|United Nations System-Wide
GROUP FOR THE
1. The second meeting of the Sponsors Group for the Global Observing Systems (GCOS, GOOS, GTOS) was opened on Monday, 15 September at the UNEP offices in Geneva by the Deputy Assistant Executive Director of UNEP, who also chaired the meeting. The agenda was approved with some modifications (Annex 1). The list of participants is given in Annex 2.
Reports from the Directors of GCOS, GOOS and GTOS
2. The Director of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Joint Planning Office provided a comprehensive written report and a short oral summary on activities and progress in GCOS since the last meeting of the sponsors. The close association between GCOS and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) continued satisfactorily. Progress was slowed by the shortage of resources available to the Joint Planning Office, and the small amount of input and feedback from some sponsors.
3. The Director of the GOOS Project Office reported on the major advances in GOOS, including the preparation of a Strategic Plan, vision, mission and goals, the organization of GOOS in phases, the adoption of GOOS principles, and the preparation by next April of the first stage of an implementation plan called GOOS 1998. A meeting is being planned for the International Year of the Oceans in 1998 to attract the agreement and commitment of governments, and help in planning this was requested. The climate and health of the oceans (HOTO) modules were ahead, but the coastal, living marine resources (LMR) and services modules were behind schedule. Demonstration projects including NEAR-GOOS, EuroGOOS, US coastal GOOS, TAO, PIRATA and GODAE were the beginning of operational networks. Phase 3 was looking at the integration of existing systems. Significant changes were being made in GOOS management following recommendations from the first Sponsors Group meeting. As part of the streamlining process, J-GOOS would be combined with the SSC into a GOOS Steering Committee at the end of the year, under a new chair, Dr. Worth Nowlin. The GOOS Project Office had been strengthened under a permanent Director. There was a need for more regional pilot projects, cost-benefit studies, a data and information management service, a global core system, coastal and living marine resources plans, a Health of the Oceans (HOTO) pilot project, TAO panel support, and improved capacity building.
4. It was pointed out in discussion that GOOS would attract wider interest if it went beyond oceanographic data to include data relevant to fishing and to the Law of the Sea where government interest was high. Fishing issues should be covered by the coastal and living marine resources panels, but non-living resources were not within the scope of GOOS.
5. A Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) progress report was distributed to the participants for information. The Director of the GTOS Secretariat noted the broad scope of the five priority areas of interest and the challenges that the Steering Committee faces in addressing such a large mandate. One constraint was the large size of the Steering Committee, for which meetings consumed a large portion of the resources available. It needed to be streamlined to permit smaller group meetings. It was suggested that GTOS should start with some priority issues of interest to major user groups. The existing support to the Secretariat, for developing project proposals and producing some initial products, was inadequate and this was the hardest kind of funding to obtain. However, terms of reference had been prepared in order to attract the interest of visiting scientists and associate professional officers.
6. The successful June meeting in Guernica, organized by GTOS on terrestrial monitoring networks, agreed to begin the formation of a network of terrestrial monitoring networks (GT-Net), for which letters of invitation had just gone out. GT-Net would provide a means whereby network members could identify common data sets, exchange data, harmonize measurement methods and work on issues such as data access. A pilot project to estimate net primary terrestrial productivity was proposed and would be further developed as GT-Net got underway.
7. There was a need for GTOS to identify and help to define the data and information needs of users of terrestrial data, whether they be scientists or policymakers. Workshops were considered a useful way of doing this and a "Users" proposal had been prepared. It was noted that the TEMS database was a useful way of staying in contact with numerous terrestrial monitoring units and could be a way of building national support for the programme.
8. The discussion on this item highlighted the potential for cross-fertilization between the systems and their different approaches to institutionalization. A global atmosphere observing system, comparable to GOOS and GTOS, has in fact existed for 40 years in the World Weather Watch. GCOS, on the other hand, took an integrated approach to the issue of climate change across all the environmental media. The Climate Agenda was mentioned as another integrating approach requested by governments, but not one that had led to much action.
Joint panel reports
9. Excellent progress of the joint Space-based Observation Panel (GOSSP) was reported, with requirements and applications developed in a systematic way. The plan should be published in 1998, after one more panel meeting. Since this was now a joint panel, GCOS indicated that it could not continue to pay the full expenses, and would only pay a third of the cost in the future. GOOS and GTOS felt the plan was adequate for the moment, and could be revisited in two years. However it was noted that decisions on new satellite instrumentation would be made in the next 2-3 years, and the panel had a significant contribution to make in pushing for commitment to operational sensors to build long-term time series. The space panel was important for the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), to complete the existing meteorological specifications with more oceanographic and terrestrial input. While GTOS had not specified its requirements, the offer of land surface imagery was already enormous. GTOS could use its network of scientists to identify variables that should be measured from space but has limited resources to support their meetings. The Sponsors Group agreed that the Space-based Observations Panel should continue, with periods of more or less intensive work, maintaining a permanent dialogue with CEOS to profit from the short window of opportunity through mid-1998.
10. The Joint Data and Information Management Panel (J-DIMP) had good balance and a broad constituency. It was dealing with complex issues of data access and data quality. While each system had its own data activities, such as the Data and Information Management Service in GOOS, and GOSnet in GTOS, the joint panel offered a strategic view, which could be useful in networking centres and guiding technical advisory groups.
11. Concern was expressed concerning the negotiations in the World Intellectual Property Organization on intellectual property rights reducing free access to data. The sponsors noted that the observing systems depend for their success on the free exchange of data to build up the necessary global data sets. Commercialization of data is a serious threat to the aims of the systems, and to the wider interests of the United Nations system and the international scientific community. WMO has already adopted a resolution on this issue, and UN system-wide principles have been agreed at the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development. It would be desirable if these principles could be adopted at the highest UN level by the ACC.
12. The GCOS/GTOS Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate (TOPC) has an effective chairman, J. Cihlar, and has continued to work without having to meet this year. H. Kibby has provided secretariat support and is finalizing the panel's reports, but this cannot continue beyond January 1998 when he returns to US EPA. The work of the panel was satisfactory, although some concern was expressed over the link with atmospheric measurements.
Coordination with international bodies and programmes
13. The sponsors had received a joint letter dated 8 September 1997 from the Chairman of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and the Chairman of the International Group of Funding Agencies for global change research (IGFA) on developing partnership on an Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS). This would not be a new organization or structure, but would be a framework to facilitate the necessary tuning of formal decisions which will need to be taken by the governing bodies of each of the partners. The letter invited the Sponsors Group to work together with CEOS and IGFA in developing an Integrated Global Observing Strategy, encompassing integrated planning, linking research and operational activities, and linking space and in situ observations. The strategy should also include a concerted approach to building a commitment for implementation and funding of the observing systems at the national level, including steps to bring together, at the national level, agencies and ministries with responsibilities for components of the systems. The letter proposed that a small organizing group could be established to take the discussions further.
