Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) Columbia University
Home PageContact Info

About Us
Programs and Projects
Data & Information Resources
Education & Outreach
News and Events


2015 News & Events Subscribe to CIESIN News

Archives: 2007 and older
New Visiting Scientist and Staff Member at CIESIN

August 21, 2015

CIESIN has recently welcomed a visiting senior research scientist from Brazil, Douglas Sathler, to its Science Applications Division, and a research staff assistant, Alyssa Fico, to the Geospatial Applications Division. Sathler is a professor with the Institute of Humanities at Brazil’s Universidade Federal dos Vales do Jequitinhonha e Mucuri (UFVJM), Diamantina, Minas Gerais. He earned his BA in geography at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais and PhD in demography at its Center for Development and Regional Planning (CEDEPLAR). He coordinates the network, Population, Space, and Environment, of the Brazilian Association of Population Studies, and is chief editor of Revista Espinhaço, a journal of geography and geosciences. During his year at CIESIN, Sathler will work with research scientist Susana Adamo on issues related to migration and environment, and cities and climate change.

Alyssa Fico graduated from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, with a BA in Biology and a NYC teaching certification for science education in grades K through 12. After teaching in middle and high schools in the South Bronx Public School system, she earned an MPA from Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs within their Environmental Science and Policy program. Formerly a casual employee at CIESIN, Fico will continue to work on various projects including the Ecological Assessment of the Hudson River and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center.


International Expert Group Formed on Data for Sustainable Development

August 20, 2015

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations, has established a new thematic group on Data for Sustainable Development. The group is co-chaired by Shaida Badiee of Open Data Watch, Enrico Giovannini of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, and Robert Chen, CIESIN director. The group will serve as an information and education network on data collection, processing, and dissemination for sustainable development, seeking to identify solution-oriented approaches to measuring progress on the SDGs, to strengthen the cross-sectoral and multi-scale analysis of data for SDG monitoring, and to encourage greater frequency and quality of data production and monitoring. It is expected that the group will also serve as a technical advisory committee to the new Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data to be launched next month.


Geospatial Analysts Receive Enhanced Training in Vulnerability Mapping

August 17, 2015

Participants at the Climate Vulnerability Index Mapping workshop

CIESIN geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh led a five-day workshop on Climate Vulnerability Index Mapping in Entebbe, Uganda, August 10–14. This was the third and last in a series of workshops on climate vulnerability mapping for geographic information system (GIS) analysts in the Lake Victoria region of East Africa. The workshop was organized by the Regional Center for Mapping Resources for Development (RCMRD) under the auspices of the Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research, and Economic Development (PREPARED) Program of the US Agency for International Development East Africa Mission (USAID/East Africa).


Experts Evaluate Disaster Risk Reduction Indicators

August 7, 2015

Deputy director Marc Levy participated in an expert meeting, “Developing Indicators for Disaster Risk Reduction,″ in Geneva, Switzerland, July 27–29.  The meeting was convened by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) as part of a consultative process aimed at developing indicators to track global implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030. Participants evaluated possible indicators in terms of data availability, feasibility, comprehensiveness, and alignment with proposed Sustainable Development Goal targets. The meeting′s findings are to be presented to an open-ended intergovernmental working group on indicators and terminology relating to disaster risk resolution, established by the UN General Assembly in June 2015.


United Nations Experts Review Geospatial Information Developments

August 7, 2015

photo from UN-GGIM Meeting shows banner of CIESIN

The United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) held its fifth session at UN headquarters in New York City August 5–7, examining its accomplishments since its founding in 2011 and discussing its planned contributions to the post-2015 development agenda. Many UN-GGIM representatives highlighted the critical role of geospatial data and information in supporting sustainable development and measuring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). CIESIN has been an active contributor to a number of UN-GGIM and related activities and was accredited as an observer at the meeting. CIESIN director Robert Chen represented CIESIN during the plenary and participated in side events on improving geospatial information policy, processes, and services to support emergency response and on the role of geospatial information in the SDGs. August 3–4 he and GIS programmer Kytt MacManus also attended portions of the 15th plenary meeting of the United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG), which focused on core geospatial data resources and needs across the UN community. CIESIN has been a non-governmental organization with special consultative status recognized by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1995.


New Journal Articles by CIESIN Staff on Diverse Topics

August 6, 2015

The fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World data set is featured in a paper appearing in the new journal Papers in Applied Geography, by CIESIN geographic information specialist Erin Doxsey-Whitfield with CIESIN colleagues Kytt MacManus, Susana Adamo, Linda Pistolesi, John Squires, Olena Borkovska, and Sandra Baptista. The paper, “Taking Advantage of the Improved Availability of Census Data: A First Look at the Gridded Population of the World, Version 4,” describes the methodology and key highlights of GPWv4, which has been updated using census data from the 2010 round of censuses.

Robert Downs, senior digital archivist, is lead author of a paper, “Data Stewardship in the Earth Sciences,” co-authored with Ruth Duerr, Denise Hills, and Hampapuram Ramapriyan, published in D-Lib Magazine, an electronic publications focused on digital library research and development. The paper reports on the work of the Data Stewardship Committee of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) to develop recommendations, best practices, and guidelines for stewardship of Earth science data.

Kytt McManus, GIS programmer, is one of the co-authors of a paper, “Channel Shallowing as Mitigation of Coastal Flooding,” by Philip Orton of Stevens Institute of Technology and colleagues, appearing in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. Part of a special issue on coastal hazards related to storm surge, the paper assesses how reducing the depth of inlets or estuary channels could help reduce or prevent coastal flooding during severe storms such as Hurricane Sandy, based on a validated hydrodynamic model for Jamaica Bay in New York.

Vulnerability mapping is the subject of a paper co-authored by Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, with colleagues from Battelle Institute and published in Applied Geography. The article, “Policy-Relevant Indicators for Mapping the Vulnerability of Urban Populations to Extreme Heat Events: A Case Study of Philadelphia,” is based on research funded by a NASA grant on indicator development in support of the National Climate Assessment.

See: Taking advantage of the improved availability of census data: A first look at the Gridded Population of the World, Version 4 (subscription required)
       Data Stewardship in the Earth Sciences
       Channel Shallowing as Mitigation of Coastal Flooding
       Policy-Relevant Indicators for Mapping the Vulnerability of Urban Populations to Extreme Heat Events: A Case Study of Philadelphia


CODATA Data Science Journal Relaunched with New Editorial Board

August 5, 2015

photo of Robert Downs

As interest in data science continues to expand rapidly, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science (ICSU) has re-launched the CODATA Data Science Journal (DSJ) under the management of Ubiquity Press, an open access publisher of peer-reviewed academic journals, books, and data. Since its establishment in 2002, the DSJ has provided a cross-disciplinary, open access venue for scholars working on a range of data science and policy issues. The “next generation″ DSJ continues as a peer-reviewed, open access, electronic journal dedicated to the advancement of data science and its application in policies, practices, and management to promote knowledge and learning. The new editor-in-chief is Sarah Callaghan of the British Atmospheric Data Centre. Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, has been selected to join the re-vamped editorial board. Downs had served on the previous editorial board since 2008. His main reviewing interests are data systems, data preservation and stewardship, intellectual property, and open data.


Remote Sensing and Population Data Integration Examined in Milan Session

July 31, 2015

Erin Doxsey Whitfield presenting a technical overview of development and methodology of Gridded Population of the World version 4

Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications, and Erin Doxsey-Whitfield, geographic information specialist, traveled to Milan, Italy, to participate in the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium 2015 (IGARSS 2015) July 26–31. Together with Prof. Ryuei Nishii of Kyushu University in Japan, de Sherbinin co-chaired two back-to-back sessions on remote sensing and population data integration for global change and disaster risk research. The sessions included an overview by de Sherbinin of work by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to integrate remote sensing and population data, and a technical review of development and methods for the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set by Doxsey-Whitfield, co-authored with GIS programmer Kytt MacManus and research scientist Susana Adamo. Other session presenters included former visiting scholar Christopher Aubrecht of the Austrian Institute of Technology, as well as Nishii and Shojiro Tanaka of Hiroshima University of Economics. Prior to the IGARSS conference, Doxsey-Whitfield attended the 2015 International Summer School on Data Fusion for Risk Mapping, organized in Pavia July 23–24. Participation in the two IGARSS sessions was partially funded through a grant obtained by Nishii and Tanaka and administered by Kyushu University.

See: Session I Presentations
       Session II Presentations


Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data to be Launched

July 31, 2015

Aerial images of four areas, from left to right clockwise: arid river system, road network, farming network and lake

CIESIN is joining a coalition of national governments, international organizations, foundations, private sector companies, and other organizations in launching a Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, aimed at providing financial, political, and technical support for data management and access needed to achieve the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A Global Partnership is one of the recommendations made by the United Nations Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development (IEAG) in its fall 2014 report, A World That Counts.

A critical need to be addressed by the Global Partnership is to integrate a range of new data sources and monitoring approaches with existing statistical systems and to scale these up to meet the challenge of sustainable development from local to global scales. Earth observations and geospatial data are increasingly recognized as key resources not only for developing policy-relevant indicators in support of the SDG process, but also as vital management tools in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of development investments and ensuring accountability. However, the human and financial resources needed to access and utilize these information resources are often lacking, especially in developing countries. The Global Partnership will help address this gap.

In support of planning for the Global Partnership, CIESIN has been working closely with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Open Data Watch. Earlier this year, several CIESIN staff members contributed to the SDSN report, “Data for Development: A Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity Development,” which identified eight instruments as the primary basis of SDG indicators, including geospatial information systems and earth observations. The report develops an initial estimate for new data and monitoring resources of just over $1 billion a year, drawn from a mix of government annual budgets and overseas development aid. This is a small investment compared with the many billions invested in development annually. 

