in a series of planned updates to the SEDAC Web site aimed at improving data access, ease of use, and functionality.

See: SEDAC Web site

Training for East Africa Climate Information Survey Held in Rwanda

February 18, 2014

Participants in a three-day survey training workshop led by CIESIN in Kigali, Rwanda

CIESIN senior staff associate, Sandra Baptista, and senior research staff assistant, Emilie Schnarr, led a three-day training workshop February 13–15 in Kigali, Rwanda. The workshop was hosted by the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC) as part of the Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research, and Economic Development (PREPARED) program, funded by the East Africa Regional Mission of the US Agency for International Development (USAID/East Africa). The main objective of the workshop was to train a multi-disciplinary team of consultants from Measure Africa who will assist CIESIN in conducting a survey of climate information users and service providers in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The survey will inform the development and implementation of a user-driven action plan for improving regional climate information services and systems. Other workshop participants included representatives of the PREPARED program (Tetra Tech/ARD), ICPAC, the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Rwanda Meteorology Agency, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

Progress in Developing African Soil Information Assessed at Nairobi Meeting

February 17, 2014

CIESIN deputy director, Marc Levy, and senior research staff assistant Kimberly Peng traveled recently to Nairobi, Kenya, to meet with partners in the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) project, including representatives from the Columbia Global Centers | Africa, the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), and ISRIC-World Soil Information. The February 10–11 meetings focused on progress and activities during the project′s transition phase. CIESIN efforts to build information systems for collection, analysis, and dissemination of soils data to end users was presented by Peng during meetings that took place February 12–13. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution), AfSIS aims to develop continent-wide digital soil maps for sub-Saharan Africa using innovative soil analysis and statistical methods. 

See: Africa Soil Information Service

CIESIN Director Joins ICPSR Governing Council

February 11, 2014

CIESIN director Robert Chen has been elected to the governing council of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), an international consortium of more than 700 academic institutions and research organizations focused on advancing social and behavioral research. Chen is one of six new council members beginning four-year terms in March 2014. The twelve-member council acts on administrative, budgetary, and organizational issues on behalf of all ICPSR members. Christopher Achen, the Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences, Professor of Politics at Princeton University, has been appointed as council chair for a two-year term. ICPSR maintains the world's largest archive of social science data, including more than 8,500 data collections and 70,000 data sets and providing online access to more than 2 million variables. ICPSR also hosts the Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research and engages in research on digital curation and data science. ICPSR is a unit within the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

See: ICPSR Council Members 2014–2016
       Announcement: New ICPSR Council Members Named...

Leading Russian Data Scientist Passes Away

February 10, 2014

CIESIN notes with sadness the passing of academician Fedor Kuznetsov, a counselor of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a vice president of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), on February 4. Professor Kuznetsov was a physical chemist and materials scientist who pioneered the development of databases on a range of topics and who promoted international scientific cooperation both bilaterally and multilaterally. He was active in the CODATA community for more than three decades, serving twice as CODATA vice president and playing key roles in a range of CODATA task groups and initiatives. CIESIN director Robert Chen, who as CODATA secretary-general worked closely with Prof. Kuznetsov from 2004-12, noted that, “Fedor was a great contributor to CODATA, to international science, and to science in Russia for many decades, and on top of that, he was a warm and engaging colleague with much wisdom about life as well as science and data.″

See: CODATA Mourns Vice-President Fedor Kuznetsov

User Needs Discussed at Disaster Risk Reduction Conference in Nairobi

January 27, 2014

CIESIN geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh gave a presentation in a session on “Meeting the Needs of the ‘User” at the Wilton Park conference, “Strengthening Technological Capacities and Information Access for Improving Disaster Risk Reduction in the Horn of Africa,” held in Nairobi, Kenya January 22–23. His presentation focused on a climate information user assessment survey CIESIN is conducting for the project, Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research, and Economic Development (PREPARED). With ARD/TetraTech, CIESIN is helping to develop data/information systems for climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and water supply and sanitation services in five Lake Victoria Basin countries of East Africa: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The project is funded by the US Agency for International Development. The conference was organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Wilton Park. It aimed to facilitate dialogue between countries in the Horn of Africa about technological applications and information that could strengthen regional capacity for disaster risk reduction and disaster response.

See: Strengthening Technological Capacities and Information Access...
       PREPARED Program Fact Sheet (173 KB PDF)

2014 Environmental Performance Index Introduces New Indicators

January 25, 2014

Screen Shot of the Web site for the Environmental Performance Index

Measurement aligned with management practices can support significant progress in achieving environmental performance goals. This is one of the core messages to emerge from the sixth iteration of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), released at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 25 by CIESIN deputy director, Marc Levy, a co-author of the report with Angel Hsu, lead author, and Kim Samuel, co-creator of the project.

The 2014 EPI Report also highlights how lack of monitoring and proper management can cause natural and human systems to suffer—as seen in the negative state of fish stocks around the world—and  how  some elements of sustainability are better supported by the high density of urban areas.

