Evaluating U.S. Earth Observation
Civil Earth observations support key public services, long-term research, scientific discovery, and technological innovation. The Federal Government makes significant investments each year in civil Earth observations and data across multiple agencies, in addition to utilizing investments made by academia, industry, and state, local, and tribal governments. Planning and evaluation are critical to ensure that these investments lead to Earth observations that are streamlined, effective, and immediately useful.
Building on the 2013 National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently released the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations with support from the interagency U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO), which leverages expertise from USGCRP agencies. The Plan delivers a blueprint for maximizing the potential of Earth observations to help protect life and property, stimulate economic growth, maintain homeland security, and advance scientific research and public understanding—while taking into account fiscal and programmatic constraints. The Plan also stresses the improvement of data access, management, and interoperability, particularly with respect to Federal efforts such as the Climate Data Initiative and the Climate Resilience Toolkit (see Section 2.2).
The next step is the 2016 National Earth Observation Assessment (EOA 2016), which will build on its 2012 predecessor to evaluate the U.S. portfolio of Earth observations and consider how it benefits society in various areas of concern, including climate. Led by USGEO, with USGCRP contributions through agency expertise and shared working group membership, EOA 2016 will assess existing systems and provide insight into future research and data needs. The ultimate goal of this effort is to inform policy and budget decisions across the Federal Government for a robust, cost-effective national Earth-observing capacity.