More recently, SDSN and Open Data Watch have released “Data for Development: An Action Plan to Finance the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development,” which proposes global and national efforts to ensure adequate public financing for core national data systems, to enhance and broaden data instruments for SDG monitoring, and to expand the reach and benefits of the data revolution to the least-developed countries. CIESIN contributed case study material and other inputs to the report.

Other participants in the Global Partnership are expected to include the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Esri, and the One Campaign. The SDSN was launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August 2012, and is led by Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute. Open Data Watch is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization founded by three development data specialists. CIESIN director Robert Chen was a member of the UN IEAG.

See: 2015 Reports: Data for Development
      
      


CIESIN Active at Esri Events in San Diego

July 27, 2015

CIESIN booth at 2015 Esri User Conference

CIESIN was well represented at two San Diego events organized by Esri: the National GIS Executive Forum (NGEF) July 18–19 and the 2015 Esri User Conference July 20–24. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in the NGEF, an invitation-only meeting at which senior geospatial industry executives discuss major trends shaping national mapping and geospatial data activities. He served on a panel exploring the themes of the meeting and gave a talk, “Data Needs for the Sustainable Development Goals: Implications for National Mapping.″

Following NGEF, an estimated 16,000 attendees from 132 countries gathered for the 2015 Esri User Conference, including Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications, and geographic information specialists Tricia Chai-Onn, Olena Borkovska, and Jane Mills. CIESIN was one of 45 aid, development, and conservation organizations invited to exhibit in the Nonprofit Showcase at the conference. The booth featured the new SEDAC Hazard Mapper, which visualizes data and map layers related to the exposure of population and infrastructure to selected natural hazards, as well as other data and services available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. In the demo theatre, Yetman gave a presentation on using SEDAC data and services in ArcGIS. He also presented a poster, “Spatial Disaggregation of Gridded Population Density Using Stable Night Light Brightness,” created with Lamont scientist Chris Small, Chris Elvidge and Kim Baugh of the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), and CIESIN GIS programmer Kytt MacManus. Chai-Onn also presented a poster, co-authored with geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh, “Using GIS to Support Public Policy and Natural Resource Protection,” which was displayed in the Map Gallery on the opening day of the conference.

CIESIN has long used Esri software for the development and integration of SEDAC and other data sets. For Esri’s Landscape for Contributors group in ArcGIS Online, which has more than two million GIS data users, CIESIN has just published six new data layers on hazardous waste sites, global human footprint, emissions, roads, population, and the world's remaining wild areas. Additional layers will be added in coming months. Through its GIS Service Center, CIESIN hosts the Esri Columbia University Site License Program, which supplies Esri software, licenses, data, and technical support to schools, departments, and individuals at Columbia.

See: News release: Esri Joins Global Partnership


Call for Early Career Social Scientists Interested in Urban Big Data

July 24, 2015

The International Social Science Council (ISSC) invites applications from outstanding early career social scientists around the world to become World Social Science Fellows and participate in the seminar, Big Data in an Urban Context, November 30–December 4, 2015, in Xiamen, China. The deadline for applications is August 24. The seminar will be hosted by the International Council of Science (ICSU) International Programme Office on Urban Health and Wellbeing at the Institute of Urban Environment (IUE), and is being organized in partnership with the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA). CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo is one of three co-convenors of the seminar.

See: World Social Science Fellows Programme
       Call for Applications


American Geographical Society Announces New Council Members

July 21, 2015

CIESIN director Robert Chen has been appointed as one of two new Councilors of the American Geographical Society (AGS), a New York-based professional geographical organization that aims to advance geographic knowledge and promote the use of geography in business, government, science, and education. The AGS Council serves as the governing board of the Society, which was established in 1851. The Earth Institute collaborated with the AGS in organizing and hosting its 2014 Fall Symposium, Geography 2050: Mounting an Expedition to the Future, in the Columbia University Low Library. This fall, the two organizations are planning a two-day symposium November 19–20 at Columbia′s Morningside Campus on the theme, Geography 2050: Exploring Our Future in an Urbanized World. Chen was elected to the Council along with  Parag Khanna of the Centre of the Asia and Globalization at the National University of Singapore.

See: AGS Press Release
       Geography 2050: Exploring Our Future in an Urbanized World


Earth Science Informatics Community Convenes in California

July 18, 2015

Two recent meetings brought together members of the earth science informatics and user communities to Pacific Grove, California, to address key challenges in managing and utilizing earth science data. At DUG, the user group meeting of the Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE) July 12–13, CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs presented a poster on improving usability of earth science data. He then attended the summer meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) July 14–17, where he co-convened the session, “Citing a Black Box and its Content,” and gave several presentations on citation and usability issues. During the 2015 ESIP Education Workshop July 16, he presented on visualizing socioeconomic data in the classroom with the Climate and Health Analysis for Global Education Viewer (CHANGE Viewer). He also participated in a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Earth Science. Greg Yetman, associate director of Geospatial Applications, gave a presentation on improving earthquake risk assessments for the reinsurance industry using remote sensing and socioeconomic data, based on a NASA-funded project led by ImageCat, Inc. He also participated in the session, “Developing and Emerging Standards, Practices, & Technologies,” giving brief remarks on geospatial data formats for developing and distributing data.

See: 2015 Summer Meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)


Congressional Hearing Addresses Homeland Security's Focus on Climate Change

July 14, 2015

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security should continue to incorporate climate change into its risk framework, according to CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy in his testimony to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency of the House Committee on Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., July 8. At the hearing, “Examining DHS’s Misplaced Focus on Climate Change,” Levy argued that the DHS should not only retain a focus on climate change, but do even more. He based his conclusions on the economic and public health consequences of climate change anticipated within U.S. territory, and the destabilizing impacts likely overseas. Three central developments lend urgency to these risks, he said: 1) research shows climate stress is statistically associated with instability; 2) climate stressors historically associated with security risks are now appearing more frequently, more intensely, and in new forms; and 3) global changes are making security more fragile—for example, the number of partially democratic regimes is at an all-time high, food prices have risen, and territorial conflicts are increasing. Levy's full testimony is available here and a video of questioning by subcommittee chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) is on YouTube. An interview with Levy on the hearing aired on the July 8 Marketplace radio program.


Science Community Meets in Paris to Consider Climate Change Futures

July 13, 2015

In preparation for the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December, nearly two thousand scientists and policy experts met at UNESCO headquarters in Paris for the international scientific conference, Our Common Future Under Climate Change (CFCC), July 7–10. The conference highlighted scientific findings pertinent to ongoing international climate negotiations and emphasized the critical need for immediate action both to mitigate climate change and to begin implementing adaptation strategies. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave a presentation on the importance of integrated, policy-relevant indicators in helping to guide decision making related to climate change, co-authored with Alex de Sherbinin and Marc Levy, in a parallel session, “Quality and availability of data for global sustainability.” He also participated in a side event July 6, “Trusted Data Services to Support Climate Change Research,” where he presented on efforts by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to support integration of natural, social, and health science data to enable both interdisciplinary science and practical applications. The side event was organized by the World Data System (WDS) of the International Council for Science (ICSU), the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), the Research Data Alliance (RDA), and other partners, and was granted a “COP21 Label” by the government of France.


CIESIN Demographer Promoted to Research Scientist

July 8, 2015

CIESIN is pleased to announce the appointment of demographer Susana Adamo as a research scientist beginning July 1. Adamo, who joined CIESIN's Science Applications Division in December 2007, is one of the project scientists for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and co-leads the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) hosted by CIESIN. Her research areas include climate and migration, vulnerability to hazards and climate change, and cross-disciplinary data integration. Adamo′s promotion recognizes her significant accomplishments in both science and practice, including service in international organizations and initiatives such as the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) program, and the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP). A CIESIN committee chaired by Prof. Sally Findley of the Mailman School of Public Health conducted a rigorous review of her promotion case, in accordance with procedures established by the Earth Institute for practice-oriented scholars. The promotion was approved and endorsed by the Appointments Committee of the Earth Institute, the Earth Institute Faculty, and the Office of the Provost of Columbia University.

Adamo recently attended the 8th International Conference on Population Geographies (ICPG) in Brisbane, Australia, June 30–July 3. The biennial conference brought together population geographers and spatial demographers interested in the spatial dimensions of population processes, dynamics, and impacts. Adamo presented a paper co-authored with CIESIN senior research associate Paola Kim-Blanco, "Migrants in urban areas of developing countries: Understanding exposure and vulnerability in the context of global environmental change." She also chaired a session on climate and population dynamics.

See: 8th International Conference on Population Geographies


International Experts on Use of Climate Data and Scenarios Meet at CIESIN

July 2, 2015

IPCC TGICA workshop participants

The use of climate data and scenarios to support decision making was the focus of back-to-back international meetings hosted by CIESIN at Columbia's Lamont campus in Palisades, New York June 28–July 2. The meetings were organized by the Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). On June 28–29, the TGICA held its 22nd meeting since its founding in 1996, addressing its ongoing responsibilities for managing the IPCC Data Distribution Centre (DDC) and continuing its efforts to develop guidance materials and other materials to facilitate access to and appropriate use of climate and socioeconomic data and information stemming from the IPCC assessments.

June 30–July 2, the TGICA organized an international expert meeting, "Decision-Centered Approaches to the use of Climate Information," which brought together more than 40 experts from around the world involved in using and producing climate-related data services. The specific objective of this expert meeting was to help guide and promote the appropriate application of new information emerging from the IPCC′s Fifth Assessment (AR5) released last year. The meeting included a guest lecture by Sabine Marx of Columbia's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED),“Decision Making under Uncertainty: A Social-Science Approach to Understanding and Improving the Use of Climate Information.″ CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy was one of the invited experts, and other CIESIN staff participated as observers.

