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

2017 News & Events Subscribe to CIESIN News

Archives: 2007 and older
Scientific Data and Tools Highlighted at New York-Area Events

Fri Apr 28 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN staff at an Earth Day Fair at St. Thomas Aquinas College

CIESIN data and information resources were featured at several recent community events in the greater New York metropolitan area focused on science and the environment. At the St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) campus in Orangeburg, New York, April 26, senior digital archivist Robert Downs, senior research staff assistants Olena Borkovska and John Squires, and information scientist Xiaoshi Xing staffed a CIESIN booth as part of an Earth Day Fair for STAC students and K-12 attendees from nearby schools. The booth included a poster on the concept of map projections, a projection puzzle to engage students in hands-on learning, and a multimedia “story map” about the evolution and use of CIESIN's gridded population data products over the past twenty years. The fair was jointly organized by STAC and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Later that evening, senior research associate Pinki Mondal joined other female science professionals at the 4th Annual Women in Science Night, hosted by the East Side Community High School in the East Village area of New York City. In breakout sessions that followed a panel discussion, Mondal interacted with young women students interested in science careers, discussing her current research using remote sensing to assess how food crops respond to changing patterns of temperature/rainfall in India and how mangrove forests are changing in West Africa.

Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, New York, was the venue for the 2017 Long Island GIS User Conference, which senior research staff assistants Alyssa Fico and Jane Mills attended, also on April 26. Fico and Mills gave a presentation, “Building Data for Climate Change Adaptation,” describing the Hudson River Flood Impact Decision Support System mapping tool in the context of challenges posed by climate change. The mapping tool was also presented at an April 27 event, “Hudson River on the Rise: Waterfront Planning for Communities and Nature,” at the Henry A. Wallace Center of the FDR Presidential Library and Home in Hyde Park, New York. GIS programmer Kytt MacManus, who coordinated development of the tool for CIESIN, spoke about how the tool could be valuable in resiliency planning to an audience of about 200 Hudson Estuary riverfront stakeholders, including municipal officials, community leaders, landowners, planners, resource managers, regulators, developers, and private sector professionals.

See: Building Data for Climate Change Adaptation (presentation, 2.04 MB PDF)
       4th Annual Women in Science Night (642 KB PDF)

SEDAC User Working Group Welcomes New Members

Fri Apr 21 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Four new members have joined the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN: Shaida Baidee of Open Data Watch; Douglas Comer of Cultural Site Research and Management, Inc. (CSRM); Dave Jones of StormCenter Communications, Inc.; and Lea Shanley of the South Big Data Innovation Hub. Baidee is co-founder and managing director of Open Data Watch, a non-governmental organization focused on monitoring and promoting open development data, and she previously served as director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group. Comer is an expert on remote sensing applications in archaeology, and is currently president of the International Scientific Committee for Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM). Jones is Chief Executive Officer, President, and Founder of StormCenter Communications, bringing to bear decades of experience in remote sensing, meteorology, and broadcasting, involving both the private and public sectors. Shanley recently became co-Executive Director of the South Big Data Innovation Hub funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, after working on a range of geospatial technology and policy issues in government and academia in Washington DC. Chaired by Myron Gutmann of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado, the UWG provides guidance to SEDAC on user needs and priorities for data and services and helps SEDAC improve data quality and usability in both research and applications.

See: SEDAC User Working Group

Meeting in Grenoble Examines Opportunities for Data Initiatives in Africa

Fri Apr 14 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The World Data System (WDS) of the International Council for Science (ICSU), in collaboration with the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and the Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers de Grenoble (OSUG) and with support from the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), hosted a two-day exploratory meeting April 12–13 in Grenoble, France. The meeting, Data Initiatives in Africa—Opportunities and Challenges for Research and Sustainable Development, highlighted different data initiatives taking place in Africa, including those led by the IRD; presented the work of the WDS; and explored how the WDS might support development of data networks and the certification of data repositories. Two projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were included among the presentations at the meeting. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a lightning talk on SERVIR West Africa, a joint venture between NASA and the USAID for which CIESIN serves as a subcontractor. SERVIR provides state-of-the-art, satellite-based earth monitoring data, geospatial information, and tools to help improve environmental decision-making in developing nations. Kenan Mogultay of the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change project (WA-BiCC), a five-year USAID-supported project which CIESIN also supports, described preliminary efforts to set up a clearinghouse mechanism for environmental data in West Africa.

