Harnessing Observations and Data about our Earth

Today, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) released a National Plan for Civil Earth Observations that aims to maximize the value of observations collected by Federal agencies of the Earth’s land surfaces, oceans, and atmosphere. The Plan is a blueprint for future Federal investments in and strategic partnerships to advance Earth observing systems that help protect life and property, stimulate economic growth, maintain homeland security, and advance scientific research and public understanding. 

Americans and people around the world benefit from Earth-observations data every day. Have you ever used your smartphone to get a weather forecast?  Turned on the TV to check beach conditions?  Read a newspaper or magazine article describing the relationship of extreme weather events to climate change?  These services are driven by Earth-observations collected by the Federal Government, which are made routinely available to app-developers, news and weather organizations, mapping services, the scientific community, and the general public.

The U.S. Government is among the world’s largest providers of Earth observations—including data and measurements collected from complex networks of satellites, ocean buoys, stream gauges, human surveys, and a host of other sophisticated systems.

The Plan released today lays out Federal priorities and supporting actions to manage Earth observation systems through routine assessments, improved data management, interagency planning, and international collaboration. These steps will ensure continued provision of, and enhanced access to, high-impact Earth observation data to support public services, the monitoring of climate and land surface changes, and fundamental scientific research and technology innovation. 

The Plan was developed in close consultation with Federal agencies through the U.S. Group on Earth Observations, and will be updated every three years. It is based in part on the first-ever government-wide assessment of Earth observation systems, and includes data-management principles that align with the Administration’s Big Earth Data Initiative (BEDI), which aims to improve the discoverability, accessibility, and usability of Federal data and information products derived from civil Earth observations.

Read the full the National Plan here.

Read a fact sheet about U.S. Earth observations here.

Timothy Stryker is Director of the US Group on Earth Observations (USGEO) Program at the National Science and Technology Council

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