Despite advancements in data collection and analysis, bridging the gap between Earth Observation products and policy implementation remains a critical challenge. The upcoming Open-Earth-Monitor Global Workshop 2024 provides an ideal platform to explore the pivotal role of Earth Observation in shaping policies and contribute insights to achieving a sustainable future.

Earth Observation by remote sensing – in other words gathering data about the Earth using satellites – is a discipline that has been around for decades, promising to deliver the capability to monitor various indicators relevant for planetary sustainability by providing data that are very close to real time and goes back decades.

Terabytes to petabytes of data are gathered daily by existing satellites, and future satellite projects will deliver even more data that, together with the development of sophisticated Artificial Intelligence-based big-data analytics, guarantee that Earth Observation will play a key role in overcoming at least some global sustainability challenges.

However, even though the discipline directly benefits from such technical advances, there is still an important step needed before data-driven analytics can be used to advocate for new and timely policies as well as to monitor the impact of existing policies, which are currently often supported by convincing use cases.   

For example, one of the most challenging impacts of climate change is how increased droughts can affect crop productivity in vast regions of the world. Earth Observation products can be used to monitor when and where droughts are happening or are set to happen. This data is helpful to inform early action that can in turn be converted into timely policies, which have the potential to save millions of lives by averting social catastrophes such as famine.

For this global system of monitoring key environmental indicators to be useful for policy, the Earth Observation products, however, need to be connected to potential users, which sequentially necessitates a constant iteration of what users need and what the products can deliver.

This is one of the main objectives of the Open Earth Monitor Cyberinfrastructure (OEMC) Project, where monitoring platforms and their background tools and methods are being co-designed together with users and tested with real-world applications, ensuring their relevance to help solve issues at any scale — be it regional, national, or global. The six main environmental indicators covered by our current use cases are forest, soil, climate, water, agriculture, and biodiversity.

After a successful Open-Earth-Monitor Workshop in 2023, the OEMC project has now directed its efforts to hosting its second Global Workshop, with an emphasis on the policy impact of Earth Observation for all of these overarching topics, which will be set out, presented, and discussed in detail over the course of three days in the following order: Forest and Biodiversity; Soil, Water and Agriculture; Climate and Health. The workshop will host a variety of sessions from keynote presentations to oral talks, workshops, and poster presentations.

If you have an example of how Earth Observation products are now being actively designed and implemented in these six environmental topics to have fast, timely, and relevant policy impact, please send us your abstract by 31 March to be part of an exciting and lively discussion in our Global Workshop 2024.

Additionally, if you would like to be kept up to date with the novel open geospatial tools and infrastructure to perform big geospatial data analytics, or would like to learn how to process your big geospatial data on different open Geo computational environments such as openEO and Pangeo, please apply by 31 March, to be part of GEO-OPEN-HACK 2024.  

Let us make Earth Observation more relevant to the everyday lives of everyone on our planet and be part of the solution to our future sustainability!


Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the IIASA blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.