See: Data Initiatives in Africa – Opportunities and Challenges for Research and Sustainable Development

Geographers from around the Globe Gather in Boston

Mon Apr 10 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Alex de Sherbinin (left) and Dara Mendeloff (right)

The 2017 annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) drew more than 9,000 geographers, spatial data experts, and other scientists and scholars from around the world to Boston April 5–9 to focus on the latest in research and applications in geography, sustainability, and geographic information science. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a presentation on mapping and modeling climate change migration, and served as a panelist in two separate sessions on environmental migration. Geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff presented a poster on the Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2014) data set to be released in the near future by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. As part of the Symposium on Human Dynamics in Smart and Connected Communities: Methods and Practices for Estimating Gridded Global Population held April 7, Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, described the High Resolution Settlement Layer (HRSL) data developed with Facebook’s Connectivity Lab. Haibin Xia of East China Normal University, who is visiting CIESIN this year, chaired a session on remote sensing techniques for understanding populations and culture and presented “The Spatial Distribution and Change of Chinese Population with Agent-based GIS” in this session. 

See: 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (Program)
       Mapping and Modeling the Flow of Climate Change Migrants” (Presentation, 4.8 mb PDF)

Data Infrastructures for Open Science Focus of Barcelona Meeting

Fri Apr 07 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs joined more than 600 data science researchers, scholars, librarians, and technologists in Barcelona, Spain, April 5–7 at the 9th Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA). During the poster session, Downs presented “Evaluating and Documenting Interdisciplinary Data to Support Research and Applications,” co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen, and “Creative Commons Licensing of Gridded Population of the World Version 4 (GPWv4) Data at SEDAC,” co-authored with Chen and Rina Pantalony of the Copyright Advisory Office of the Columbia University Libraries. SEDAC is the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center managed by CIESIN. Downs was a co-convener for the proposed Data Versioning Interest Group session on data versioning, and gave a presentation on scientific data versioning at SEDAC. As a co-chair of the RDA Interest Group on Repository Platforms for Research Data (RPRD) Interest Group, he co-convened the group′s April 7 session, “IG Repository Platforms for Research Data,” at which he presented “Selection of FEDORA with VITAL as a Digital Repository Platform for Preserving Scientific Data.”

See: Research Data Alliance 9th Plenary Meeting

A Day Devoted To Data Science: CIESIN Mapping Tools Featured

Wed Apr 05 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN staff demonstrate mapping tool AdaptMap at Data Science Day, April 5, Columbia University

Nearly 700 people from industry, government, and academia visited Columbia University′s Lerner Hall for the third Data Science Day organized by the university′s Data Science Institute. Two CIESIN mapping tools were demonstrated at the event, AdaptMap and the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool. CIESIN senior research associate Sandra Baptista, programmers Jim Carcone and Kytt MacManus, and research assistant Jane Mills, together with Danielle Alexander, a graduate student in Earth and Environmental Sciences at CUNY Brooklyn College, interacted with visitors, demonstrating how these data-enabled tools can be used to support decision making related to water quality and sea level rise in Jamaica Bay.

AdaptMap was developed by CIESIN with partners at the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Wildlife Conservation Society, with support from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool was created by CIESIN and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, with inputs from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service and support from the U.S. Department of the Interior via the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay.

Later in the day, MacManus presented another mapping tool, the Hudson River Flood Impacts Decision Support System (HRFIDSS), at the Land Use Institute, a training event for municipal planners to learn about sea level rise and other land use issues. The Institute was organized by the Westchester Municipal Planning Federation in White Plains, New York. HRFIDSS was developed with support from the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

See: New Mapping Tools Support Environmental Decision Making for Jamaica Bay

Indicators for Natural Resource Protection and Child Health Updated

Tue Apr 04 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN recently released the 2016 update of the Natural Resource Protection and Child Health Indicators (NRPI-CHI), a data collection that supports the use of selection criteria to determine low-income countries’ eligibility for development assistance from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). For the past ten years, CIESIN has updated the NRPI-CHI annually as part of a diverse basket of indicators used by the MCC. To receive MCC funding, countries must perform above the median for low-income countries on a high proportion of indicators in three categories considered instrumental to good governance: ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom. The Natural Resource Protection Indicator (NRPI) and Child Health Indicator (CHI) are based on proximity-to-target scores ranging from 0 to 100 (at target). Each country is measured in terms of how close it gets to the target, which is defined for the NRPI as 17% coverage of terrestrial land area weighted by biome (the so-called Aichi Target of the Convention on Biological Diversity), and for the CHI as 100% coverage for access to water and sanitation, and child mortality levels that are equivalent to the highest performing country. The 2016 release includes a consistent time series of NRPI scores for 2012 to 2016 and CHI scores for 2010 to 2016.