CIESIN hosts the socioeconomic component of the IPCC DDC through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). CIESIN director Robert Chen has served as an ex officio member of the TGICA for more than 15 years.


Environmental Performance Discussed in Visit by Representatives of Togo

July 1, 2015

A high-level delegation from the Republic of Togo met with CIESIN staff members at the Lamont campus June 29 to discuss environmental performance indicators issued by CIESIN in support of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The delegation was led by His Excellency Limbiye Kadangha Bariki, the Ambassador of the Republic of Togo to the United States, and also included Stanislas Baba, minister-counselor in the presidency and director of the MCC Cell; Beguebouwe Paneto, director of studies in the Ministry of Planning; Simon Pierre Adouellande, consultant to the MCC Cell; and Ablamba Johnson, project analyst in the presidency. CIESIN updates the Natural Resource Protection Indicator (NRPI) and the Child Health Indicator (CHI) annually for the MCC, which is a grant-making arm of the U.S. government that provides development funding to low-income countries. MCC funding is conditional on national performance relative to 20 indicators in a range of good governance categories including ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom.

See: Natural Resource Protection Index and Child Health Indicators
       MCC Guide to the Indicators and the Selection Process, FY 2015
       2015 Country Scorebook (PDF)


Vulnerability Mapping Work Presented at UN High-Level Political Forum

July 1, 2015

At the Sustainable Development Learning Event of the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development June 29 at UN Headquarters in New York City, Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave two presentations. The first presentation provided an overview of the concepts of vulnerability, risk, and resilience and approaches to mapping these concepts. The second presentation focused on remote sensing and other novel data streams that can be applied to vulnerability mapping, as well as to index construction and issues of uncertainty. Held under the auspices of ECOSOC, this year's forum addressed the theme, strengthening integration, implementation, and review.

See: 2015 Meeting of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development


CIESIN Associate Director Joins World Data System’s Scientific Committee

June 30, 2015

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications at CIESIN, has been appointed to the Scientific Committee (SC) of the International Council for Science (ICSU) World Data System (WDS) for a three-year term beginning July 1. The SC is the governing body of the WDS, responsible for developing and prioritizing WDS plans, guiding their implementation, and publicizing the results. SC members are leading scientists and experts actively involved with data management and stewardship who have been selected by the ICSU Executive Board after an open nomination process. The new chair of the SC is Sandy Harrison of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom and Macquarie University in Australia.

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN recently became a WDS regular member, joining most of the other NASA data centers as well as the NASA Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) Project. CIESIN director Robert Chen is SEDAC’s manager and de Sherbinin serves as its deputy manager. The WDS currently has more than 90 member organizations in four different categories.

See: Scientific Committee page/new member bios
       SEDAC WDS Member Profile Page


Summer Institute Focuses on Integrating Spatial Frameworks Across Disciplines

June 29, 2015

Bar Harbor, Maine, was the site of a week-long summer institute June 21-27, “Spatial Ontologies for e-Science,” sponsored by the Vespucci Initiative for the advancement of geographic information in science. GIS programmer Kytt MacManus was one of about fifteen participants in this interactive learning experience, which focused on how location often acts as an integrator in science, bringing together perspectives across multiple disciplines and scales. During the Institute, he presented a lightning talk on the potential for semantic Web technologies to enable the integration of population data sets in support of decision making. Facilitators this year included Peter Fox of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Michael Grueninger of the University of Toronto, and Werner Kuhn of the University of Münster, Germany.

See: Vespucci Institutes 2015


New Project to Assess Hazard Exposure in Five African Countries

June 24, 2015

CIESIN is part of a team led by ImageCat, Inc that recently won a contract from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), a global partnership managed by the World Bank, to develop a physical exposure database for five countries in Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, and Uganda. Key project tasks include development of spatial data on structural and infrastructural assets and estimates of their replacement costs; projection of the spatial distribution of population and Gross Domestic Product in the year 2050 consistent with socioeconomic scenario data currently under development by the research and assessment community; and collaboration with four other teams to support the integration of the exposure data with assessments of earthquake, flood, drought, and landslide hazards. Other project partners are Keith Porter from the University of Colorado Boulder, SecondMuse, and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi. CIESIN continues to work with ImageCat on a three-year award from the NASA Applied Sciences Program to develop and test methods of assessing global building exposure for disaster forecasting, mitigation, and response, using remote sensing data. ImageCat is an international risk management innovation company with offices in Long Beach, California and London.


Award Announced for Exceptional Data Stewardship

June 23, 2015

The World Data System (WDS) of the International Council for Science (ICSU) has announced the 2015 Data Stewardship Award, aimed at recognizing exceptional contributions to the improvement of scientific data stewardship by early career researchers. Nominations may be submitted by representatives of ICSU WDS members and working groups, ICSU interdisciplinary bodies, and ICSU national and union members by Monday, September 7 (see form below). The award includes recognition at and travel to the plenary of the next Scientific Data Conference (SciDataCon), tentatively scheduled for fall 2016, as well as a state-of-the-art electronic tablet device. Nominees must be under age 40 and within ten years of the award of their PhD or equivalent professional training. Prior winners include Robert Redmon of the World Data Service for Geophysics and Xiaogang Ma from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

See: Call for Nominations (download Microsoft Word document)


Connected Worlds Opening at the New York Hall of Science

June 22, 2015

Theo Watson of Design I/O

Interactive learning about complex ecosystems is the aim of a new immersive exhibit, Connected Worlds, opening at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in Queens, New York, June 27. Situated in NYSCI′s newly refurbished Great Hall, Connected Worlds is a fantastical animated virtual environment where individual gestures, movements, and decisions combine to influence how well the “worlds″ are kept in balance. There are six ecosystems in Connected Worlds: jungle, desert, wetlands, mountain valley, reservoir, and plains, linked primarily through flows of water, represented in part by a 2,300 square foot interactive floor. CIESIN is a member of the NYSCI team that conceptualized and developed the exhibit as part of a research project on informal learning, funded by the National Science Foundation. The innovative interactive software and graphics were developed by computer artists Theodore Watson and Emily Gobeille of Design I/O.

CIESIN director Robert Chen spoke about the importance of learning about complex systems in the context of sustainable development at the NYSCI launch event June 18. The launch also featured keynote speaker John P. Holdren, assistant to the president for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as Melinda Katz, president of the Borough of Queens. Founded at the 1964–65 World’s Fair, NYSCI has evolved into a leading center for interactive science, serving a half million students, teachers, and families each year. The exhibit also received support from the JPB Foundation, Google Inc., and The Nasdaq Educational Foundation, Inc.

See: Connected Worlds at the New York Hall of Science


Rescue of Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Data Completed

June 19, 2015

Millennium Assessment Report cover

From 2001 to 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) brought together more than 1,300 experts worldwide to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being. The MA provided a comprehensive scientific appraisal of the condition and trends in the world’s ecosystems and associated services at that time, and articulated the scientific basis for action to conserve and use these ecosystems sustainably. The core data used and developed by the MA had been maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) program, but unfortunately when this program was terminated in January 2012, access to the data ended.

To remedy this situation and to ensure long-term preservation of and access to these important data, the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN obtained copies of the original data and has recently released them as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Collection. The original data consisted of many files that were not well documented or organized, so SEDAC has grouped the data into six separate data sets: population; scenarios; biodiversity; climate and land cover; ecosystems; and rapid land cover change. Although most of the data in the collection have been superseded by newer versions, the data may still be of interest from both scientific and historical perspectives since they reflect the state of knowledge at the time the assessment was completed.

In preparing the collection, SEDAC has sought to provide access to the data in their original formats with basic documentation. Users will need to refer directly to the MA reports for details on sources, methods, and interpretation of the data.

See: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Collection


Training Events Focus on Geographic Information System Use and Teaching

June 18, 2015

Dara Mendeloff presents results of fieldwork exercise

As part of a two-week Executive Training Program on Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development at Columbia University′s Morningside campus, Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, gave an introduction June 15 to the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) approaches in developing and managing mineral resources to promote transparency, development, and stability. Approximately thirty individuals including public sector officials and civil society representatives from resource-rich developing countries participated in the training session, which was sponsored by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), a joint center of the Earth Institute and the Columbia Law School. Yetman drew on a case study of siting geothermal facilities in Iran, and engaged the group in a data collection exercise using mobile devices. He also demonstrated a new Web mapping platform designed to aid natural resource management by g+7 fragile states.

At Esri headquarters in Redlands, California, GIS specialist Dara Mendeloff participated in the seventh annual Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS Institute June 14–19. This professional development training is aimed at educators who can promote the use of GIS by other educators. Mendeloff teaches GIS for Sustainable Development at Columbia College and GIS for Sustainability Management at the School of Continuing Education, and also contributes to CIESIN data development and training activities.


Climate Conference Side Event to Focus on Trusted Data Services

June 16, 2015

In recognition of the importance of open sharing of quality-assured scientific data to climate research and policy, a side event, “Trusted Data Services to Support Climate Change Research,″ is planned in conjunction with the upcoming international conference, Our Common Future Under Climate Change, July 7–10 in Paris. The event, organized by the International Council for Science (ICSU) World Data System (WDS) in collaboration with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), Research Data Alliance (RDA), and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), has been granted a “COP21 label,″ highlighting its relevance to the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), to be held in Paris in late 2015. During the July 6 event CIESIN director Robert Chen, in his capacity as manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), will give a short talk on integrating environmental and socioeconomic data to support interdisciplinary research and applications. He will also present, “Developing Indicators to Support Climate Adaptation and Sustainability Decision Making,″ co-authored with Alex de Sherbinin and Marc Levy, in a parallel session, “Quality and Availability of Data for Global Sustainability″ to be held day two of the conference. The side event, together with a second side event organized by ICSU, “Science and the Road to Transformation: Opportunities in the post-2015 Global Climate Regime,″ is expected to support the development of science community inputs into COP21.