Produced every two years by a research team from the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and CIESIN, Columbia University, the EPI this year evaluates 178 countries, with new additions, in large part, from Small-Island Developing States and sub-Saharan Africa. Innovations in this year’s release include: a new wastewater treatment indicator, which is a major driver of ecosystem water quality; a new approach to climate change indicators, which evaluates emissions relative to a country’s economic development; and two new satellite-derived indicators for air quality and forests, which more accurately depict environmental policy performance than did previous models and national reports.

The EPI ranks country performance on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas, protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems. The 2014 EPI innovations help inform, among other things, ongoing discussion surrounding the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The full report and redesigned Web site are available at

See: 2014 Environmental Performance Index Report and Web site
       Press Briefing

Strategies for Addressing Interdisciplinary Global Challenges Discussed at NASA

January 24, 2014

The NASA Applied Sciences Advisory Committee (ASAC) met January 22–23 at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, to review activities of its Applied Sciences Program and solicit scientific and technical information relevant to program planning. One topic discussed at the meeting was how NASA-supported earth science could help address key global challenges such as food security, water resources management, and disasters through both interdisciplinary research and practical applications at the nexus of natural, economic, and social systems. CIESIN director Robert Chen, in his capacity as manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), gave a presentation on SEDAC’s role in supporting human dimensions research, applications, and decision making. Chris Weaver of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and Meredith Lane of the National Research Council’s Board on Environmental Change and Society (BECS) also participated in the session and subsequent panel discussion, which highlighted the important role of the social sciences in understanding and addressing global societal challenges.

The ASAC provides strategic and programmatic guidance to the NASA Earth Science Division and Applied Sciences Program. Currently chaired by Kass Green of Kass Green and Associates, the ASAC reports to the Earth Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Science Committee and operates in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA, Public Law 92–463, as amended).

Regional Urban Climate Experts Hold Annual Meeting at Stevens Institute

January 22, 2014

The Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN) kicked off its fourth year with a working meeting January 16–17 at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. Associate director for geospatial applications Mark Becker summarized CIESIN’s activities related to the project, including a new collaboration with Alan Blumberg and Philip Orton of Stevens to develop an online system for storm surge risk analysis. CIESIN director Robert Chen, one of the project co-investigators, also participated in the meeting, contributing to discussions of plans for years four and five of the project. CCRUN is one of the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program teams supported by the Climate Program Office of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Led by Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), CCRUN focuses on the integrated climate risk assessment needs of stakeholders in the major urban areas of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

See: Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN)

International Earth Observation Community Gathers in Geneva

January 20, 2014

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a voluntary intergovernmental organization with more than 90 governmental members and over 70 participating organizations, held its tenth plenary session and sixth ministerial summit January 15–17 in Geneva, Switzerland. CIESIN director Robert Chen was a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU) delegation in his capacity as a co-chair of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group (DSWG), and he also represented the Earth Institute as an observer at the Plenary. He co-chaired a working meeting of the DSWG on January 12 and the next day he organized and co-moderated an open side event on capacity building for data sharing. In a side event, “Visualizing the World’s Food System,” held January 14, he gave a presentation on emerging data resources at the nexus of agriculture, environment, and security, reflecting work by CIESIN, the Agriculture and Food Security Center, the International Research Institute on Climate and Society, and other partners. GEO reviewed progress over its first ten years in developing the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and in expanding the accessibility, interoperability, and use of remote sensing and other geospatial data. GEO members renewed their commitment to further implementation and expansion of GEOSS for a second decade beginning in 2015.

See: Blog post: CODATA and the GEO Data Sharing Working Group
       Summary of the GEO-X Plenary and Ministerial Summit

EarthCube Focuses on Data Facility Needs

January 17, 2014

Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, participated in the EarthCube Data Facilities Workshop, held January 15–17 in Arlington, Virginia.  The Data Facilities workshop brought together data center representatives, end users, and NSF staff to discuss the requirements and challenges associated with developing the communication, collaboration, interoperability, and governance structures needed to build EarthCube. During the plenary session on January 15, Downs gave a presentation, “Improving the Trustworthiness of a Scientific Data Center,” co-authored with Robert Chen, director of CIESIN. EarthCube is a major initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF) aimed at creating a community-driven data and knowledge management system to support unprecedented data sharing across the geosciences. EarthCube was launched in 2011 as a collaborative partnership between NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI).

See: EarthCube Data Facilities Workshop

Research Priorities and Opportunities for Scientific Data Infrastructure Discussed at DC Meetings

January 10, 2014

Research priorities for the science data enterprise were the focus of a planning workshop held January 7 in Washington DC, aimed at framing a study on the challenges and opportunities associated with scientific data infrastructure. Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, was a member of the workshop steering committee and participated in the workshop. He then attended the 2014 Winter ESIP Federation Meeting, also held in DC, where he gave presentations entitled “Scientific Data Infrastructure: Research Opportunities and Challenges” and “Ongoing Evaluation to Inform the Development of an Online Resource Center” (the latter co-authored with Robert Chen, director of CIESIN). He also presented a poster paper, “A Comparative Analysis of Scientific Data Publication Opportunities.” During the ESIP Federation business meeting on January 9, Downs represented the NASA Socioeconomic and Data Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, a Type I member of the ESIP Federation. At that time, he was elected to serve as the ESIP representative on the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Earth Science, which manages the ESIP Federation.

See: 2014 ESIP Federation Meeting