See: Natural Resource Protection Indicator (NRPI) and the Child Health Indicator (CHI), 2016 Release
       MCC Selection Indicators Overview
       Guide to Indicators 2017

Shanghai Delegation Explores Collaboration on Geographic Education and Urban Remote Sensing

Mon Apr 03 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Delegation from East China Normal University in Shanghai, with John Konarski of the American Geographical Society and CIESIN and Lamont staff

A delegation from the School of Geographic Sciences at East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai visited CIESIN March 31 to discuss collaboration on geography education and urban remote sensing applications. During the morning session, Yushan Duan, professor of geography, gave a presentation on the state of geography education in China, including the recent introduction of high school geography curriculum standards. John Konarski, chief executive officer of the American Geographical Society (AGS), summarized the development of the Advanced Placement exam in human geography and a new exam under development on geographic information systems and technologies. The group then discussed potential areas of collaboration between ECNU, AGS, and CIESIN, including training opportunities and exchange of teaching materials.

In the afternoon session, Bailang Yu, professor of geography and associate dean, described his work on analyzing urban structure and urbanization processes using night-time lights data. Lamont research professor Christopher Small joined the meeting, presenting his latest research on urbanization and population distribution using night-time lights data. Robert Chen, CIESIN director, and Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, summarized CIESIN's ongoing activities related to population mapping and modeling, including efforts to coordinate the international community involved in developing geospatial data on human settlements, infrastructure, and population.

The ECNU delegation included seven graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. On April 1, CIESIN hosted the delegation at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York, where they were able to experience the Connected Worlds immersive installation that CIESIN helped to develop. The delegation subsequently traveled to Boston to participate in the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers April 5–9, where they had the opportunity to meet with Marie Price, AGS president; Alexander Murphy, senior vice president; and Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications. CIESIN′s collaborative relationship with the School of Geographic Sciences was launched in mid-2016, on issues related to geographic science, education, and applications. CIESIN is currently hosting visitor Haibin Xia from the School for one year.

Responsible Land Governance Focus of World Bank Conference

Sat Mar 25 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference tackled the theme, “Responsible Land Governance: Towards an Evidence-Based Approach,” March 20–24 in Washington, D.C. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy chaired a session, “Reducing the Risks of Agribusiness Investment,” and also gave the presentation, “A Cost-Effective Approach to Meeting Data Needs for Multi-Purpose Land Governance in Africa,” in the session, “Using Remotely-sensed Data to Improve Land Use Efficiency.″ The presentation, co-authored with senior research scientist Markus Walsh, drew on examples from the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) to show how a portfolio approach to data technology can generate more value than focusing on one data technology at a time. Levy leads CIESIN's participation in AfSIS; Walsh is its chief scientist. The Land and Poverty conference attracted more than 1,200 participants from government, academia, civil society, and the private sector from around the world involved in the land sector.

See: Land and Poverty Conference 2017 Agenda
       A Cost-Effective Approach to Meeting Data Needs...(6 MB PPTX)

NASA Earth Science Data Experts Meet in Annapolis

Fri Mar 24 00:00:00 EDT 2017

NASA scientists, data managers, and data product and service developers met in Annapolis, Maryland, March 21–23 for the annual meeting of the Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG). Robert Downs, senior digital archivist for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, participated in the meeting and presented the poster, “Improving the Quality of Scientific Data throughout the Data Lifecycle: A Case Study.“ Downs has contributed to ESDSWG activities since its inception in 2004, focusing recently on data quality and software reuse and citation. The annual meeting serves as a venue for reporting on the progress and results of topical working group activities during the past year and for planning new activities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of NASA's Earth science data systems and the use of NASA data to support research, applications, and education.

Improving Sustainability through Voluntary Certification and Big Data

Wed Mar 22 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Two recent publications address ways to improve sustainability through voluntary certification of commodities and through development of “big data” approaches. The paper, “Is voluntary certification of tropical agricultural commodities achieving sustainability goals for small-scale producers?: A review of the evidence,” was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. University Professor Ruth DeFries of the Columbia University Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B) authored the paper together with CIESIN research associate Pinki Mondal and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, and Biodiversity International. The paper finds that that voluntary certification programs can help communities meet sustainable development goals, but are not a panacea for improving smallholder income or social outcomes.

