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GEO: A partnership for a global Earth-observation data system

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is an intergovernmental partnership of 109 national governments and 136 participating organizations committed to promoting and developing access to Earth-observation data in an open, comprehensive, coordinated and sustained manner for the benefit of all humankind and for a more sustainable planet.

GEO is a unique global network connecting government institutions, academic and research institutions, data providers, businesses, engineers, scientists and experts to create innovative solutions to new global challenges at a time of exponential data growth, human development and climate change that transcend national and disciplinary boundaries (notably in the field of Earth observation).

GEO was launched in response to calls for action from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and G8 nations. It is a voluntary partnership, providing a framework for partners to develop new projects and coordinate their strategies and investments. Together, the GEO community is creating a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) to better integrate observing systems and share data by connecting existing infrastructures using common standards. There are more than 400 million open data resources in GEOSS from more than 150 national and regional providers such as NASA and ESA, international organizations such as WMO and the commercial sector such as Digital Globe.

Earth-observation data proposed and supported by GEO encompass satellite, aerial and in-situ data, as well as citizen observatories. These data are also helping the international scientific community to study the Earth system and sustainable development in general. They cover the land, ocean and atmosphere domains that are vital to most models used to predict the Earth system’s future evolution and thus enable societies to mitigate climate change risks around the globe.

GEO objectives

GEO’s current priority is to promote open, guaranteed access to the datasets and indicators required to apply international agreements on climate (Paris Agreement), on disaster risks (through the Sendai Framework) and on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). GEO’s programme is built around 55 international thematic initiatives and the establishment of a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

GEO is also working to establish a Knowledge Hub to extend data sharing to other components required to reproduce knowledge and applications generated by the GEO community. This open source digital library will offer a standardized link to Earth-observation data associated with methods and algorithms and with the scientists and other people who generated them, as well as to the associated political mandates and deployment strategies.

The GEO Secretariat, which consists of 20 members, is hosted at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva.

How Data Terra is involved

Data Terra has stepped up its international involvement through GEO, with support from the Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI), CNES and IRD. Data Terra’s director sits on the Programme Board and numerous experts are taking part in Working Groups and initiatives in synergy with proposed products and services. Since the start of 2021, Data Terra has assigned an expert under the aegis of MESRI, IRD and CNES to coordinate Earth-observation and SDG operations for GEO in Geneva.

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