14. The sponsors welcomed the CEOS/IGFA initiative, which reinforced their own efforts to develop a more integrated strategy for the G3OS. They were uncertain, however, whether a senior level IGOS Partners Meeting in 1998, as proposed in the attached Strategic Implementation Team Scoping Paper, would be the most effective approach, since it might be difficult to get the heads of some of the sponsoring organizations to fit such a meeting into their schedules. There would need to be a gradual approach to developing support for an integrated observing strategy up through each organization's hierarchy. Each organization could prepare a time scale for building the necessary institutional support. The Global Observing Systems were still largely embryonic, and it was necessary to be realistic about what they could deliver. It was important that such a strategy be, in reality, a strategic planning process, and that it be seen as user driven and very concrete. Delivery of useful information to developing countries would be an important selling point, including the possibility of delivering imagery and information at the grass-roots level where many decisions were taken. For instance, agricultural users were more interested in variations in seasonality rather than in climate change. The secretariat was asked to respond to the letter on behalf of the sponsors welcoming the proposed dialogue, and agreeing to collaboration between the G3OS Secretariats and CEOS. This letter should also reflect the decisions on the item below.
Development of an integrated global observing strategy
15. As agreed at the First Meeting of the Sponsors Group, UNEP had prepared a draft paper on an integrated global observing strategy as an umbrella for the three Observing Systems and other international observation activities, following an outline agreed at the meeting, for substantive discussion at the second meeting. CEOS/IGFA had also established a Strategic Implementation Team which had prepared a scoping paper on an Integrated Global Observing Strategy, which was available as an information document, and an observer from CEOS was invited to join the group for consultation on this and related items.
16. The representative of CEOS explained that they had started planning an integrated system, then moved to a strategy to take into account the big international user programmes. The strategy responded to three principal needs:
a. to establish a clear set of transnational requirements, assuming that national requirements would then be taken into account. The role of the G3OS would be important here.
b. to recognize the interdependence of measurements for meeting all data requirements, in situ and space-based, across all countries and data types. Since in situ data is not the remit of CEOS, partnerships are required.
c. to take into account the way governments respond to requests for funding. Governments are totally confused by multiple requests to fund little bits of the whole. There is a need to provide a concerted focus in the way governments are approached, in order to engineer government support, and to improve our collective ability to get funding out of the system.
17. CEOS needs partnerships for all of the above. The space agencies have in the past been driven largely by technological developments, and they hope that the G3OS can help to provide a new definition of user needs. The strategy would be implemented through a series of individual systems making up a greater whole.
18. The discussion on the strategy was positive but raised a number of issues. Was this to be a mega-system integrating all existing systems, with outputs to meet all requirements, or a strategy on how space technology could assist existing systems? Can we integrate things as different as GCOS, GOOS and GTOS? The need was more for an umbrella strategy with a process to help us join forces. Another issue was the imbalance between the well-funded space agencies/funding agencies, and the ill-funded group of global observing systems that are willing but not necessarily able to respond to CEOS's requirements. This was related to the imbalance in support available to space-based observations relative to in situ observations. Heavy new investment would be necessary in in situ measuring systems to restore the balance. CEOS pointed out that there was increasing difficulty in maintaining continuity in space observations also. The strategy needs to argue in favour of all operational observations, even in such well-established areas as meteorology.
19. In addition to the balance between space-based and in situ observations, the strategy would need to include the necessary balance between research and operational observations. By demonstrating the utility of research results, it could encourage conversion of research to operational programmes. The long-term dimension of the observational strategy was particularly important.
20. It would also need to recognize the data requirements required for the proper implementation of the new international environmental conventions. The strategy should define what continuing observations could offer the conventions. There were concrete needs for inventories and national reporting to support the decisions of the Conferences of the Parties, and to demonstrate the effectiveness of measures applied under the conventions. It might help to develop a flow chart of links to the conventions with deliverables.
21. Developed countries were seeking greater coherence among the observing systems in order to increase the cost-effectiveness of investment in satellite technology. The UN agencies need to ensure that the interests and priorities of developing countries are adequately represented in future remote sensing technology to address such issues as seasonal changes, land use changes, coastal protection and pollution. The focus should be on delivering answers rather than data. The strategy should also address such things as the need to groom people in developing countries for more strategic roles such as those required to plan and implement the G3OS. There was an international problem in translating political statements into measurable objectives. The development of indicators could provide such a link, and observing systems would be required to generate the necessary data.
22. A principal question was how to articulate the links between the partners, and to define the roles of each in such a strategy, which should be a process rather than a plan. How could we become more integrated, and within what time frame? There was already a list of about 180 parameters prepared in cooperation with CEOS and WMO, from which each user could define its set of requirements. The strategy must counter the impression that it was driven by the space agencies, and demonstrate the coherence of its different components. Another question was how to put the programmes to governments. It was essential that all the partners communicate the same broad message.
23. Much could be built on existing mechanisms. On the CEOS side, there was its annual meeting in mid-November each year, where the sponsors participated as affiliates. Was representation at the right level, and properly briefed? Perhaps representation at the level of programmes would be appropriate. It was suggested that UNEP might speak on the Integrated Global Observing Strategy at the next CEOS meeting in November. The Sponsors Group recommended that each CEOS affiliate agency should follow the WMO example and designate a key person to provide an active working-level linkage with CEOS activities. It also recommended that the three Directors of G3OS Secretariats work closely with CEOS.
24. The CEOS/IGFA Strategic Implementation Team was developing six projects to demonstrate the usefulness of an integrated strategy from a space perspective, and new project proposals could be considered. Is this team a sufficient mechanism to discuss the general philosophy for an integrated global observing strategy? FAO suggested additional projects on land, such as one on desertification. FAO had been concerned that it was not involved in the development of the forest cover project, but efforts on the part of both FAO and CEOS had now begun to develop into a satisfactory working relationship. Forestry data collection was politically sensitive, and it was important for any project to be discussed with the right partners. CEOS indicated the project had come from space agency interest, and invited GTOS and FAO to help to refocus the forest cover project to support existing activities. The ocean biology project was also driving ahead without any relation to GOOS, where the development of the living marine resources component was just starting. It was important that new projects should be initiated from the programme side.
25. On the G3OS side, the Sponsors Group would be an effective mechanism to consider an integrated global observing strategy on a continuing basis. It could serve as a working group for an effective articulation with CEOS and IGFA. It was therefore agreed to allocate a half day at Sponsors Group meetings to this subject as required and to invite observers from CEOS and IGFA to join the Sponsors Group for this discussion.
26. The draft document prepared by UNEP, with its emphasis on process, was a useful starting point for G3OS discussions on the strategy. However its title should be changed, as it was more appropriately a strategic plan or agenda for developing a strategy. A number of additions and modifications were suggested. UNEP was asked to complete the document with the results of this meeting (Annex 3). It was agreed that this should be an evolving working document to be considered at each Sponsors Group meeting and continually updated to define the contributions of the G3OS to an integrated global observing strategy. The sponsors could draw on it as appropriate and necessary to prepare documents for approval within their organizations and by their governing bodies.