A special issue of the Renewable Resources Journal features a report on the 2016 Congress on Harnessing Big Data for the Environment, including a summary of the presentations by invited speakers. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave one of the plenary talks at the Washington DC meeting, focusing on the challenges of harnessing the rapidly growing deluge of environmental and socioeconomic data to support monitoring and decision making related to sustainable development. The Congress and the special issue were organized by the Renewable Natural Resources Federation (RNRF), a consortium of organizations advancing science, education, and applications in managing and conserving renewable natural resources. Videos of speaker presentations are available here.

See: Is voluntary certification of tropical agricultural commodities... (0.8 MB PDF)
       Renewable Resources Journal issue (1.3 MB PDF)

Students Learn About Local Water Quality at Intrepid Museum Event

Mon Mar 13 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN table at the Girls in Science and Engineering Day March 11 at the Intrepid Museum

CIESIN senior research associate Sandra Baptista and geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff participated in the fifth annual Girls in Science and Engineering Day at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City March 11. Educational organizations, students, and professionals engaged more than 1,600 visitors with hands-on activities and demonstrations highlighting science, technology, engineering, art, and math. To promote better understanding of local water quality issues, Baptista and Mendeloff demonstrated the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool as well as a range of instruments used to collect data on water quality, including a Niskin bottle, a Secchi disk, and a multi-parameter sonde.

Panel Discusses HBO Reports on Climate Change and Displacement

Fri Mar 10 00:00:00 EST 2017

The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center in New York was the venue March 8 for an advance screening of Episode 57 of HBO′s VICE News Tonight. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy served on a panel that discussed the episode′s two video segments, “When the Earth Melts,″ and “The Displaced,″ and the connections between their subjects of climate change and refugees. Moderated by Bev Chase, supervising producer at VICE on HBO, the panel included two of the episode producers together with Levy and Ninette Kelley, New York director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The event was organized by VICE Media and New America.

See: Episode 57: When the Earth Melts & The Displaced

International Challenge Launched on Data for Climate Action

Thu Mar 09 00:00:00 EST 2017

An open international challenge has been established to demonstrate how data-driven innovation can enable new ways to address climate change. The Data for Climate Action Challenge seeks to harness data science and big data from the private sector to generate new solutions that can help communities respond to climate change and increase their resilience and sustainability. Organized by UN Global Pulse in partnership with Western Digital Corporation, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, and a diverse set of private sector contributors, the Challenge will provide data scientists, researchers, and other innovators with access to unique data and resources as a testbed for new analytic approaches and tools. Applications to participate are due April 10, and winners will be announced in November 2017. CIESIN director Robert Chen is one of the strategic advisors to the Challenge.

See: Data for Climate Action Challenge Announcement

Experiences in Teaching Environmental Peacebuilding Shared

Fri Mar 03 00:00:00 EST 2017

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy joined a panel on the teaching of environmental peacebuilding at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association February 21‒24 in Baltimore, Maryland. During the roundtable discussion, Levy reflected on lessons learned from his experience in offering environmental security courses over the past two decades. Levy is an adjunct professor in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, where he teaches graduate courses on environment-security linkages. He also co-directs Columbia’s Certificate Program in Environment, Peace and Security. Founded in 1959, the International Studies Association is one of the oldest interdisciplinary associations dedicated to understanding international, transnational, and global affairs.

See: International Studies Association Annual Convention 2017

Experts Consider How to Measure the Impact of Digital Repositories

Thu Mar 02 00:00:00 EST 2017

Data repository managers, digital resource project leaders, and representatives from several Federal agencies met at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, February 28 and March 1 to take part in the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD) Big Data Workshop: Measuring the Impact of Digital Repositories. CIESIN's senior digital archivist, Robert Downs, served on an initial panel of repository managers who discussed issues, tools, and methodologies for measuring the impact of digital repositories. He gave a presentation on “Measuring the Impact of a Scientific Data Center,” briefly highlighting efforts over many years by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to track scientific citations of its data. The workshop sought to identify current metrics, tools, and practices for assessing and communicating the impact of digital repositories; technical, social, and financial obstacles; and research topics designed to advance the creation and adoption of high quality evaluation criteria.