See: Side-event: Trusted Data Services to Support Climate Change Research


Developing Usable Climate-Security Data Addressed in Boulder Symposium

June 8, 2015

A symposium on climate and human security was organized by the World-Wide Human Geography Data (WWHGD) Working Group June 3–4 at the University of Colorado, Boulder. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy was part of a panel, “Anticipating Near-term Climate Disruptions on the Human Geography Scales.” In his presentation, “In Search of Usable Climate-Security Data,” he argued that the task of generating effective climate-security data requires as much attention to deepening social ties across the climate-security communities as it does attention to technical data work. The WWHGD working group was created to focus on the need for human geography global foundation data in order to provide a basis for a deeper understanding of cultures, activities, and attitudes.

See: “In Search of Usable Climate-Security Data”
       Audio recording of day two presentations (Levy talk begins at 3:19:40; registration required)
       Recap - Climate and Human Security Symposium (registration required)


Map Enthusiasts Assess State of Open Mapping

June 6, 2015

CIESIN staff joined OpenStreetMap (OSM) mapping enthusiasts at the annual State of the Map US 2015 conference in New York City June 6–7. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, and Paola Kim-Blanco, senior research associate, presented a lightning talk, “Validation and Assimilation of OSM Data for the Global Roads Open Access Data Set.” With geographic information specialist Linda Pistolesi, they also organized a breakout group on validation and assimilation of OSM roads data. Geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff also participated in the conference. OSM has had impressive growth in coverage and detail in the past decade, and is increasingly being seen as an authoritative data source. However, OSM still lags in some developing regions, and efforts to rectify this situation are being made through groups such as Missing Maps and Map Give. CIESIN's efforts, under the CODATA Global Roads Data Development Task Group with support from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), represent an important joint effort with OSM to evaluate the geometry, coverage, and completeness of the OSM roads data in the world′s poorest regions.

See: Validation and Assimilation of OSM Data for the Global Roads Open Access Data Set
       Alex de Sherbinin blog on 2015 State of the Map


Social Science Data Experts Meet in Minneapolis

June 5, 2015

CIESIN geospatial specialist Erin Doxsey-Whitfield and senior digital archivist Robert Downs were among the social science data managers, data librarians, and other experts participating in the 41st annual conference of the International Association for Social Science Information Services and Technology (IASSIST) June 2-5 in Minneapolis. On June 3, Downs presented, “Bridging Disciplines: Assessing the Interdisciplinary Impact of Open Data,” co-authored with Robert Chen, director of CIESIN. While in Minneapolis, Doxey-Whitfield visited the Minnesota Population Center (MPC) at the University of Minnesota to work on the Terra Populus project. MPC was a host of the conference, of which CIESIN was a gold sponsor.

See: 2015 IASSIST


Urbanization Workshop Examines User Needs for Spatial Data and Tools

June 1, 2015

A workshop sponsored by the European Commission (EC) Joint Research Centre May 27–29 in Ispra, Italy, convened more than 50 experts and planners from European and other international agency and academic organizations to discuss how new mapping tools and data can inform the design of spatial planning and promote best practices across the urban/rural spectrum. Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications, gave a presentation on the evolution of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). The newest version of GPW, due to be released later this year, integrates data from more than 14 million census units to create global surfaces of population counts and other variables at five-year intervals between 2000 and 2020, including estimated age and sex distributions.

See: Urbanization in Europe and the World


Regional Environmental Issues Addressed in Western Hemisphere Meetings

May 29, 2015

CIESIN scientists recently participated in several meetings focused on regional environmental issues in the Western Hemisphere. Deputy director Marc Levy co-chaired both the North America Regional Environmental Information Network (REIN) Conference May 27-28 and the first Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) Regional Authors' Meeting May 29 in Gatineau, Quebec. The two gatherings kicked off the North American Regional Assessment of the 6th Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), carried out under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). During the REIN Conference, government officials from the United States and Canada, along with scientific experts, agreed on priority environmental issues to inform the regional assessment. At the Authors′ Meeting, participants considered key themes to explore in the regional assessment, the structure of the report, and assignment of roles. Levy and Robert W. Correll are co-chairing the regional assessment, which is scheduled for release in spring 2016.

The annual meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) was held May 20–22 in Quito, Equador. CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo gave a presentation on recent scientific developments in demography and population-environment studies relevant to the IAI’s collaborative resource networks and small grant programs. The SAC meeting included discussions with the Minister of the Environment and local university representatives on biodiversity issues. IAI is an intergovernmental organization supported by 19 countries in the Americas, whose mission is to increase understanding of global changes and their socioeconomic implications. The SAC agreed to hold its next meeting in spring 2016 in New York City.


Assessing Urban Climate Risk and Resilience

May 25, 2015

Urban climate resilience—in particular, the case of New York City in the post-Superstorm Sandy period—was the subject of a presentation by Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, to a delegation from Électricité de France (EDF) on May 22 at the School for International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. His presentation reviewed major urban risks associated with climate change, including heat stress, flooding, and sea level rise, and highlighted a range of resilience and adaptation strategies being undertaken in New York City. The delegation included recipients of EDF Pulse Awards, which support innovation in the energy sector.

See: Urban Climate Resilience and the Case of New York City


User Working Group Reviews SEDAC Progress

May 23, 2015

The User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN met May 18–19 to review SEDAC activities and plans and to provide guidance on strategic directions and user needs. Key discussion topics included SEDAC′s evolving role in addressing data needs stemming from international negotiations regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the potential value of developing “virtual collections” of remote sensing and socioeconomic data in collaboration with other NASA data centers. The meeting included a presentation on the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission by outgoing UWG member Kyle McDonald of the City University of New York (CUNY), who also hosted the second day of the meeting at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center in Manhattan. Daniel Bader of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) also presented on New York City′s resilience to climate change. The UWG meeting was chaired by Myron Gutmann of the University of Colorado and included representatives from NASA headquarters and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.


Experts Consider Improvements in Scenarios Used in International Climate Assessments

May 22, 2015

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Expert Meeting on Scenarios, which took place May 18–20 at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. Participants took stock of the use of climate and socioeconomic scenarios in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report and recommended actions to improve their use in the Sixth Assessment. Levy gave a presentation on the second day of the meeting, proposing how governance indicators could be incorporated into climate scenarios. He also participated in a working group meeting May 21 on quantitative impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability indicators, organized by the International Committee on New Integrated Climate Change Scenarios (ICONICS). The meeting reviewed recent work on quantitative scenarios of poverty rates and income distribution.


Satellite Data Provide Insights into Long-Term Air Quality Trends

May 15, 2015

Map showing particular matter 2.5 concentrations for Asia

A new data release offers insights into the extent of global human exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) over more than a decade. The new data set replaces an earlier one released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN and features improved accuracy, a longer time span, and higher spatial resolution than the previous version.

Satellite-derived estimates of PM2.5 provide one of the few ways of assessing changes in exposure to air pollution around the world over the long term. The data set consists of a series of global grids representing three-year running averages, from 1998-2012, derived from measurements of Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) from three different NASA instruments: MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), MISR (Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer), and SeaWIFS (Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor). The grids were developed by Aaron van Donkelaar and colleagues at Dalhousie University in Canada.

These global grids of estimated PM2.5 surface concentrations, expressed in micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3), are useful for health and environmental research and have already served as a valuable input to the World Health Organization (WHO) global burden of disease study. Fine-particulate matter represents one of the most serious types of air pollutants and is of particular concern in many parts of Asia. For example, the estimated proportion of the people in East Asia living above the WHO Interim Target-1 of 35 μg/m3 increased from 51% in 1998–2000 to 70% in 2010–2012.

The raster grids have a grid cell resolution of 6 arc-minutes (0.1 degree, or approximately 10 km at the equator) and cover the global land surface from 70 degrees north to 55 degrees south. More details can be found in the van Donkelaar et al. 2015 article, “Use of Satellite Observations for Long-Term Exposure Assessment of Global Concentrations of Fine Particulate Matter,” in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

See: Global Annual PM2.5 Grids from MODIS, MISR and SeaWiFS Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD), v1 (1998 – 2012)


Monitoring Gap Will Increase for the Sustainable Development Goals

May 15, 2015

In a recent visit to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave a presentation to the ORNL Environmental Sciences Division on data and monitoring needs for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are currently under negotiation by governments as part of the post-2015 development agenda; after they have been adopted, the international community will face an even larger gap between monitoring needs and available capabilities. A global data partnership and an expert consultation are needed.

While at ORNL, Levy participated as an observer in a meeting of the user working group (UWG) of the ORNL Distributed Active Archive Center (ORNL DAAC) May 13–14, in his capacity as the lead project scientist for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Like SEDAC, the ORNL DAAC is part of NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS); its focus is on biogeochemical and ecological data and models.

See: The Monitoring Gap Is About To Get a Whole Lot Bigger: Data Needs for the Sustainable Development Goals (abstract)


Earth Observation Strategy and Work Program Developed in Geneva

May 8, 2015

More than 100 representatives of member states and participating organizations of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) met May 4–7 in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss and further develop a new strategy and work program for the next phase of the voluntary intergovernmental organization. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the meeting in his capacity as a co-chair of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group, which oversees the evolution and implementation of the data sharing principles for the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). Established in 2005, GEO has successfully implemented GEOSS as an operational network that links remote sensing and other geospatial data from around the world and makes them accessible for both research and decision making. Over the next decade, GEO plans to incorporate rapidly growing volumes of data from increasingly diverse sources and ensure their regular use in many different public and private sector applications. The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN is a unique element of GEOSS, providing key socioeconomic data and services that facilitate such real-world applications. SEDAC is currently contributing to phase 8 of the Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP-8), which is testing new apps and tools for energy and disaster management applications.