Programme support and operation
a. Steering committees, secretariats and working groups
27. GTOS raised a number of issues for discussion concerning it internal operations. The chairperson of the GTOS Steering Committee wants to step down after the completion of the GTOS implementation plan because of other commitments. A single meeting of the Steering Committee cost $55,000, and the shortage of financial support makes it impossible for the full committee to meet frequently enough. Six working groups have been established, but only that for the implementation plan has shown any sign of activity despite an available list server system and encouragement from the Secretariat. The present structure may be more than the resources can support. The sponsors hesitated to reduce the size of the Steering Committee, but suggested that a core or executive group might be able to help carry the work forward without meeting, keeping the sub-groups mobilized as needed. The Steering Committee should provide strategic guidance and not micro-management. The size of meetings could be reduced to allow more focus on programme issues. Several suggestions were made for possible chairpersons for the Steering Committee. The following criteria were suggested for the ideal chairperson: ability to manage groups and to keep a focus on priority issues; institutional backing to commit the necessary time to GTOS; a strong technical background and acceptance within the scientific community. The GTOS Secretariat was asked to circulate a list of candidates and their curriculum vitae to the sponsors for decision, along with a brief on restructuring GTOS operations.
28. FAO reaffirmed its commitment to GTOS, but explained the need for a wider anchoring of GTOS within FAO in relation to other relevant FAO activities. There was presently no post available in the division for the Director of the GTOS Secretariat. The sponsors might be able to help in building interest in GTOS within FAO beyond the divisional level, and in reaching country delegations at the next FAO conference. GTOS was always intended to observe change in managed ecosystems as well as to address more science-based issues, and this should help to build support in other parts of FAO. Approaches were being made to donors, including for the possible outposting of senior and junior staff. The fragmentation of agencies and user communities dealing with the terrestrial environment made this more difficult. The sponsors appreciated the effort that FAO was making and hoped that they could continue to back the GTOS Secretariat. It was agreed to allow FAO some flexibility to deal with the staffing problems.
29. The GCOS Director had prepared a revised Memorandum of Understanding for GCOS, which was attached to his report to the Sponsors Group. The sponsors reviewed and commented on the changes in the MOU, which will assist in harmonizing the observing systems.
30. The GCOS Steering Committee needed the replacement of several members who were rotating off. The new members should be more operationally oriented, maintain the balance of disciplines, and include developing country representation. If no experienced developing country experts were available, then individuals could be included who could grow into this role, perhaps helped by a senior member. The Chair of the Steering Committee, Prof. Townshend, was also planning to leave and would need to be replaced by 1998 with someone with experience in operational systems. No existing member was an obvious candidate, so help in selecting a new chair would be appreciated.
31. The new GOOS Memorandum of Understanding had gone the rounds and been agreed, and would go to the sponsoring bodies soon. It would be desirable for FAO to cosponsor the Living Marine Resources panel, and the FAO representative encouraged the Director of GOOS to write directly to the Fisheries Division of FAO about this.
b. Budgets, financial planning and fund–raising
32. The Directors of the G3OS were requested to consult on coordinated or joint approaches to a fund-raising strategy. They might also usefully seek advice from CEOS and IGFA. The Global Environment Facility would have to be approached through countries. Developing links with the environmental conventions might open doors. The Organization of American States was showing an interest in the Caribbean, and the European Union was improving as a source of funding for observing systems in Europe. The Directors were asked to compile their efforts and to keep each other informed, perhaps through a running file on projects in submission.
c. Building regional and national support
33. There is a great need to encourage government support and participation in each observing system. GOOS is planning a high-level meeting in Lisbon in 1998 as part of the "Year of the Oceans". It aims to get the agreement of governments to the concepts and principles of GOOS, and to obtain the commitment of national agencies to contribute to the implementation of GOOS. It was suggested that GOOS could be presented as part of an integrated observing strategy by having all three G3OS Directors participate in the meeting. The Sponsors Group encouraged an active GCOS component in the GOOS meeting. Other linkages to mention would be to the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, to the requirements of the environmental conventions, to the small island developing States (SIDS) Barbados Programme of Action, and to Agenda 21.
34. Other events where support could be built for the G3OS include the Mega-science discussions in Sweden 4-6 March 1998, where oceans are a priority (with EuroGOOS taking a lead), along with land use and biodiversity. The Independent World Commission on the Oceans (IWCO) will be reporting next year. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development will be considering fresh water and science at its 1998 session.
35. GCOS had planned a "participants" meeting in 1998 in the context of the Climate Agenda, but there was some concern about the wisdom of two meetings reaching out to the same governmental community, so this might better be postponed. GCOS lacked an intergovernmental structure like GOOS. It was suggested that the most appropriate intergovernmental link for GCOS would be with the Framework Convention on Climate Change through its SUBSTA. There could also be interested user groups associated with the Desertification and Biodiversity Conventions.
Other joint activities
36. GTOS has initiated a Global Terrestrial Observing Network (GT-Net) of in-situ observation networks that will eventually be open to all the G3OS. The meeting endorsed the proposals of the Guernica meeting on GT-Net.
37. GOOS has held a Coastal Module meeting in Miami, 24-28 February 1997, and has recently named a chair for a GOOS coastal panel. Despite the sponsors interest in seeing a joint panel between GOOS and GTOS on the coastal area, it was agreed to let the GOOS panel start working, and to see if the GTOS coastal working group becomes more active, and then discuss the potential for a joint activity. This question should be revisited at a future meeting.
38. On hydrology, the three Directors were asked to discuss directly how hydrological issues could be supported jointly. The World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS) should be linked to the G3OS.
39. For the socio-economic dimensions, the G3OS will be invited to the next meeting of the International Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme (IHDP) to explore possible cooperation.
40. Norway was interested in components of the joint pilot project prepared by FAO, but wanted co-financing by FAO and other donors. Four other proposals from the GCOS Joint Planning Office were ready to submit to donors.
Information exchange and public relations
41. ICSU had prepared a draft brochure on the G3OS last April, which had been distributed at J-GOOS and the GTOS Steering Committee for comments, but many changes had occurred since April. Ten pages of text was too long, and a shorter brochure with a panel on each observing system, one on the integrated approach and strategy, and perhaps a reference to related systems like the World Weather Watch, would be more appropriate. The text should be aimed at a large audience, be relevant to questions asked by countries and users, and focus on benefits. Target date for completion should be the Kyoto meeting of the FCCC in December. Production should be a joint effort of the three Directors, coordinated by ICSU, with all looking collectively at the budget.
42. Other opportunities should be explored for presenting the G3OS corporate image. It was suggested that the three secretariats keep a running list of relevant meetings. The G3OS should be included on the different Web sites. A family of brochures could be developed in common formats, with GOOS perhaps preparing one for its summer meeting.
Sponsorship of the Global Observing Systems
43. The last meeting suggested that WHO might be approached about sponsorship of the G3OS. It was agreed that the three systems should approach WHO individually as appropriate. GTOS in particular should explore with WHO how GEMS-Water could be linked to GTOS.
Work plan and responsibilities
44. As agreed above, UNEP will complete and circulate the revised version of the strategy document, as well as the report of this meeting, after which responsibility would pass to ICSU.
45. On the issue of the relative roles of the Steering Committees and the Sponsors Group, it was noted that the Steering Committees of each observing system were involved in many issues, and might question the work plan of the sponsors. What, for instance, should be done when there is a conflict in priorities, as with the high priority given by the Sponsors Group to hydrology or the TEMS database, and the low priority given them by the GTOS Steering Committee. It was agreed that the Sponsors Group ensures that activities stay within the general mandate, and defines limits for the Steering Committees, while leaving the committees wide latitude to implement the mandates given to them.