See: Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD) Big Data Workshop

New Mapping Tools Support Environmental Decision Making for Jamaica Bay

Mon Feb 27 00:00:00 EST 2017

Left side of image shows screenshot of Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool, right side shows screenshot of Adaptmap

Jamaica Bay in New York is a vital natural resource for the New York metropolitan area that is facing a range of human and environmental stresses. CIESIN recently released two interactive mapping tools aimed at helping decision makers and the general public better understand and manage these stresses: AdaptMap and the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool.

AdaptMap demonstrates how sea level rise may worsen storm-driven flooding in the Jamaica Bay watershed. Users may view future flood adaptation scenarios to see how potential flooding might be reduced, and examine the costs and benefits of alternative adaptation measures. To provide historical context, AdaptMap includes past landscapes for the years 1609 and 1877, with associated historic flood zones, and portrays landscape changes over time. AdaptMap was developed by CIESIN with partners at the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Wildlife Conservation Society, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The research team found that changes to the surrounding landscape since the 1870s have made the Bay more susceptible to flooding. They used this knowledge in developing nature-based adaptation approaches for reducing future flooding. The AdaptMap tool provides download access to underlying data sets, storm animations, and documentation, along with the ability to interactively visualize historic, present day, and potential future flooding. 

The Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool enables users to explore, visualize, and download water quality data and metadata for Jamaica Bay. It centralizes access to water quality data to facilitate research and education and to improve resource management and resilience in Jamaica Bay and the surrounding communities. CIESIN created the tool in collaboration with Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, with extensive stakeholder input and user testing. The water quality data sets were provided by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service. The U.S. Department of the Interior supported the project as part of Hurricane Sandy Mitigation Funding awarded to the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay.

See: Introduction to AdaptMap
       About the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Database

Earth Imagery Platform for Impact Launched at Seattle Summit

Fri Feb 24 00:00:00 EST 2017

More than 100 experts and stakeholders from around the world met February 21–23 at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle to participate in and advise on the launch of Radiant, an initiative to develop a unique geospatial and imagery platform to help address the developing world’s greatest social, economic and environmental challenges. Established by the Omidyar Network and BMGF as the Open Imagery Network in August 2016, Radiant seeks to promote open access to geospatial data, support knowledge transfer and analytical tools for global development practitioners, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship worldwide. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the Thought Leaders Summit, chairing two breakout sessions with participants from academia and consulting organizations. Radiant seeks to build upon existing open repositories of Earth observations and other geospatial data, and to capture and integrate rapidly expanding sources of imagery in support of sustainable development.

Dartmouth College Radio Show Interviews CIESIN Demographer

Fri Feb 17 00:00:00 EST 2017

In addition to sudden natural disasters such as hurricanes or flash floods, slow-moving climate change events such as drought can cause displacement and migration, explains CIESIN research scientist and demographer Susana Adamo in an interview for the radio show, “The Briefing Powered by Dartmouth,“ broadcast on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121. Speaking with the host, Mike Mastanduno, Dartmouth College dean of faculty and an expert in international relations, Adamo discusses current research and concerns about climate change and human migration. The program is airing Saturday, February 18, at 8 am EST with re-broadcasts February 19 at 6 am and 7 pm. “The Briefing” is a new weekly satellite radio show that aims to provide historical and factual perspectives on the week’s news. To hear an excerpt from Adamo’s interview, go here.

See: “The Briefing Powered by Dartmouth”—Sirius XM weekly schedule
       (Non-subscribers may create a free trial account)

Role of Population Data in Monitoring Sustainable Development Discussed at Esri FedGIS Conference

Wed Feb 15 00:00:00 EST 2017

Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, joined more than 4,000 federal geospatial technology professionals at the 2017 Esri FedGIS Conference, “GIS–Improving Our Nation,” February 13–14 in Washington, D.C. He gave an invited presentation, “Population Data for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” as part of the session, “GIS Data for the SDGs.” His presentation focused on the implications of using different population data sets for developing indicators linked to the SDGs, which were adopted by the international community in September 2015. Drawing on recent discussions at an expert meeting on geospatial settlement, infrastructure, and population data organized by CIESIN February 1–3, Yetman highlighted differences among several global population distribution data sets to illustrate the issues surrounding the selection of input data sets in developing indicators for any of the SDGs. 

