The White House last week released the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations, which aims to increase the value of federal agency observations of Earth’s land, oceans, and atmosphere. The federal government spends roughly $3.5 billion per year on earth observations across several agencies, which provide an estimated $30 billion in economic benefit per year. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Dr. John Holdren writes that the data provided by these observations “are critical to our understanding of all Earth-system phenomena, including weather and climate, natural hazards, land-use change, ecosystem health, and natural-resource availability.”

The plan is the result of 2010 legislation directing OSTP to establish a mechanism for better coordination and access to observations data across the government. OSTP created the National Earth Observations Task Force in 2011, which informed the new report.

The resulting plan describes federal priorities for managing observation systems through “routine assessments, improved data management, interagency planning, and international collaboration.” Principles of the plan align with the White House’s Big Earth Data Initiative. The U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO) will take center stage in implementation of the plan. USGEO was re-chartered in 2013 with missions “to coordinate, plan, and assess Federal Earth observation activities; to foster improved Earth system data management and interoperability throughout the Federal Government; and to engage international partners through the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations.”

 


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