Date, host organization and venue of the next meeting
46. In accordance with the agreement to rotate responsibilities on an annual basis, ICSU offered to be the responsible organization for the Sponsors Group for the next year, to organize, host and chair the next meeting. It proposed that the next meeting should take place in Paris in the first half of June 1998, at a date to be agreed later.
Approval of the report of the meeting
47. The UNEP secretariat drafted the report which was circulated for approval after the meeting.
Closing of the meeting
48. The meeting was closed at 18:00 on Tuesday, 16 September 1997.
GLOBAL OBSERVING SYSTEMS
(GCOS, GOOS, GTOS)
Geneva, 15-16 September 1997
1. Opening of the meeting
2. Approval of the Agenda and adoption of working procedures
3. Reports from the Directors of GCOS, GOOS and GTOS
4. Joint panel reports
5. Coordination with international bodies and programmes
6. Development of an integrated global observing strategy
7. Programme support and
8. Other joint activities
9. Information exchange and public relations
10. Sponsorship of the Global Observing Systems
11. Work plan and responsibilities
12. Date, host organization and venue of the next meeting
13. Approval of the report of the meeting
14. Closing of the meeting
FAO- Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations
GCOS - Global Climate Observing
System Joint Planning Office
GTOS - Global Terrestrial
ICSU - International Council
of Scientific Unions
Ms Sophie Boyer King
IOC - Intergovernmental Oceanographic
UNEP - United Nations Environment
Mr C.C. Wallen
UNESCO - United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
WMO - World Meteorological
Mr Donald Hinsman
CEOS - Committee on Earth
1. The three Global Observing Systems, the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) (collectively the G3OS), have been established by their sponsors (FAO, ICSU, IOC, UNEP, UNESCO and WMO) to respond to particular requirements for operational observations of different aspects or components of the global environment. Each has found an institutional home in a different host agency, and each is at a somewhat different stage of development. Since they share many approaches, interfaces and common problems, it has become increasingly apparent to the sponsors that their development needs to be guided by a common strategic framework and close working relationships.
2. At the same time, the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and the International Group of Funding Agencies for global change research (IGFA) have similarly seen the need for an Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) as a joint product of all agencies involved in the collection and analysis of both space-based and in-situ data. CEOS/IGFA have established a Strategic Implementation Team which prepared a scoping paper "Towards an Integrated Global Observing Strategy" in July 1997.
3. An Integrated Global Observing Strategy will not be a new organization or structure, but will be a framework encompassing integrated planning, linking research and operational activities, and linking space and in situ observations. It is important that such a strategy be, in reality, a strategic planning process, and that it be seen as user driven and very concrete. It will be implemented through a series of individual systems making up a greater whole, with a process to help them join forces.
4. As a contribution to the development of such a strategy, this document was initially prepared by UNEP after the First Meeting of the Sponsors Group on the Global Observing Systems (GCOS, GOOS, GTOS) in Geneva, 13-14 January 1997, and was revised at the Second Meeting on 15-16 September 1997. It also draws on some elements of the CEOS/IGFA Scoping Paper. It addresses both specific strategic issues of the G3OS, and broader questions that should contribute to the evolution of an Integrated Global Observing Strategy among all of the nations, agencies and organizations involved in the collection and analysis of data on the global environment. It defines elements of the necessary ongoing strategic planning process. It should be an evolving working document to be considered and updated at each Sponsors Group meeting to reflect the present state of collaboration between the global observing systems and within larger partnerships, and to identify the contributions of the G3OS to an integrated global observing strategy. The sponsors will draw on it as appropriate and necessary to prepare documents for approval within their organizations and by their governing bodies.
Integrated objectives for global observing systems
5. Integrated objectives for all the global observing systems and a global observing strategy will need to be synthesized and generalized from those for each system. The following are the goals and objectives as defined by each observing system and by CEOS/IGFA:
6. The GCOS objectives
are to ensure the acquisition of the observations required to meet the
7. The mission of GOOS
is to design and implement an integrated system of data collection and
distribution, through the global coordination and enhancement of national
ocean observing systems and the creation of specific data products,
with the following goals:
8. The Objectives of GOOS
9. The GTOS objectives
are to provide an observational framework and data for:
10. The CEOS/IGFA
proposals for an Integrated Global Observing strategy responded to three
11. The CEOS/IGFA
scoping paper identified several goals reflecting the value of an integrated
global observing strategy:
12. Additional objectives
that could be considered include:
Strategy for the development and implementation of the Global Observing Systems
13. As human impacts on the global environment have become increasingly apparent, and the concerns about global change have grown, it has become obvious that the existing procedures for collecting basic data on the global environment largely through research programmes of limited duration, national activities of limited extent, and a few special purpose observing systems, are inadequate to meet the pressing need for systematic, long-term, globally comprehensive data flows necessary to identify global change, to determine human causative factors, to guide response strategies and management actions, and to determine their effectiveness.
14. The response of the concerned United Nations organizations and the scientific community has been to initiate the planning and development of global observing systems for climate, the oceans and terrestrial areas. Each system has been planned by groups of leading scientists and government and agency experts to identify cost-effective, global, multidisciplinary approaches to operational observation activities in response to key priority data needs. Each system has defined its terms of reference, scope and strategies, and is well on the way to establishing implementation plans and core data set requirements. All have established secretariats, steering committees, working groups and joint task forces preparing detailed plans for specific areas or functions, and the first components are now ready for implementation. The systems have adopted phased implementation strategies building on the present observational activities of established operational and research programmes. Existing activities and monitoring sites are being assessed, and recommendations made for harmonization, enhancements or new observations which should be done to meet broader integrated global needs. One immediate challenge is the definition of core variables for priority issues.
15. An integrated strategic planning process complements the strategy of each global observing system, providing a framework for joint activities and linking the three systems into a larger institutional and operational context including international, regional and national organizations with responsibilities for providing in-situ observations, space agencies, science funding agencies, agencies with operational responsibilities, global scientific research programmes, and capacity building efforts in developing countries. These efforts among the observing systems are contributing to the larger partnerships among several other organizations and bodies, including the Committee for Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and the International Group of Funding Agencies (IGFA) in preparing in Integrated Global Observing Strategy.
16. One dimension of the strategy needs to address these larger partnerships. For example, the space agencies in CEOS have in the past been driven largely by technological developments, and they hope that the G3OS can help to provide a new definition of user needs. The strategy should consider the imbalance between the well-funded space agencies/funding agencies, and the ill-funded group of global observing systems that are willing but not necessarily able to respond to CEOS's requirements. This is related to the imbalance in support available to space-based observations relative to in situ observations. It will be necessary to invest heavily in in situ measuring systems to restore the balance. There is also increasing difficulty in maintaining continuity in space observations. The strategy needs to argue in favour of all operational observations, even in such well-established areas as meteorology.
