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Improving Access to Earth Observations

Requesting public input on the new USGEO draft Common Framework for Earth-Observation Data.

Each year, the Federal government records petabytes of data about our home planet. That massive amount of data in turn provides enormous benefits to society through weather reports, agricultural forecasts, air and water quality warnings, and countless other applications. In order to maximize the ease of transforming the data into useful information for both research and public services, the U.S. Group on Earth Observations has developed a new draft Common Framework for Earth-Observation Data, which recommends practices for Federal agencies to adopt in order to improve the ability of all users to discover, access, and use Federal Earth-observations data. Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is releasing the draft Common Framework for public comment. Comments will be accepted through January 15, 2016.

The U.S. Government is committed to making data from civil Earth-observation assets freely available to all users. Building on the Administration’s commitment to promoting open data, open science, and open government, the Common Framework for Earth-Observation Data goes beyond removing financial barriers to data access, and attempts to minimize the technical impediments that limit data utility. While Earth-observation systems typically collect data for a specific purpose, these data are often also useful in applications unforeseen during development of the systems. Managing and preserving these data with a common approach makes it easier for a wide range of users to find, evaluate, understand, and utilize the data, which in turn leads to the development of a wide range of innovative applications. The Common Framework provides Federal agencies with a recommended set of standards and practices to follow in order to achieve this goal. Federal agencies can follow these best practices as they develop new observing systems or modernize their existing collections of data.

In order to successfully enhance the interoperability and utility of the government’s civil Earth-observation data, it is critical that standards and protocols implemented towards this end are in fact useful for the people who actually will be interacting with these data. That’s why OSTP is publishing the Common Framework for Earth-Observation Data in draft form—to make sure that the endorsed practices are indeed ones that meet the user community’s needs. All people with an interest in Earth observations are encouraged to review the published draft and submit their thoughts.

  • To view the draft Common Framework on Earth-Observation Data, click here.
  • For more information about this request for comment, including information on ways to submit your input, click here.
  • To view the Federal Register Notice on the Request for Input on the United States Group on Earth Observations Draft Common Framework for Earth-Observation Data, click here.

Timothy Stryker is Director of the U.S. Group on Earth Observations Program.