Climate-Violence Links Explored in Recent Talk

May 7, 2015

Links between climate stress and political violence were the subject of a talk by CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy at an interdisciplinary workshop organized by the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate May 6 at Columbia University′s Morningside campus in New York City. Levy was one of 15 speakers from Columbia on topics such as hurricanes and droughts, disease transmission, and energy resilience. His presentation, “Extremes and Extremism: Why Climate Stress Increases Political Violence,” looked at how climate stress can trigger political instability and violence across linked systems and how efforts to manage risk may lead to more instability. He also discussed why some people persist in denying climate-security connections. A video of a longer version of the lecture, given at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver earlier this year, is now available online.

See: Extreme Weather and Climate: Hazards, Impacts, Actions Workshop


Environmental Peacebuilding Academy Established

May 4, 2015

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and program manager Alex Fischer are founding members of the Environmental Peacebuilding Academy, an educational partnership to cultivate the next generation of environmental peacebuilding practitioners, researchers, and decision makers. Members teach classes related to environmental peacebuilding and are committed to using and promoting the Knowledge Platform and Community of Practice. Environmental peacebuilding integrates natural resource management with conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution, and recovery to build resilience in communities affected by conflict. The Academy is a collaborative effort of the Environmental Law Institute, UNEP, McGill University, and the University of Tokyo.

Levy has also been appointed head of the Research Focal Group of the Climate and Security Working Group, a policy network that explores the security risks posed by climate change. The network was established by the Center for Climate & Security based in Washington, D.C.


CIESIN Deputy Director to Co-Lead North American Environmental Assessment

May 1, 2015

Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, has agreed to serve as one of two co-chairs of the North American Regional Assessment for the sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) being developed by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). GEO-6 will use a regional assessment approach to create a comprehensive picture of the environmental factors contributing to human well-being and to analyze policy options for achieving environmental objectives and goals. Together with co-chair Robert Corell, Levy will help coordinate the work of more than 40 experts on the North American assessment.


East African Community Workshop Develops Climate Information Network Action Plan

May 1, 2015

Break-out group participants at PREPARED action planning workshop

CIESIN senior research associate Sandra Baptista participated in a two-day Climate Information Network Stakeholder Action Planning Workshop in Kigali, Rwanda, April 20–21. Workshop leaders used participatory methods to facilitate discussions among about 60 climate information providers and end users to formulate an action plan for a regional Climate Information Network for the East African Community (EAC) Partner States, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Baptista subsequently presented the outcomes of the workshop on April 22 at the meeting of the EAC Climate Change Technical Working Group. The workshop was organized under the auspices of the Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research, and Economic Development (PREPARED) Program funded by the US Agency for International Development East Africa Mission (USAID/East Africa).


April Brought Diverse Visitors to CIESIN

April 30, 2015

A wide range of visitors met with CIESIN staff in April. At the Columbia University Morningside campus April 13, associate directors Alex de Sherbinin and Greg Yetman and deputy director Marc Levy hosted Willie Schubert, program officer with the Earth Journalism Network (EJN). They discussed various resources useful for journalists, including Web technologies, data layers, and map tools available from CIESIN and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). On April 20, CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in a visit by Joreg Mayer-Ries from the German Ministry of the Environment, organized by the Earth Institute. The meeting included discussions about sustainability policy and science in Germany and the United States and in context of the post-2015 development agenda. Both Mayer-Ries and Chen subsequently participated in the conference, "Measuring Sustainable Development: How Can Science Contribute to Realizing the SDGs?" at German House in New York City April 23–24.

Umar Serajuddin, Emi Suzuki, and Dereje Ketema Wolde from the Development Data Group (DDG) of the World Bank visited CIESIN at the Lamont campus April 22–23 to explore collaborative activities and access population data resources from the NASA SEDAC. Suzuki gave an informal presentation April 22 on some of the DDG′s current activities on subnational data development, poverty mapping, and sustainability indicators.

Two recent visits were arranged by the Alliance Program, the academic joint-venture between Columbia and three French institutions, the École Polytechnique (EP), Sciences Po, and Panthéon-Sorbonne University. Chen, Yetman, information scientist Xiaoshi Xing, and program manager Alex Fischer met with Mathieu Le Traon, EP vice president for international relations, and two colleagues April 24 on the Morningside campus. CIESIN has hosted interns from EP for more than six years. On April 28, CIESIN hosted a delegation of five experts from the EDF group in France, led by Bernard Salha, senior executive vice president and head of EDF Research and Development, to discuss areas of potential collaboration, especially those related to urban adaptation and mitigation in response to climate change.

CIESIN also gave a briefing April 28 for several students and two faculty members from the Global Health certificate program of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia′s Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH). And on April 30, CIESIN geospatial information specialist Malanding Jaiteh hosted a visit by Lucy Waruingi, executive director of the African Conservation Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the availability and application of biodiversity data and information.


Governance of Sustainable Development Goals Explored at Arizona Workshop

April 27, 2015

For a workshop on implementing the sustainable development goals at Arizona State University in Tempe April 24–25, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave presentations on lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals experience and on the state of knowledge regarding how best to promote holistic governance. The workshop was sponsored by the Center for Law and Global Affairs at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and convened by professors Kenneth Abbott and Daniel Bodansky.


Mark Becker Remembered at New Jersey’s Ramapo College

April 23, 2015

The late Mark Becker was honored as part of the Ramapo College Remembrance Day April 22 at the college’s campus in Mahwah, New Jersey. The annual event established in 2005 memorializes individuals who made significant contributions to the college community during their lifetimes. Becker, who passed away February 26, 2014, was CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications and a member of the Ramapo School of Social Sciences faculty. A plaque with the names of those honored this year has been placed at the site of a newly planted tree in the campus Memorial Grove.

See: Ramapo College Remembrance Day


Northeast Regional Hub for Big Data Innovation Considered

April 21, 2015

Representing CIESIN, Robert Downs, senior digital archivist, participated in the Big Data Regional Innovations Hubs Charrette for the Northeast region held in Boston April 17. The charrette—an intensive, one-day design and planning workshop—is one of four sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) around the United States. The Northeast charrette convened members of the data science research community and other stakeholders to initiate a regional consortium to develop a data innovation hub in the region. Columbia's Data Science Institute is playing a lead role in the initiative.

See: Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs


Population and Displacement Focus of International Meetings

April 20, 2015

At the Nansen Initiative consultative committee meeting in Chateau de Bossey, Switzerland, April 16–17, Alex de Sherbinin, associate director of the CIESIN Science Applications Division, served as a member of the consultative committee, and associate research scientist Susana Adamo participated as an invited expert in the Central American regional consultation. The Nansen Initiative is an inter-governmental process that seeks to develop policy frameworks to protect displaced persons from disasters, recognizing that displacement from climate-related disasters is likely to grow in the future.

Earlier in the month, Adamo attended the expert group meeting, “Implications for the Global Research Agenda on Population and Development,” organized by the U.N. Population Division in New York April 10. The meeting, which featured a keynote speech by Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs, discussed global research priorities on population and development over the next 15 years. Adamo participated in breakout groups on age structure and impacts on youth, age structure and impacts on aging, and sustainable urbanization. The meeting sought to identify key knowledge gaps, recommended next steps, and ways to implement research priorities.


New Report Assesses Data Needs for Sustainable Development Goals

April 17, 2015

A major new report, “Data for Development: A Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity,” was launched at the United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC, April 17. The report, jointly authored by staff from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Open Data Watch, CIESIN, the Paris21 Secretariat, Simon Fraser University, The World Bank, and UNESCO, is intended to advance discussions on the importance of strong statistical systems and monitoring capacity in implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the potential to mobilize the “data revolution” in support of sustainable development, and the need to clearly identify resource needs, areas of investment, and modernization approaches in formulating the post-2015 development agenda. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and program manager Alex Fischer participated in the launch event, representing the CIESIN team that contributed to the report on the topic of geospatial and environmental data collection and SDG indicator development.

See: Data for Development (download PDF)


Nairobi Workshop Teaches Skills for Mapping Climate Vulnerability

April 16, 2015

CIESIN geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh led a five-day workshop on geospatial data collection and mapping at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi April 13–15. The workshop focused on training RCMRD geographic information system (GIS) technicians in the use of data collection tools and techniques and metadata documentation, in preparation for in-depth climate vulnerability mapping to be conducted in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The training workshop was organized under the auspices of the Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research, and Economic Development (PREPARED) Program funded by the US Agency for International Development East Africa Mission (USAID/East Africa).


MIT Hosts Expert Meeting on Big Data Technology and Policy

April 13, 2015

A meeting of experts, “Development, Technology and Policy in the Big Data Era,” was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 11, in conjunction with the NetMob 2015 conference. Participants, including CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, developed ideas for how to promote the necessary intellectual, institutional, policy, and legal approaches needed to ensure that the ongoing “data revolution” benefits human development. The invitation-only meeting was organized by MIT Connection Science, the Data-Pop Alliance, The World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.


Workshop Convenes Climate Data Partners

April 9, 2015

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in an invitation-only Climate Data Partnership workshop April 7 in Washington, DC. Organized by Forum One, the workshop brought together experts from government, academia, and private industry to discuss how to continue the momentum and collaboration around climate data innovators that was started by the White House Climate Data Initiative (CDI) in 2014. The CDI brings together open government data with expertise from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools at the local level, including citizen-science crowdsourcing applications and tools to optimize sustainable practices in agriculture. The workshop coincided with the launch of the human health theme of climate.data.gov, which features data, information, and decision tools designed to help citizens, businesses, non-governmental agencies, and governments better prepare for climate-related impacts on health.