17. In addition to the balance between space-based and in situ observations, the strategy will need to include the necessary balance between research and operational observations. By demonstrating the utility of research results, it can encourage conversion of research to operational programmes. The long-term dimension of the observational strategy is particularly important.
18. The demand for coherence among observing systems comes principally from developed countries; developing countries have other needs and priorities to which the strategy must also respond. There is strong pressure on the United Nations agencies not to put their funds into rich country issues. Developing countries should be seen as beneficiaries, through addressing such issues as seasonal changes, land use changes, coastal protection and pollution. The focus should be on delivering answers rather than data. The strategy should also address such things as the need to groom people in developing countries for more strategic roles such as those required to plan and implement the G3OS. There is an international problem in translating political statements into measurable objectives. The development of indicators could provide such a link, and observing systems would be required to generate the necessary data.
19. A principal question is how to articulate the links between the partners, and to define the roles of each in such a strategy. How can we become more integrated, and within what time frame? The strategy must counter the impression that it is driven by the space agencies, and demonstrate the coherence of its different components. Another question is how to put the programmes to governments. It is essential that all the partners communicate the same broad message.
20. The essence of an integrated strategy is to recognize that what is needed is more a process than a plan. Any comprehensive plan would quickly go out of date as new discoveries and methodologies, rapidly evolving technologies, shifting priorities and emerging issues, change the requirements for global observations. Nor will a monolithic coordinating structure be adequate to the task of bringing coherence across so many institutional, geographic and disciplinary dimensions. What is needed is more organic. The strategy should aim to ensure that networks of decentralized relations exist at the various levels where collaboration, coordination, joint planning and decision-making are required, and that information on what each component is doing flows effectively to those who need to take it into account in their own planning, without creating unbearable burdens of meetings and communications at any level. Most importantly, the articulation between data users and decision-makers on the one hand, and data producers and processors, on the other, must work efficiently across several intermediary levels, so that the whole process remains user driven and focussed cost-effectively on the highest priorities. Regular processes of review and renewal are required to ensure that any structures established remain efficient and responsive. The GOS-Net initiative being led by GTOS may provide a model for this kind of networking.
21. While, for historical, institutional and substantive reasons, creating a single global observing system is not a practical possibility, more integration is needed, and the G3OS Sponsors are strongly supporting integrated strategic planning in order to avoid gaps and overlaps. Integration, collaboration and simplification of the systems has already begun at several levels. At the conceptual level, system objectives and strategies are being harmonized. At the technical level, the secretariats are working more closely together, and working groups are being rationalized within and between programmes on functional issues such as space-based observations, in situ observations, data management and telecommunications. At the political level of the sponsors and governments, the creation of the Sponsors Group is an important first step. Issues requiring further collaboration and integration include political (national government) support, and fund-raising.
22. Both the G3OS and the CEOS/IGFA Strategic Implementation Team have decided to proceed with pilot or prototype projects to demonstrate the utility of integrated global observations and to work out, at a reasonable scale, the many practical difficulties in putting such systems into operation. The organization of, and fund-raising for, these demonstration projects has high priority and is now moving ahead. The success of the demonstration activities should help to leverage broader support for global observation activities.
23. One further step now will be to assemble the plans produced by the observing systems into more coherent packages, relating objectives, activities and deliverables. A further focus is needed on user benefits, including developing the relationship with international assessment processes like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and multilateral environmental agreements and conventions such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the UN Convention on Combatting Desertification (CCD). It is a challenge to develop the interface between observational field activities and global planning. Where it may prove difficult to create much interest in long-term data sets and processes, a more immediate pay-off may be possible from short-term products such as climate prediction. The users need to develop a sense of ownership of the observational activities producing the flows of data that they require for decision-making.
24. It will ultimately be important to meet the observational requirements defined by the full range of user communities, and strategic planning should aim for this. A number of common issues represent themes for integration across the systems in various directions. These include topical issues such as climate change, biodiversity and desertification for which there are already international conventions; persistent organic pollutants, forests, and land-based activities affecting the marine and aquatic environments, for which conventions are possible; and more general issues such as coastal zone management, freshwater, socio-economic implications, food security, ecosystem productivity and the problems of megacities.
25. All the programmes have started by building on existing systems, and preparing plans for implementation largely at the national level. However, even once existing observational activities and networks are incorporated, there will remain significant gaps to be filled. Operational observations are well-developed in some fields and embryonic or non-existent in others. Building new institutional mechanisms may be required, both nationally and internationally. There are also significant parts of the developing world where there is little or no monitoring activity and where international assistance and capacity building will be required. The roles and functions of the Global Observing Systems in catalyzing these developments still need to be defined, and may require kinds of expertise and approaches quite different from what has been required for planning.
26. Special attention is needed to the procedures for pursuing the implementation of the plans prepared by the G3OS. Even where much of the intended planning has been completed, the systems do not have the access to governments necessary to deliver the plans and to discuss implementation. A major effort will be required to build relationships and involve governments and national institutions more directly in implementation.
Integration across priority issues
- climate change
27. One of the major concerns relative to global environmental change is the risk of human-induced climate change, through the anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases and other mechanisms, with significant potential effects on the environment and human health. For instance, the increased rain in Colombia during El Nino events raises the incidence of malaria, and underlines the complex relationship between the oceans, climate, and disease vectors. The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) has been created specifically to establish operational observation programmes to build the long-term data series necessary to detect such climate change. As such it is already an issue-oriented integrated programme across all environmental media and kinds of observations, drawing on significant inputs from GOOS and GTOS. Because the ocean is a major driver of climate change, there is a very close relationship between GOOS and GCOS, with the climate module of GOOS being the ocean component of GCOS. The two are linked threough the activities of the Ocean Observing Panel for Climate (OOPC). As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change implements concrete and often costly measures to address this problem, the need for an adequate base of global observations to monitor climate trends and determine the effectiveness of such measures will become increasingly evident.
- forecasting season to interannual variability
28. The growing capacity of regional and global observing networks linked to computer models to identify and predict seasonal and interannual variability in weather patterns, rainfall and extreme meteorological events, such as those related to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, are making it possible to anticipate and to take preventive action to reduce the human, social and economic impacts of the related droughts, floods, cyclonic storms. This is one of the best opportunities to demonstrate the relevance and cost-effectiveness of well-planned and coordinated global observation and assessment programmes, with significant benefits in such areas as food security and human safety reaching even to the rural poor of developing countries. The nature of the interlinked atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial processes and impacts involved requires coherent planning for precise outputs across all the observing systems.
29. Freshwater is one of the most essential resources for human well-being, for which the quantity and quality available are increasingly becoming limiting factors to development in many regions. The nature of the hydrological cycle, joining the oceanic, atmospheric and terrestrial compartments, means that a complete understanding of the processes and fluxes necessary to develop, maintain and manage freshwater resources can only come from coordinated observations from all the G3OS.