See: “GIS–Improving Our Nation” (Esri FedGIS Conference)

“Behind the Scenes″ Tour of Connected Worlds Exhibit Given

Mon Feb 13 00:00:00 EST 2017

Located at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in Queens, Connected Worlds is the world′s largest immersive digital museum exhibition, developed by NYSCI in partnership with Design I/O and CIESIN. The unique installation engages children of all ages in active play and learning about sustainability concepts in six imaginary interlinked biomes. On February 12, the NYSCI president, Margaret Honey, hosted a special behind the scenes tour of Connected Worlds for members of the President′s Council. CIESIN director Robert Chen joined NYSCI chief scientist Steven Uzzo and Design I/O computer artist Theo Watson in describing the science and creative process behind the exhibit, as well as the challenges in implementing a robust and working system that is also engaging. Chen underscored the importance of educating the next generation of students to think systematically and sustainably, and highlighted several online tools developed by CIESIN aimed at helping decision makers and the public deal with complex environmental issues in the real world. Participants in the tour then had a chance to experience Connected Worlds for themselves, including the new digitally-projected “Living Library″ that serves as an interactive users' manual for the exhibit. Last fall, the Connected Worlds exhibit won the 2016 Science Media Award in the Interactive category, awarded by Jackson Hole WILD and WGBH Boston.

Data Rescue, Data Integration, and Land Use Change Highlighted in New Publications

Thu Feb 09 00:00:00 EST 2017

CIESIN staff members and a former visitor have authored several new papers on diverse topics. Senior digital archivist Robert Downs and director Robert Chen are co-authors of the chapter, “Curation of Scientific Data at Risk of Loss: Data Rescue and Dissemination,” in the book, Curating Research Data Volume One: Practical Strategies for Your Digital Repository. They document efforts by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to rescue data from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a major international assessment of the world′s ecosystems, conducted 2001–2005. The book is edited by Lisa Johnston and published by the American Library Association.

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, has authored the chapter, “Remote Sensing and Socioeconomic Data Integration: Lessons from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center,” in the CRC Press book, Integrating Scale in Remote Sensing and GIS. The chapter highlights a range of examples in which remote sensing data have been combined with other environmental and socioeconomic data to produce new products designed to support both interdisciplinary research and applications.

Information scientist Xiaoshi Xing and de Sherbinin are co-authors of an article on historical land use change in China published in Nature Scientific Reports. The lead author, Yuanyuan Yang of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, visited CIESIN in 2013‒2014 while a doctoral student in land use management at Jilin University in China. The article describes a spatially-explicit modeling framework for reconstructing historical land use change in Zhenlai County in northeastern China.

Experts on Geospatial Settlement, Infrastructure, and Population Data Gather at Columbia

Fri Feb 03 00:00:00 EST 2017

Participants at a meeting on settlements, infrastructure, and population data, Lamont campus, February 2.

Understanding where people live and where their buildings and other infrastructure are located is critical to improving health care and other essential services, reducing vulnerability to hazards, expanding access to markets, and supporting other aspects of sustainable development. Numerous public and private sector organizations around the world are working to produce geospatial data on human settlements, the built infrastructure, and population distribution, drawing on a growing array of data sources including satellite-based radar, night-time light sensors, and high-resolution imagery. Following up on an initial meeting held at SciDataCon 2016 in Denver last fall, CIESIN invited more than 25 experts from academia, private companies, international organizations, and development agencies to the Columbia University Lamont campus in Palisades, New York, February 1–2 to compare methods, explore opportunities to collaborate, and assess how to make data more usable for a range of applications. The group then met February 3 on the Morningside campus with more than 15 representatives of stakeholder organizations, to identify user needs and priorities from the perspective of United Nations agencies, development organizations, funders, and other interested parties.

Participants in the meeting agreed to collaborate on an intercomparison study in Nigeria, to improve understanding about the advantages and limitations of different settlement, infrastructure, and population data sets and their appropriateness for different applications. There was also strong support for efforts to better coordinate data access and documentation, improve consistency and transparency of data and methods, and share data, computing resources, and expertise. Recognition is clearly growing among users and other stakeholders of the importance of these data as an essential foundation for monitoring and decision making with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and as a unique resource to enable better integration of data across boundaries, time periods, and the public and private sectors.

The meeting was supported by a Cross-Cutting Initiative grant from the Earth Institute and by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Participants included experts from Facebook, Google Earth Engine, Esri, ImageCat, the European Commission's Joint Research Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the World Bank, the WorldPop project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management, and several different universities in the United States, United Kingdom, and China.