Coastal Flood Risk and Protection Strategies for Jamaica Bay Analyzed

April 3, 2015

The Jamaica Bay watershed was used as a case study in a talk on quantifying the protective effects of “green” shorelines for coastal flood risk, given by CIESIN GIS programmer Kytt MacManus at the Coastal GeoTools conference March 30–April 2 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Coastal storms have led to some of the world’s most costly and deadly disasters, and hundreds of thousands of New York City residents near Jamaica Bay could be exposed to storm surges up to five meters high from a major hurricane. MacManus described an ongoing research project to evaluate the historic physical features of Jamaica Bay, model flood inundation, and develop and assess alternative scenarios of coastal development. Green approaches emphasize restoration and expansion of tidal wetlands, oyster beds, barrier beaches, and other riparian systems that can help ameliorate the impacts of severe flooding events and sea level rise. The project, Quantifying the Value and Communicating the Protective Services of Living Shorelines, is led by the Stevens Institute of Technology in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and CIESIN, and is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) program. The conference was sponsored by the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

See: Quantifying the Value and Communicating the Protective Services of Green Shorelines...(8.20 MB PDF)


CIESIN Hosts Esri Founder Jack Dangermond

April 2, 2015

Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri, visited CIESIN at the Lamont campus March 30 to discuss potential areas of cooperation and collaboration on geospatial data and services. Later in the day, more than 100 faculty, staff members, students, and geospatial experts from around New York attended his talk, “Applied Geography for a Better World,” at the Columbia University Morningside Heights campus, moderated by CIESIN director Robert Chen. Dangermond, together with his wife, Laura Dangermond, received the prestigious Audubon Medal for Environmental Leadership at the annual Audubon Gala March 31 in New York City, honoring their achievements in technology and conservation innovation and their support of research institutions, schools, and non-profit organizations. Esri is the leading provider of geographic information system (GIS) software for a wide range of environmental and business applications. CIESIN manages the Esri site license at Columbia University and has utilized Esri software in research, education, and the development of geospatial data products and services for more than two decades.


Urban Heat Stress Indicators for Philadelphia and New York City Developed

March 31, 2015

CIESIN associate director Alex de Sherbinin and Erica Zell of Battelle Memorial Institute gave a presentation March 26 on work using remote sensing data to develop indicators of urban heat stress in New York City and Philadelphia. Their presentation to a New York City inter-agency working group on urban heat islands was one of the concluding events in an 18-month project funded by NASA in support of the U.S. National Climate Assessment. The project′s goal was to develop urban heat stress and urban heat island indicators using a combination of remote sensing and socioeconomic data to meet the needs of urban policymakers and other stakeholders. The following day, de Sherbinin and Zell also described their work for Earth Institute staff at a seminar hosted by CIESIN at the Lamont campus in Palisades, New York.

See: Heat Stress and Urban Heat Island Indicators Associated with Climate Change


Living Standards across Space in the Developing World Examined in Recent Talk

March 30, 2015

Earth Institute Fellow Martina Kirchberger, who has a two-year postdoctoral appointment at CIESIN, recently gave a talk, “Measuring living standards across space in the developing world,” at the Centre for the Study of African Economies Conference 2015, held March 22-24 at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford, UK. She also participated in the iiG Conference: Improving Institutions for Growth at the same Oxford venue March 20–21. At CIESIN, Kirchberger has been investigating how transport networks and infrastructure influence mobile communication patterns and economic activity. She is also working with Terra Populus, a project led by the Minnesota Population Center that integrates household data from censuses with land cover, land use, and other environmental data.


Big Data Fest Held at New York Hall of Science

March 29, 2015

Ilyun Koh demonstrating the SEDAC Population Estimation Service to attendees of the New York Hall of Science

The New York Hall of Science (NYSci) in Queens, New York, hosted a “Big Data Fest” at the museum from 11 am to 5 pm March 28, with hands-on, interactive data experiences, and demonstrations for kids of all ages. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave a public talk, “Can Big Data Help Save Our Planet?″ and demonstrated the SEDAC Population Estimation Service throughout the day. He was joined at the CIESIN exhibit table by senior digital archivist Robert Downs, senior research associate Meredith Golden, and senior research staff assistant Ilyun Koh, who showed users how to use the Climate and Health ANalysis for Global Education Viewer (CHANGE Viewer) and the National Priorities List Superfund Footprint Mapper. CIESIN is part of a team led by NYSci that is developing “Connected Worlds,” an interactive, immersive exhibit on sustainability being installed in the Great Hall, an iconic space from the 1964 World′s Fair under renovation in conjunction with NYSci's 50th anniversary.


Earth Science Data Needs and Usability Addressed in Virginia and Maryland Meetings

March 27, 2015

Norfolk, Virginia, and Greenbelt, Maryland, were the sites of several different meetings aimed at addressing user needs for earth observation data and improving data usability and quality. On March 23 in Norfolk, associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman attended the kickoff meeting of the eighth phase of the Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP-8), an initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to test and implement connections between geospatial data and services in support of user-driven information needs. Two mapping clients and the Population Estimation Service developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN will be used in AIP-8 to demonstrate the integration of population and remote sensing data for disaster response and other applications as part of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS).

Yetman and CIESIN director Robert Chen then participated in the 4th GEOSS Science and Technology Stakeholder Network workshop in Norfolk March 24-26. Yetman chaired a plenary session, “From Data to Knowledge Sharing,”and Chen co-chaired a breakout session, “Global and Regional Observation Networks Sustainability and Capacity Building.”

Also March 24-26, senior digital archivist Robert Downs attended the annual meeting of the Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. Downs helped present the results of the Open Source working group, which he co-chairs, and also presented the poster, “Data Lifecycle Recommendations for Improving the Usability of Data Quality Information for Earth Science Data″ in support of the Data Quality working group. He also co-authored posters on the identification, provenance, and preservation of earth science data.


Opportunities for Collaboration on Geography and Statistics Discussed

March 24, 2015

Ekkehard Petri, a project manager with the Eurostat Project of the European Commission, visited CIESIN March 23 to discuss plans for the first global forum on geography and statistics and CIESIN's potential participation. The global forum will take place concurrently with the the eighth European Forum for Geography and Statistics (EFGS), to be held in Vienna November 10–12. Petri and CIESIN staff members also explored opportunities to collaborate on the development of gridded populaton data resources.


CIESIN Contributes to Scientific Capacity Discussions

March 23, 2015

CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in a meeting of the United States delegation to the Belmont Forum E-Infrastructures and Data Management Project March 17–18 in Tucson, Arizona. The Belmont Forum is an initiative by national scientific funding agencies to collaborate in addressing the challenges and opportunities of global environmental change. Chen is one of more than a dozen U.S.-based members contributing to phase 1 of the project, established in 2013 to develop proposals and plans for possible cyberinfrastructure investments and strategic science policies by the Belmont Forum members. The U.S. delegation reviewed a number of proposed collaborative research actions and discussed options for phase 2 of the project that will begin later in 2015.

March 19-20 in Washington, DC, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy attended a workshop sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), “Building Capacity in 21st Century Social Sciences.” The workshop brought together more than 30 invited experts to explore ideas for more effectively harnessing the power of the social sciences to help address high priority “grand challenges″ facing the country and the world. A key question addressed in the workshop was how the social science community can build capacity and organize itself to collectively tackle these challenges, working across disciplines and scales.


New Visitors Arrive at CIESIN

March 20, 2015

A soil moisture expert from Djibouti in East Africa, Idris Bexi Warsama, is visiting CIESIN for six weeks this spring. Bexi Warsama is an associate professor at the University of Djibouti, who has spent the past year at the University of California–Davis as a Humphrey Fellow. He earned his PhD in geophysics at the Sorbonne Paris Cité University and also studied at the University of Lyon, France. At CIESIN he will develop a climate vulnerability map for Djibouti and will help refine CIESIN training materials on vulnerability mapping.

Etienne Brugère, a masters student in the engineering school of École Polytechnique in Paris, has arrived to work with information scientist Xiaoshi Xing on a carbon monitoring database until early July. He is hosted by CIESIN under the auspices of the Alliance Program, a joint venture between Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and the Université de Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.

Two CIESIN visitors have recently completed their stays: Xiaoteng Cen from Zhejiang University and Yuanyuan Yang from Jilin University in China. Both Cen and Yang are working to complete their doctoral dissertations at their respective universities.


Spring Brings Personnel Changes to CIESIN

March 19, 2015

Emilie Schnarr has been promoted to staff associate in CIESIN's Science Applications Division. Emilie will continue to support CIESIN's work on climate vulnerability and resilience in Africa, but is also taking on new responsibilities in other research and data development activities. Currently an MS student in earth and environmental engineering at Columbia, she has a MA in climate and society from Columbia and a BS in environmental systems from the University of California–San Diego. Emilie began working at CIESIN in December 2012.

Gina Dinnegan has been promoted to administrative coordinator. Among other new responsibilities, Gina has begun supporting the Superfund Research Program (SRP) Research Translation Core (RTC). Gina joined CIESIN in November 2012 as an administrative assistant.

Working at CIESIN as a casual employee since October 2014, Mou Jian Lee has become a senior research staff assistant in the Geospatial Applications Division. He has an MPA in environmental science and policy from Columbia and a BS in natural resources from Cornell University. He will continue to primarily support data development activities, especially the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World data set.