30. The diverse biological resources of the planet have generated and maintain the conditions necessary for all life, and are essential for human survival and progress. Any reduction in the genetic, species and ecosystem diversity that has evolved over millions of years will constrain the possibilities of future generations and could well reduce the carrying capacity of the Earth to support human life. The biosphere includes the terrestrial, oceanic and atmospheric envelopes of the planet, so any observations of the status of and trends in biological diversity fall within the scope of both GTOS and GOOS. Any significant climate change will have major impacts on biodiversity, so GCOS is also extremely relevant to this issue. All the observing systems should develop specific outputs relevant to this key aspect of global sustainability, particularly with respect to information needs under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
31. Desertification and the deterioration of drylands are another area where an international environmental convention has been adopted. Given the natural variability in such areas, only widespread and long-term as well as locally-responsive observations can help to improve the scientific basis for management action. While GTOS has the major responsibilities in this area, the obvious role of climate requires coordinated inputs from GCOS, and a better understanding of the linked ocean-atmosphere systems that may contribute to desertification.
- persistent organic pollutants, chemical toxicity
32. The accumulation of various toxic and damaging chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the environment is one of the greatest enviromental threats from modern civilization. These chemicals accumulate in and are transmitted through all the environmental media, and any understanding of their amounts, pathways, degradation processes and sinks requires coordinated observations on land, in the oceans and atmosphere, and of human activities. GTOS and GOOS will need to link with the Global Atmosphere Watch and other activities to contribute to an integrated picture of the trends and risks associated with such chemicals. International conventions are now being prepared on toxic chemicals that will certainly create new demands for long-time-series observations to monitor chemicals in the environment.
33. While no decision has yet been taken on the need for a global convention on forests, there is widespread recognition of the global dimensions of forest issues, which are a major theme being addressed by the UN system and the Commission on Sustainable Development. Forest and other vegetation observations are a core element of GTOS. However, the relevance of climate change to forest, as illustrated for instance by the major forest fires in South-East Asia and other regions linked to climate variability, and the dual role of mangrove forests in both the terrestrial and marine environments, show the importance of integrating aspects of GCOS and GOOS in addressing forest issues.
- land-based activities affecting the marine and aquatic environments
34. The Global Programme of Action on the Effects on the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, adopted at Washington in 1995, calls for integrated approaches to address and control terrestrial activities that have their ultimate impact on marine and coastal areas and resources, often through pollutants transported via water-borne or atmospheric pathways. The trend to a relative increase in the population of the coastal zone, exacerbated by the absolute growth in population, is increasing pressure on this fragile environment. Changes on land, in the ocean and in the climate all interact here, requiring input from GOOS, GTOS and GCOS for sustainable development, as called for in Agenda 21. GTOS and GOOS, in particular, should address the need for operational observation programmes integrated across terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine environments to identify and monitor relevant problems and to measure the effectiveness of the Global Programme of Action in encouraging and facilitating solutions.
- food security
35. As the human population continues to grow and consumption levels rise, food security is becoming a major worry. The agricultural productive capacity of many areas is impacted by land degradation, land use changes, pests and diseases, the effects of globalization and trade, climate variability and other factors. In world fisheries, so important as a protein source for many people, capacity is stretched to the limit, even where fish stocks have not actually collapsed. The collapse of fish stocks is complicated by the interaction between the effects of overfishing on the one hand and climate change, which causes fish populations to change or migrate, on the other hand. Only careful observations will enable the determination of cause and effect that is necessary to guide policy making. The increasing development of toxic algal blooms in coastal waters may be driven by increased runoff of nutrients from land and poses a chronic problem to human health through ingestion of contaminated fish and shellfish. This problem becomes acute where coastal aquaculture is being developed to replace collapsing fish stocks as a source of protein. Observations of all the environmental parameters related to food security are becoming critical to prevent or at least anticipate and respond to catastrophic food shortages. This is another critical human issue where the G3OS can plan targetted outputs from their observation networks to respond to an immediate need for reliable information, with respect both to short-term early warning of food crises, and to longer-term trends that may change the food supply and demand situation.
- ecosystem productivity
36. Scientists have recently begun warning that the scale of human activities is now affecting and capturing the benefits of a significant proportion of the total ecosystem productivity of major parts of the planet. Since human impacts tend more often to reduce or degrade natural productivity levels, the risks for global biogeochemical cycles need to be examined carefully, and early warning of any threats to planetary productivity be provided, commensurate with the natural inertia and time-lags in the systems concerned. Only an integration of elements of all the observing systems will make it possible to assemble the necessary global scale data sets that would make possible more precise estimates of the risks.
- megacity problems
37. As the proportion of the population crowding into megacities rises, the impact on their surrounding environment grows, and the challenges of meeting their resource requirements and disposing of their wastes while preserving a liveable environment increase. The global observing systems need to consider their potential to contribute to the operational data and information requirements on which urban management decisions must be based, and to develop specific information products needed by urban planners and decision-makers.
Operational collaboration between the systems
- meeting organization and attendance
38. There is such a multiplication of meetings that it is no longer possible to attend all of them. Processes should be simplified, and cooperative forward planning used to reduce the number of meetings to the minimum needed, combining the efforts of all interested organizations wherever possible. The Sponsors Group could help to identify who might speak for all the sponsors and even all the observing systems at particular meetings.
- inter-secretariat collaboration
39. The three G3OS Directors should maintain their own close working relationships, with at least two meetings a year, including the day before the Sponsors Group meeting, so as to be fully informed, discuss joint concerns and frame future directions. At the level of the Steering Committees (scientific and technical committees), each committee should regularly invite the other two to be represented by an observer. Other possible mechanisms for information exchange and joint planning on an occasional basis could include joint meetings of the chairs of groups and the Directors of the secretariats, and possibly joint meetings between Steering Committees.
40. The coordination of joint proposals for outside funding should be done by the Directors consulting directly with all those concerned, on a case by case basis. Information on fund-raising initiatives and project submissions should be shared to avoid duplication, and care should be taken so that one proposal does not undercut another one. Unilateral action without consultation should be avoided.
41. The three Global Observing Systems can help to communicate the integration and coherence of the three systems by harmonizing terminologies and organizational structures to the extent possible. Secretariats and their host organizations are collaborating to develop uniform structures and terminology.
42. With the increasing number of publications and reports being generated by the Observing Systems, more attention is being given to their coherent appearance and distribution, including publication formats, layouts, logos and graphic designs. Public information materials should make cross-references to all the systems.
43. For the distribution of documents, each system should determine the major part of its own distribution, and also call on the cooperation of the Sponsors. Further consideration needed to be given to the best way to reach the appropriate levels in governments.
- roles of the sponsors
44. The Sponsors Group meetings facilitate information exchange between the systems and with the sponsors. They provide a practical mechanism for programme and administrative reviews such as the review of Memoranda of Understanding, benefiting from the experience of all three systems, and harmonizing structures and terminologies. They also can help in rationalizing the number of meetings and reduce the need for cross-attendance at those meetings. For the immediate future, two meetings of the Sponsors Group per year may be necessary. This simple mechanism may be sufficient at the sponsors' level.
45. It is desirable in principle for all the sponsors to co-sponsor all three Observing Systems. In the meantime, the secretariats and sponsors should share information with all of the members of the Sponsors Group regardless of whether they are formally a sponsor of the system in question.
46. There will need to be a gradual approach to developing support for an integrated global observing strategy up through each organization's hierarchy. Each organization could prepare a time scale for building the necessary institutional support.