Benefits of Investing in Data Repositories Examined

Sat Jan 28 00:00:00 EST 2017

The return on investment (ROI) of scientific data repositories was the subject of a workshop at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, January 25‒26. Representatives from a diverse group of repositories participated in the workshop, including Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist. Participants examined current approaches for evaluating the ROI of scientific data repositories, and explored potential methodologies for measuring and reporting the ROI in various settings. Downs gave presentations on approaches for measuring the value of scientific data centers and evaluating their impact, drawing on CIESIN′s long experience in operating the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). The workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Enhancing Disaster Decision Making Addressed in Philadelphia Workshop

Sat Jan 28 00:00:00 EST 2017

When major storms or other extreme events occur, key organizations such as emergency management and utilities, transportation, and communication networks must mobilize quickly to activate and position resources and make a range of decisions to ensure public safety, reduce the severity of impacts, and improve recovery times. Representatives of a diverse set of Federal, state, and local agencies, public and private utilities, and other business groups met January 26 in Philadelphia for the second Data Driven Decision Making (D3M) workshop, held to examine how improved access to diverse earth science and socioeconomic data could help improve disaster decisionmaking in specific use cases related to flooding, power restoration, and regional situational awareness. During the meeting, CIESIN director Robert Chen gave presentations on a range of decision support tools and data sets relevant to these use cases, including the Hazards Mapper and HazPop mobile app available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), as well as data on building footprints, critical infrastructure, impervious surfaces, and social vulnerability. CIESIN is working with StormCenter Communications, Inc. to incorporate the SEDAC Population Estimation Service into StormCenter′s GeoCollaborate tool, which provides a disaster data Daily Dashboard for the Fleet Response Working Group (FRWG). The FRWG is a public-private working group of the All Hazards Consortium (AHC), co-organizer of the D3M workshops with the ESIP Federation.

Scenarios of Future Population Distribution To Be Developed

Fri Jan 27 00:00:00 EST 2017

CIESIN, in collaboration with the City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Demographic Research and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), has begun an innovative modelling project for the World Bank that aims to develop scenarios of future population distribution taking into account climate impacts in key socioeconomic sectors. The project will contribute to the World Bank report, “Climate Change, Migration and Securing Resilience: An Evidence-Based Approach for Action,” to be published in late 2017. The work builds on existing spatial population projections that do not incorporate climate impacts. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, is co-leading the project. He travelled to Washington DC January 25–26 to participate in the project kickoff meeting at the World Bank.

While in DC, de Sherbinin also joined food security experts for the January 26 panel, “Ending Famines, Creating Food Security, and Fostering Thriving Livelihoods in a Changing World,” sponsored by Tetra Tech and the Wilson Center Environmental Change and Security Program. Panelists offered insights on innovative initiatives to increase food security and bolster resilience to climate-related disasters in the world’s food insecurity hotspots. Comments by de Sherbinin focused on the use of geospatial data and analytics to study the factors contributing to past crises, to address crises as they unfold, and to build resilience for the future.

Development Data Experts Gather in Cape Town

Fri Jan 20 00:00:00 EST 2017

CIESIN director Robert Chen (left) with Talip Kilic senior economist, Development Data Group, The World Bank

The first United Nations World Data Forum brought together more than 1,000 experts on sustainable development data and monitoring from approximately 100 countries to Cape Town, South Africa, January 15–18 to consider data challenges and opportunities associated with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the international community in September 2015, significant improvements are needed in the breadth, quality, and timeliness of a diverse set of socioeconomic and environmental data and indicators, not only to support monitoring of the SDGs, but also to facilitate effective sustainable development decision-making from local to global scales. With this in mind, the UN Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development (IEAG) recommended the establishment of the World Data Forum in its 2014 report, A World That Counts. CIESIN director Robert Chen, who served as a member of the IEAG, was invited by the UN Statistics Division to join the Forum’s Programme Committee in July 2016. He coordinated more than six different sessions dealing with open data principles, technical standards and best practices, applications of geospatial and remote sensing data, and development of new data tools and services. He also gave a presentation on legal interoperability of data, based on the work of the Legal Interoperability Interest Group of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) and Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), which he co-chairs.

The Forum also served as a venue for several side events and activities. On January 19, Chen participated in the Third UN Data Innovation Lab workshop, organized by the UN World Food Programme and UN Global Pulse. He gave a presentation to mid-career staff from various UN and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on CIESIN′s partnership with Facebook and the World Bank in developing new high resolution settlement layer (HRSL) data, and ongoing efforts to develop a broader “data collaborative″ for georeferenced population, settlement, and infrastructure data. Chen also participated in January 15 and 19 meetings of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), a global network of governments, NGOs, and businesses working together to mobilize data in support of sustainable development. CIESIN is an Anchor Partner of the GPSDD and also works closely with other members such as the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

The UN World Data Forum was hosted by Statistics South Africa at the Cape Town International Convention Center. The next Forum will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates in 2018.