Kimberly Peng, staff associate in the Science Applications Division, has recently transferred to the Earth Institute′s Agriculture and Food Security Center. Kimberly joined CIESIN as an intern in 2011 and later as a research assistant working on activities in Haiti and supporting the Millennium Villages project. She is currently working on the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) and will focus on AfSIS activities exclusively at the Ag Center.


Future Socioeconomic Pathways and Climate Indicators Explored in New Publications

March 18, 2015

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is a co-author of a new paper, “The Roads Ahead: Narratives for Shared Socioeconomic Pathways Describing World Futures in the 21st Century,” appearing in the journal Global Environmental Change. The paper presents qualitative descriptions of future societal development for each of the “shared socioeconomic pathways” (SSPs) that the scientific community has developed to support analysis of climate mitigation and adaptation. The five narratives in the paper describe plausible future changes in demographics, human development, economy, institutions, technology, and environment. The paper is an output of an international scenario process carried out under the auspices of the International Committee on New Integrated Climate change assessment Scenarios (ICONICS).

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director of science applications, is also a co-author of New York City Panel on Climate Change 2015 Report Chapter 6: Indicators and Monitoring, appearing in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in February. The chapter builds on an approach laid out in the 2010 New York Panel on Climate Change report, examining how to establish a climate resiliency indicator and monitoring system for New York City that is more responsive to current and future climate change.

See: “The Roads Ahead: Narratives for Shared Socioeconomic Pathways Describing World Futures in the 21st Century”
       New York City Panel on Climate Change 2015 Report Chapter 6: Indicators and Monitoring


Site Downtime on Friday, March 20

March 17, 2015

CIESIN, SEDAC, and other related Web sites such as the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) will be unavailable for about four hours on Friday, March 20, beginning at about 11:30 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), due to electrical system upgrades in the building housing our computer servers. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please contact CIESIN User Services if you have any questions or concerns.


CIESIN Staff Advise Groups around the Globe

March 16, 2015

Several staff members at CIESIN have been working in an advisory capacity with a variety of national and international organizations:

  • Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, is assisting the Transboundary Water Assessment Program (TWAP) in its final project phase with inputs on the socioeconomic content of its over-arching report, Cross-cutting Perspectives on Transboundary Waters, which looks at results across river basins, lakes, aquifers, and large marine ecosystems. He attended a meeting of the co-authors at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, March 2–3.
  • At United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, March 10–12, associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska shared her climatology expertise at a review meeting of UNEP’s CLIM-WARN (climate warning) early warning system for climate extremes, including heat waves, forest fires, floods and droughts.
  • The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado, has instituted a review panel to provide independent critical assessment and guidance on NEON's cyberinfrastructure. Sri Vinay, associate director for information technology, participated in a review workshop March 11–12 as a member of the panel. CIESIN director Robert Chen is also a member of the NEON Board, which is meeting March 19–20.
  • Deputy director Marc Levy participated in a March 5 workshop at the University of Texas, Austin, to explore initial work of a project, Complex Emergencies and Political Stability in Asia (CEPSA). Levy is a member of CEPSA′s advisory board. CEPSA is a three-year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva Initiative to understand insecurities that shape vulnerability in Asia and potential strategies to build government response capacity.
  • CIESIN director Robert Chen attended the spring meeting of the Governing Council of the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 5–6. ICPSR is an international consortium of more than 700 academic institutions and research organizations and the largest social science data archive in the world. Chen's term as one of twelve Council members extends through February 2018.

Research Data Alliance Holds Fifth Plenary in San Diego

March 13, 2015

More than 400 scientists and specialists involved in research data development and management gathered in San Diego March 8−11 for the Fifth Plenary of the Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international initiative to promote open data sharing across disciplines, borders, and technologies. CIESIN director Robert Chen co-chaired a breakout session of the RDA-CODATA Interest Group on Legal Interoperability of Research Data on March 10, reviewing a draft set of principles to address legal barriers to data sharing. CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs gave several oral presentations on data management and preservation issues and a poster on the usability of scientific data documentation. He also participated in the RDA “Adoption Day″ event at the San Diego Supercomputer Center on March. The sixth RDA plenary will be held in Paris September 23–25.

See: Research Data Alliance Fifth Plenary


Workshop to Develop Geospatial Water Quality Database for Jamaica Bay

March 9, 2015

The development of a geospatial database specific to Jamaica Bay was the subject of a workshop held March 6 at the Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education in New York City. In collaboration with Brett Branco of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY) and the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRI@JB), the workshop was led by CIESIN senior research associate Sandra Baptista, manager of data center services John Scialdone, geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff, and associate director for information technology Sri Vinay. The geospatial database will store and deliver existing water quality data sets and metadata from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service, which manages the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, an 18,000-acre wetland estuary surrounded by the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The workshop convened about 40 stakeholders working in Jamaica Bay to envision ways to use the database. These inputs will inform CIESIN’s design of the data management system for the two-year project, “Detecting Water Quality Regime Shifts in Jamaica Bay.” This activity is one of ten supported by U.S. Department of the Interior’s Hurricane Sandy Mitigation funding to advance understanding of resilience in urban coastal ecosystems, with a focus on Jamaica Bay.

See: “Detecting Water Quality Regime Shifts in Jamaica Bay”


Panel Discusses Financial Needs for Monitoring Sustainable Development

March 4, 2015

A side event, “Financial Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity Development” was held March 2 at United Nations headquarters in New York City in conjunction with the 46th meeting of the UN Statistical Commission. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and program manager Alex Fischer participated in the panel discussion, which presented preliminary results and a draft report from a project to assess needs and costs associated with monitoring the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under negotiation as part of the “post-2015” development agenda.  The side event was organized by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the World Bank, PARIS21, Open Data Watch, and CIESIN. Levy and Fischer, along with several other CIESIN staff members, are contributing to the report, which is expected to be released in final form in April as an input into the Financing For Development (FFD) conference in July 2015. 

See: Financial Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity Development
       A Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity Development


Risks to Human Security Addressed at Vancouver and London Events

March 3, 2015

Marc Levy, deputy director at CIESIN, spoke recently about threats to human security from climate change. His presentation February 26 was part of a series, “Climate Change—How Safe are You?” sponsored by the Centre for Coastal Science and Management at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Levy’s talk focused on three phenomena: the increased difficulty of regulating violence and conflict under challenging climate conditions; how efforts to manage climate change in one area can shift risks to another; and how interactions between complex linked systems can rapidly impact human security. Identifying and understanding these unsettling risks is a critical first step to managing them. 

Levy also participated in a meeting of the Taskforce on Impacts of Extreme Weather on US/UK Food Security, held February 23–25 in London.  Sponsored by the United Kingdom’s Science and Innovation Network and Global Food Security Programme, the task force brings together academic, industry, and policy stakeholders to characterize plausible large-scale risks to the world food system stemming from extreme climate phenomena.  

See: Welcome to the Pressure Cooker: How Climate Change is Making Our World More Violent and Less Secure


Using Earth Observations in Developing Sustainable Development Indicators Highlighted

March 2, 2015

photo of panelists at UN side event

The potential integration of earth observation data into the emerging set of sustainable development indicators under consideration as part of the post-2015 development agenda was the focus of a dialogue held February 27 at United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City. Moderated by CIESIN director Robert Chen, the side event included three case studies illustrating the current use of earth observations and other geospatial data in national statistical systems, water sector monitoring, and other environmental and resource applications. To help set the context, introductory remarks were given by Tatjana von Steiger Weber, minister, the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN; Barbara Ryan, executive director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO); Stefan Schweinfest, director of the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) and the UN Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) Secretariat; and Chen. More than 80 individuals attended the event, which was co-organized by Switzerland, GEO, the UN-GGIM Secretariat, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The event is one of a series of activities preceding the start of the 46th Session of the UN Statistical Commission March 3.

See: The Role of Earth Observations in Developing Indicators for the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Starting a Dialogue


Workshop Supports Planning of National Soil Information Systems in Africa

February 23, 2015

CIESIN remote sensing scientist Xue Liu, program manager Jennifer Mulvey, and research associate Kimberly Peng attended a planning workshop for phase two of the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) February 12–13 in Arusha, Tanzania. Sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the workshop included representatives from the ministries of agriculture from partner countries Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania, as well as experts from the Columbia Global Centers | Africa, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), ISRIC-World Soil Information, Quantitative Engineering Design (QED), the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and the Earth Institute. The workshop featured presentations from project partners on progress over the last 18 months, including new technologies and methodologies for continent-wide soil mapping, data collection, management, analysis, and dissemination. For each country, a working group met to determine the work-streams needed to develop their national soil information system. AfSIS is an international initiative to develop detailed digital maps of soils in 42 countries of sub-Saharan Africa in support of sustainable agriculture.

See: Africa Soil Information Service


New Earth Observation Data Project Launched in Barcelona

February 20, 2015

The kickoff meeting of a new European project, ConnectinGEO, was held in Barcelona February 18–19. Funded by the European Union, ConnectinGEO aims to help develop a European Network of Earth Observation Networks (ENEON) and to fill in key data gaps within the overall framework of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman participated in the meeting, presenting an overview of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and other CIESIN projects and resources. 

See: ConnectinGEO


Science Journalists Focus on Innovative Data and Tools

February 19, 2015

More than 50 science journalists, science communicators, scientists, and students gathered at the Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose, California, February 16–18 for the 2nd Kavli Symposium on Science Journalism. The focus of the meeting was on data mining and innovative data tools that could benefit the international community of science journalists. CIESIN associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin presented a keynote address, “Big and Open Data for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” highlighting the need for investments in monitoring and data for the SDGs, the importance of open data, and the promise and limitations of so-called “Big Data” for filling data gaps. He also highlighted the work of the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), including its task group on global roads open access data, which he leads. The symposium was organized by the Kavli Foundation and the World Federation of Science Journalists.