47. The sponsors should draw on their breadth of knowledge of existing activities to review programmes which may fit into the global observing system frameworks, and to work for their greater involvement in G3OS activities. They also should use links with such activities to increase the visibility of and build support for the observing systems.
- relationships with governing bodies of sponsors
48. Special attention is needed to build support for the Global Observing Systems in the governing bodies of each sponsor, where there is competition for shrinking funds and a focus on limited priorities. The support of governments is needed to maintain the observing systems in the sponsors' work programmes and budgets, as this is essential to the healthy development of the secretariats. The sponsors should assist each other in bringing the global observing systems to the attention of their governing bodies. Similar efforts are needed in inter-governmental fora such as the Commission on Sustainable Development, where the sponsors who are Task Managers should include the observing systems in their statements and reports. The value of data from systematic observations in supporting indicators for decision-making is one theme to emphasize.
49. The preparation of coordinated or joint approaches to fund-raising is a major continuing task for the Sponsors Group. A coherent strategy, with defined roles and responsibilities for sponsors, secretariats and other partners, will need to be developed, without constraining the opportunistic nature of much fund-raising. At the project level, each system should make its own direct approaches, following the procedures of its host organization. At an intermediate level, some cooperation would be useful. A major pledging conference for governments should be a joint activity for all three systems. Any information on countries or organizations that might be receptive should be shared and incorporated in the strategy.
- implementation mechanisms
50. Implementation of integrated global observation systems requires a close continuing working relationship with several key groups: the designers and operators of space-based observational platforms represented by CEOS; the operators of in situ ecological and monitoring sites, systems and networks; and governments coordinating, supporting and using national observational programmes. The relationship with CEOS is being developed. GTOS is taking the lead in establishing GOS-Net, a network of existing in situ observation networks that focuses on issues of common interest to scientists and policy-makers, and that measures variables in a harmonized way. It is intended that GOS-Net be extended as appropriate to all the observing systems. GOOS and GCOS also have implementation activities, with an emphasis on regional programmes and pilot projects.
51. Some coordinating mechanisms already exist. The G3OS sponsors participate as affiliates in the CEOS annual meeting in mid-November each year. The Sponsors Group has recommended that each CEOS affiliate sponsor should follow the WMO example and designate a key person to provide an active working-level linkage with CEOS activities. The Sponsors Group will also be an effective mechanism to consider an integrated global observing strategy on a continuing basis. It has decided to allocate a half day at each meeting to this subject and to invite CEOS and IGFA observers to join it for this discussion, so that it can serve as a working group for an effective articulation with CEOS and IGFA. It also agreed to collaboration between the G3OS Secretariats and CEOS.
52. Joint pilot projects for the implementation of some relevant G3OS activities in developing countries have been developed, including one in South-East Asia by the GCOS Planning Office on behalf of GCOS/GOOS/GTOS, and another in several countries prepared by FAO and submitted to Norway for funding. The secretariats and the Sponsors Group should explore opportunities for the further development of such joint activities.
53. GOOS has been developing implementation projects on a regional basis, including EuroGOOS for Europe and NEAR-GOOS in the North-East Asia region. GTOS is preparing a demonstration project to estimate global terrestrial ecosystem productivity.
54. The CEOS/IGFA Strategic Implementation Team has developed six international prototype projects to demonstrate the value of working within an integrated strategy framework. These are a Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment, Upper Air Measurements, Long-term Continuity of Ozone Measurements, Global Observations of Forest Cover, Long-term Ocean Biology Measurements, and Disaster Management Support. These projects represent a pragmatic approach to building support for global observations by demonstrating the rapid delivery of useful products. New project proposals could also be considered. FAO has suggested additional projects on land, such as one on desertification. GTOS and FAO should cooperate with the forest cover project to reinforce existing activities. The ocean biology project also needs GOOS collaboration through its living marine resources component. It is important that new projects should be initiated from the programme side.
- relations with governments and intergovernmental collaboration
55. The strategy should include a concerted approach to building a commitment for implementation and funding of the observing systems at the national level, including steps to bring together, at the national level, agencies and ministries with responsibilities for components of the systems.
56. At present, only a few countries show much understanding of and support for the global observing systems. Now that plans are being completed and are ready for implementation, attracting national support and participation is a major challenge. The respective roles of the sponsors and secretariats in this are being defined. Past efforts to use intergovernmental meetings to build support have not proven very successful, and many approaches will probably be necessary.
57. Each system has been discussing ways to encourage government support and participation. A first meeting to report to governments, with the aim of getting their endorsement and support, is being organized by GOOS in mid-1998. Governmental meetings on the G3OS should be planned and conducted in a concerted way. The Directors should cooperate in preparing these meetings, with each meeting reflecting the linkages between the three systems. It is essential that all the meetings be presented as part of a coherent strategy to build government support. It would also be useful to sound out governments as to the kind of mechanism they want to interface with the global observing systems. Consideration could be given to a broad mechanism for government participation covering all three systems.
58. There will also need to be different approaches to building the cooperation of developing countries, since they will generally require outside assistance to build their capacity for observation programmes. Support from the Global Environment Facility is only provided in response to country proposals, so assistance to countries in preparing such proposals may be required, and special funding is available for this.
- integrated approaches at the national level
59. There is also a need for integrated approaches at the national level, where fragmented agencies and programmes make it difficult to articulate national activities with integrated multidisciplinary global programmes.
60. A few governments have expressed a preference for a single national body to deal with all three observing systems. For this, they will have to develop some integrating mechanism at the national level. Otherwise, it is not evident to identify who in a government would be the appropriate national counterparts for all three systems, and who to invite to intergovernmental meetings.
Functional integration of the systems
61. Inter-system cooperation in each area of common interest should be extended to all areas where it is appropriate. Responsibility of the systems for joint panels, such as those on space-based observations and on data management, should rotate among the G3OS secretariats to the extent possible. Membership should be designated with attention to balance among land, ocean and climate aspects, preferably by joint selection of panel members by the three systems.
62. It will be important to maintain the simplest possible structure of working groups across all the systems. Standing panels should only be established where they are clearly justified, as they are in rapidly evolving fields such as space observations and data management. Wherever possible working groups should be given specific mandates and time frames to deliver a defined product before disbanding. With the pressure to reduce the number of meetings, the Steering Committees and the Sponsors Group should regularly assess the continuing need for each panel and working group.
- space-based observations
63. The joint Space-based Observations panel is established, and provides a mechanism to simplify and make more efficient the contacts between the space agencies and the sponsors and other parts of the user community. A database has been developed making it possible to match data requirements and the technical capacities of space-based instruments. There is already a list of about 180 parameters prepared in cooperation with CEOS and WMO, from which each user can define its set of requirements. Effort should be shifted from the multiple ad hoc contacts of the past to these new integrated mechanisms for matching demand and supply. The space panel is not looking at real-time operational requirements or experimental research sensors, but concentrating on the repeated measurements required to build time series data for monitoring and detecting change.
64. The space-based observations panel provides a mechanism for coordination of technical inputs to the Committee for Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) representing most of the space agencies. At a higher policy-making level, the Sponsors Group and CEOS/IGFA have agreed to regular half-day discussions as part of each Sponsors Group meeting.