See: Earth Negotiation Bulletin coverage of the UN World Data Forum

January Meeting Strengthens Ties Between Diverse Communities

Sat Jan 14 00:00:00 EST 2017

The Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) held its winter meeting January 11–13 in Bethesda, Maryland, bringing together a diverse group of producers, managers, distributors, and users of earth science data around the theme, “Strengthening the Ties Between Observations and User Communities.” Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications, Robert Downs, senior digital archivist, and John Scialdone, Data Center Services manager, represented the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), an ESIP “Type 1” member, at the meeting. Yetman gave a presentation as part of a panel, “Earth Science Data for Informing Decisions,” and Downs co-chaired a session, “Measuring the Value of Data,” with Ruth Duerr of the Ronin Institute. Downs also presented a poster, “Adoption of the Group on Earth Observations System of Systems Data Management Principles at a Scientific Data Center.” At the ESIP Assembly Meeting January 12, Downs was elected to the ESIP Governance Committee as the Type 1 representative. ESIP now includes more than 180 partners working cooperatively on the collection, stewardship, and use of earth science data, information, and knowledge in ways that are responsive to societal needs.

See: 2017 ESIP Winter Meeting
       "Measuring the Value of Data"–panel presentation slides

Vulnerability Assessment Results Shared with Stakeholders in Sierra Leone

Mon Jan 09 00:00:00 EST 2017

Preliminary results of a vulnerability assessment (VA) for Sierra Leone were presented recently by CIESIN associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska in a series of meetings there in December 2016, sponsored by the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC) project of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The WA-BiCC project addresses direct and indirect drivers of natural resource degradation, aiming to improve livelihoods and natural ecosystems across the region. The first meeting in Freetown December 5–6 included an option analysis with project partners and a presentation to a wider audience from the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Protected Areas Authority, other government agencies, and international and non-governmental organizations. Trzaska subsequently participated in meetings December 7-15 with community and partner groups in six coastal locations where data collection had taken place. The feedback and results of the option analysis will be used in finalizing the VA and developing recommendations.

Following her trip to Sierra Leone, Trzaska travelled to Bamako, Mali, where she conducted a three-day, hands-on training on climate predictability for forecasters from Mali’s meteorological service, Mali-Météo. The training focused on the Climate Predictability Tool (CPT), developed by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) for seasonal climate forecasting.

New Year Begins with New Visitors

Thu Jan 05 00:00:00 EST 2017

This January, CIESIN has welcomed two new visitors, Haibin Xia from East China Normal University (ECNU), and Lucile Maertens, a post-doctoral fellow in political science and international relations supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Xia began a one-year research visit January 4. Now an engineer with the ECNU School of Geographic Science in Shanghai, Xia received his PhD, master's, and bachelor degrees from the ECNU College of Resources and Environment Science. At CIESIN he is continuing his research on the biophysical and climatic correlates of population distribution in China, which he presented January 12 at a brown bag lunchtime seminar at the Lamont campus. He will also work with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, on a new project on climate change migration modeling.

Lucile Maertens arrived January 9 with an appointment as a part-time postdoctoral fellow at CIESIN through August 2017. Maertens is an associate researcher at Sciences Po in Paris and has been a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London. She has a PhD in political science from Sciences Po and the University of Geneva (Switzerland). She is studying interactions between security, environment, and climate change, focusing in particular on United Nations practices related to security and environment in Haiti. At CIESIN, she is working with Alex de Sherbinin and CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy.

Symposium Focused on Reconciling Development and Conservation in Central India

Mon Jan 02 00:00:00 EST 2017

About 70 experts from academic, government, and private sector organizations met December 14‒17, 2016, at the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, India, for the Central Indian Landscape Symposium (CILS). Pinki Mondal, senior research associate at CIESIN, was a co-organizer of the 2016 Symposium, which focused on the theme, “Reconciling Development, Livelihoods and Conservation Goals.” She also co-chaired the session, “The Future of Water, Climate, and Agriculture,” and gave an oral presentation, “Implications of Agricultural Intensification for Diet and Nutrition in Central India.” The Symposium concluded with a presentation by Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary in the Chief Minister’s Office in Maharashtra. Local partners in organizing the Symposium included the World Wildlife Fund-India and the Satpuda Foundation.

See: Central Indian Landscape Symposium (CILS)