See: 2nd Kavli Symposium on Science Journalism


NASA Earth Science Data Centers Implement User Registration

February 16, 2015

In order to improve user experience and understanding of user demographics and needs, the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) is introducing “single sign-on” access to all EOSDIS elements, including the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The new User Registration System (URS) facilitates streamlined user registration and profile management, allowing users to take advantage of the wide array of EOSDIS data and services using a common username and profile. SEDAC is planning to implement the URS system on or around February 20, 2015. SEDAC users will be able to access SEDAC Web pages without logging in, but will need to register with URS before downloading data. User profile information is not shared outside of EOSDIS, and users are able to control which EOSDIS site or service can access the profile.

SEDAC users are welcome to register in advance here. Those who already have a URS login obtained from other EOSDIS Web sites should use their username when downloading data from the SEDAC site. Please contact SEDAC User Services if you have any questions about user registration.

See: URS Registration Information


New Report Finds SDGs Largely Improved over MDGs but Need Greater Definition

February 13, 2015

CIESIN director Robert Chen and deputy director Marc Levy are among a group of 40 authors of a new report that finds that the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a “major improvement” over the prior Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, the independent review of the 169 draft SDG targets points out that only 29% are well-defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, whereas 54% need more work and 17% are weak or non-essential. The report, which was released by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in partnership with the International Social Science Council (ISSC), noted that the language describing many of the targets was vague and that goals were often isolated from each other. The report emphasizes the need for an overarching goal to articulate the ultimate ambition of the SDGs as a whole. Levy was lead author of the review of Goal 16 on peace, justice, and accountability, and Chen co-authored a chapter on monitoring and review.

See: Report: “Review of Targets for the Sustainable Development Goals: The Science Perspective” (6.21 MB PDF)
       Supplement: Sustainable Development Goals and Targets (PDF)


NASA SEDAC User Working Group Gains New Chair and Members

February 12, 2015

Five experts have begun four-year terms with the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The new chair is Myron Gutmann, director of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado Boulder and former associate director for social, behavioral, and economics sciences at the National Science Foundation. He replaces Molly Macauley of Resources for the Future. The other new members are William Hoffman of the World Economic Forum; Theresa Pardo of the Center for Technology in Government at the State University of New York at Albany; Adam Storeygard of the Department of Economics at Tufts University; and Leah Vanwey from the Department of Sociology at Brown University. The UWG  provides strategic guidance regarding SEDAC user needs and its interdisciplinary data and services.

See: SEDAC User Working Group


Overcoming Challenges in International Activities Discussed at Earth Institute Panel

February 12, 2015

A panel of senior Columbia University administrators joined a meeting of Earth Institute (EI) researchers and practitioners on February 10 to discuss barriers and challenges in working in international settings. The event, “Practice Makes Perfect: Strengthening the Earth Institute’s Capacity to Support Sustainable Development,”  was moderated by CIESIN director Robert Chen and drew more than 30 representatives of EI centers and programs. To encourage interaction and information sharing, the participants first met in small groups to identify key questions and problems related to purchasing, contracting, hiring, emergency planning, and insurance often faced by EI projects and staff, especially in remote areas subject to a range of potential hazards. Panelists then responded to questions from each group. Columbia has developed a Global Support Web site to coordinate information and resources related to international activities, including financial, legal, and other administrative aspects. Tuesday’s panel was the second of two panels organized by the Practice Committee of the Earth Institute Faculty.

See: Columbia Global Support


NASA Webinar Highlights Updated Gridded Population Data Set

February 3, 2015

The latest version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set was the focus of a NASA EarthData Webinar on January 29, “Discover NASA’s Updated Gridded Population of the World (GPW).” More than 150 people participated in the online seminar, the highest attendance to date in the Webinar series. GPW is a widely used and cited data set that characterizes the distribution of population around the world. It is produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Geographic information specialist Erin Doxsey-Whitfield summarized the history and development of GPW, improvements to this fourth version of GPW, and ways the data have been used in research and policy applications. GIS programmer Kytt MacManus reviewed the methods used to develop GPWv4 and the data layers in the upcoming release. A question-and-answer period with the online participants followed the presentation.

See: Description: “Discover NASA’s Updated Gridded Population of the World (GPW)”
       Webinar Video


CIESIN Digital Archivist Takes Lead on NASA Earth Science Data Usability Effort

February 2, 2015

Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, has been elected chair of a NASA subgroup aimed at improving the ability of earth science data users to assess the quality and usability of data distributed by the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The usability subgroup is part of the Data Quality Working Group, one of the NASA Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG) that provide expert advice, solve problems, and improve efficiency in support of EOSDIS. Downs remains vice chair of the ESDSWG on Open Source and until recently served as vice chair of the ESDSWG on Software Reuse.


UN Meeting Examines Policy Integration Related to Sustainable Development Goals

January 30, 2015

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in an expert group meeting January 28–29 on the topic of policy integration in government in pursuit of the SDGs (sustainable development goals). The international development community is working to establish a new set of SDGs, building on progress in meeting the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. A key issue is the ability of governments, especially those in low- and middle-income countries, to develop and implement integrated administrative policies and procedures to enable and support sustainable development. Organized by the Division for Public Administration and Development Management of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the expert meeting took place at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City.


Population in the Post-2015 Development Agenda Addressed by UN Expert Panel

January 23, 2015

An expert panel, “Population, sustainable development, and the post-2015 development agenda,” was held January 22 at United Nations headquarters in New York. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a presentation on population dynamics, the environment, and climate change, including an overview of relevant CIESIN work on population, migration, vulnerability, adaptation, and indicator development. The expert panel was organized by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in preparation for the forty-eighth session of the Commission on Population and Development.

See: UN Web TV (starting at about 2 hours, 10 minutes)


CIESIN Reflects on Haiti Five Years after the Earthquake

January 14, 2015

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and Haiti program manager Alex Fischer shared their insights on progress, innovation, and challenges in Haiti, five years after the earthquake that destroyed large portions of Haiti′s capital city, Port-au-Prince, and crippled the country. Levy participated in a panel discussion on Al-Jazeera America, in which he shared views on how to overcome the persistent elements of fragility in Haiti. Fischer and Levy published an op-ed piece at Time.com arguing that Haiti shouldn’t lose momentum towards a modern e-Governance system utilizing spatial data-driven investment planning tools for their development policies. Fischer has also spoken with NHK World in Japan about elements of national progress towards reconstruction and challenges to stability.

When the earthquake occurred on January 12, 2010, both Levy and Fischer were attending meetings with United Nations personnel in Port-au-Prince, as part of an effort begun in 2008 to support watershed monitoring and poverty and infrastructure mapping in the country. They have returned to Haiti on many occasions since.

See: CIESIN Haiti Geoportal


Remote Sensing Scientist Joins Science Applications Division

January 13, 2015

Xue Liu, a scientist with more than 15 years of experience in remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS), has joined CIESIN′s Science Applications Division. Liu will help develop data systems and services for global and African digital soil mapping projects, and contribute to other geoinformatics and cyberinfrastructure activities in soil science, agricultural development, and related areas. He comes to CIESIN from I.M. Systems Group in Rockville, Maryland, where he worked on remote sensing, GIS, and decision support applications. He has also served as a visiting research associate professor with Chapman University and a senior research scientist with the Center for Earth Observing & Space Research at George Mason University. He received his PhD in photogrammetry and remote sensing from Wuhan University.


Earth Science Data and Information Community Meets in DC

January 9, 2015

Senior digital archivist Robert Downs and John Scialdone, manager of data center services, attended the Winter 2015 meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP Federation) held January 6–8 in Washington, DC. Downs presented two papers, “A Scientific Data Center Perspective on Publishing Data” and “Eliciting Knowledge on Science Software Sustainability from the Earth Science Informatics Community.”  He also presented the poster, ”Enabling Ongoing Access to Data Products and Services When Dependencies are No Longer Supported,” and was a co-presenter on another poster, “Human & Machine Actionable Data Citations.” In conjunction with the meeting, Downs participated in the board meeting of the Foundation for Earth Science as an elected ESIP representative. Scialdone represented the NASA Socioeconomic and Data Applications Center (SEDAC), a “Type 1” Federation member, during the Federation business meeting.


Scientific Data as a National Asset Emphasized in EOS Article

January 6, 2015

Senior digital archivist Robert Downs is one of the co-authors of a Forum contribution, “Realizing the Value of a National Asset: Scientific Data.” Published December 16, 2014 in EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, the article summarizes the conclusions and recommendations of discussions organized by the ESIP Federation since January 2013, including workshops held at the July 2013 and January 2014 ESIP Federation meetings. A key recommendation of the authors is the establishment of a U.S. National Research Council study on grand data challenges in the earth sciences, aimed at setting priorities for scientific data management and examining sustainable economic models for scientific data infrastructure.

See: “Realizing the Value of a National Asset: Scientific Data”


New Lead for CIESIN′s Science Applications Division

January 5, 2015

CIESIN is pleased to announce the appointment of Alex de Sherbinin as the new associate director for science applications, effective January 1. Since joining CIESIN in October 1999, de Sherbinin has played key roles in a range of CIESIN projects and activities on topics including population dynamics, climate vulnerability mapping, climate change and migration, environmental indicators, and remote sensing applications. He continues to serve as the deputy manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN and to co-lead the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN). He holds a PhD from the faculty of geo-information science and Earth observation (ITC) at the University of Twente, the Netherlands. He takes over leadership of the Science Applications Division from CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. The division includes more than a dozen scientific staff and visiting scholars spanning a wide range of disciplines and analytic skills.

See: Alex de Sherbinin Biography