- in situ observations
65. There may be a need for an in situ observations panel to balance the space-based observations panel. It is critical, particularly for terrestrial and coastal observations, to know what data are being collected and where. Programmes can only be built on existing activities if those activities are known. This will require inventories of on-going measurements. However this is a complex task, often specific to each type of measurement, and beyond the capacities of the observing systems. The TEMS database in GTOS is a start, but resources are required to maintain it. Governments should be encouraged to make national inventories, and perhaps to take on the responsibility of establishing regional or international data centres as contributions to the global programmes. This is an area of critical concern that can only be developed gradually, starting with the improved sharing of existing data. The GTOS Working Group on site criteria, and the coastal panel, might maintain a watching brief on possibilities to improve the geographic organization, and eventually co-location, of in situ observations.
- data management and telecommunications
66. The Data Management panel faces a more difficult challenge, since there is such a broad range of data requirements that it is impossible to get down to the same level of detail. It may still be necessary to have some data groups within each observing system, while the joint panel will provide an umbrella framework for larger scale harmonization and joint services. The sponsors should indicate to the Data Management panel the relevant activities in their own organizations.
67. There is a particular need for clearly defined data policies that articulate the Global Observing Systems' view regarding the availability of data and the timeliness with which data should be made available, as well as the development of set standards for meta data (information about data sets).
Interfaces between the systems
- ocean inputs to the climate system
68. The GCOS/GOOS/WCRP Ocean Observations Panel for Climate (OOPC), administered by GOOS, is developing the ocean climate module. It is addressing implementation in cooperation with existing programmes and bodies (e.g. IGOSS, CMM, DBCP, etc.).
- terrestrial observations for climate
69. The GCOS/GTOS Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate (TOPC) has made good progress, completing the second version of its plan which was now ready for implementation.
- coastal zones (land-ocean interface)
70. The coastal module is given high priority as an element of GOOS by governments and agencies, and a GOOS coastal panel is being established to work on a Coastal Seas module, following a meeting in Miami, 24-28 February 1997. GTOS also has a coastal working group. Because of their different priorities and stages of development, it is premature to conside a joint activity, but interlinkages are important. The coastal dimensions of GOOS and GTOS could contribute to implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. The sponsors recognize that the coastal area is an interface between the three observing systems, and they must work together in a coordinated way. There should also be links to the activity on run-off and coastal pollution, and to the development of operational hydrology.
71. All three systems need observations across the water cycle, which is an important integrative component, requiring the establishment of a hydrological network. There has been progress through the development of the World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS) and other data projects, but the work of the hydrological community has not yet been linked effectively to the much broader importance of water in biogeochemical cycles and other global processes. Except for the climate requirements outlined by the TOPC, the observing systems have yet to define their other needs for hydrological data. There are also problems of access to hydrological data at the national level which still need to be overcome. GTOS is encouraged to take the lead in this area, and should invite the cooperation of GCOS and GOOS in a joint activity.
- socio-economic implications
72. A panel on socio-economic benefits from the observing systems is another priority need. All the systems recognize that a clear definition of the societal benefits from their observations will help to build and maintain support, yet all are weak in expertise in this area. There are also socio-economic parameters that are required to interpret issues of global change, and ways in which natural resources data from the observing systems could be used in socio-economic accounting.
73. GTOS has established a group to look at socio-economic issues, and should perhaps take the lead in this area, inviting GCOS and GOOS to participate in the group, in the hope that it will evolve into a joint activity. GCOS and GOOS have done considerable work in this area, which should be shared with the GTOS group. It would be good to establish links with other relevant activities of the sponsors, such as work done under the UNESCO MAB programme and UNEP's work on natural resources accounting.
74. The International Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme (IHDP), now jointly sponsored by the International Social Science Council and ICSU, should be invited to form a partnership with a joint socio-economic panel, and perhaps even take the lead in organizing a joint activity.
Delivery to users
75. The global observing systems must be practical and user oriented. The data generated should be packaged into multiple information products responding to a variety of user needs. Some of the principal user groups are mentioned below.
- national governments
76. National governments will always be the most important participants in and supporters of the G3OS, and their needs for information should be a high priority. Within governments there will be a range of information users from technical services and research centres through decision-makers and school curruculum developers. The specific information needs of each group should be identified and responded to.
77. The needs of decision-makers, ranging from local government leaders to intergovernmental bodies, are generally for brief summary information with clear indicators and policy implications. More detailed supporting information should be available for technical staff and policy advisers. This type of information output can help to increase the visibility and demonstrate the relevance of the G3OS.
- convention secretariats, subsidiary mechanisms, and conferences of parties
78. The international environmental conventions on climate change, ozone, biological diversity and desertification, among others, should become important users of observational data to monitor the trends in their respective problem areas and to determine whether the measures adopted under the conventions are having the desired effect. However they will only become ready to consider the data issue at a particular point in their political development. The strategy should identify the data required for the proper implementation of the conventions and define what the observing systems could offer. There were concrete needs for inventories and national reporting to support the decisions of the Conferences of the Parties. It might help to develop a flow chart of links to the conventions with deliverables.
79. The sponsors' observers at the meetings of the conferences of the parties and of the subsidiary bodies should be briefed on the Global Observing Systems, and should be ready to point out to the conventions the services that the systems can perform. They also should keep the G3OS secretariats informed of any opportunities to submit information on their work to the conventions and to strengthen their working relationships with the convention machinery.
- international organizations
80. International organizations require extensive data from global observations as a basis for the environmental assessments and reports to intergovernmental bodies that they are mandated to prepare in their different areas of interest. The data will also support their own operational, research and development assistance activities. They can help to generate value added information products for their own sectoral constituencies.
81. The work on developing indicators of sustainable development under the Commission on Sustainable Development and elsewhere will generate a need for new flows of data to calculate the indicators, to which the observing systems should respond. This could become a major future use of G3OS data outputs.
- scientific community
82. The scientific research community has always been one of the driving forces behind the development of the observing systems both to meet their own needs for research data at scales and over periods that they cannot easily collect through research programme, and to convert to an operational basis observation systems and methodologies that have proven their value through research programmes. They are the one user group that can use G3OS outputs with minimal processing or interpretation.
- private sector
83. Businesses in the private sector may well be interested in some specific data products. Many companies in the service sector will add value to G3OS data and information by converting it into a multiplicity of products and services for the benefit of a wide range of users in the commercial and public sector, as is the case in meteorology today. Businesses are also the one group that may be able to pay full commercial rates for information that can increase their profitability.
- non-governmental organizations
84. The wide range of non-governmental organizations could become useful partners in disseminating the results of operational observation programmes. They can reach strata of society that could not easily be reached directly, and can often help to repackage and add value to data products.
- grass-roots users and major groups
85. Delivery of useful information to developing countries will be an important selling point, including the possibility of delivering imagery and information at the grass-roots level where many resource management decisions are taken. For instance, agricultural users are more interested in variations in seasonality rather than in climate change, and outputs could respond to this immediate need. It might even be possible to encourage a new type of small scale information entrepreneurship, generating locally adapted information products for masses of individual users.