GEO Virtual Symposium 2021 Identifies Key Opportunities

Blog / August 4, 2021

From 21-24 June 2021, we welcomed over 900 participants to the GEO Virtual Symposium 2021. The theme of this year's symposium was "Strengthening inclusive partnerships across the GEO Work Programme (GWP)".

The GEO Work Programme is the primary means that GEO uses to foster collaboration among its Members, Participating Organizations, Associates and other partners in activities to achieve its mission and vision. GEO Work Programme activities are designed, planned and implemented by and for the GEO community to address global policy priorities, including the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The Parallel Sessions and Spotlight Sessions provided an opportunity for GEO Work Programme activities to discuss recent results of their work, including new EO applications to respond to specific needs, advances in EO data and technologies, and further development of the GEO community, such as actions to promote diversity and inclusion. The Plenary Sessions of the Symposium were intended to spark a conversation about bringing together existing capabilities in the GEO Work Programme to address complex challenges in a more integrated way. The sessions looked at four key topics that are closely linked to recent global scientific and policy directions: Resilient Cities and Human Settlements; Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Nature-based Solutions; Ocean and Climate; and Water-Food-Energy Nexus. The results of these initial discussions will be taken up again in GEO Week 2021, where stakeholders working on global agendas, notably from national governments will join the conversation.

The GEO Virtual Symposium 2021 identified the following key opportunities for GEO:

1) GEO Work Programme activities have generated tangible impacts in specific domains. However, there is an opportunity to bring together capabilities from multiple activities to provide a broader range of solutions to global policy priorities.

The Symposium was successful in looking at the connections across the activities of the GEO Work Programme and using these linkages to identify new possibilities for working together. The challenges we face are transnational, we need to think across agencies and organizations. We also need to encourage collaboration across the GEO Work Programme activities with a focus on those who may be left behind. To promote more informed solutions for building climate resilient and sustainable communities, we must also continue to break down silos and work across agencies, organizations and disciplines.

2) GEO has successfully engaged thousands of individuals in hundreds of organizations across more than 100 countries, but there are opportunities to engage more people whose needs are not currently being addressed.

Recent efforts by the GEO Indigenous Alliance and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Subgroup to develop a diverse, inclusive and supportive GEO community where everyone has the opportunity to participate and benefit were highlighted during the Symposium. The virtual nature of the event enabled the participation of people who would otherwise not have been able to attend a face-to-face meeting in Geneva, such as students and people from underrepresented communities in remote areas.

The Symposium highlighted the need for new approaches to facilitate the equitable collection, sharing and reuse of Earth observations. This includes considerations of data principles and ethics, in situ data, and emerging data sources. The Symposium presented technologies and methods to improve data discovery, access, analysis, and reuse, including analysis-ready data, data cubes and data knowledge platforms.

3) GEO Members, Participating Organizations and Associates generously support GEO Work Programme activities with financial and in-kind resources, but there is an opportunity to promote longer-term planning and greater collaboration through coordinated, interdisciplinary funding mechanisms.

One of the main obstacles identified in fostering integration and strengthening partnerships among the GEO Work Programme activities is a lack of resources. More funding mechanisms are needed to support interdisciplinary research and promote integration between different activities. Funding needs to take into account the complexities of interdisciplinary funding, such as supporting communication between disciplines and longer timeframes for research. Also turning research into action.

4) Greater open access to satellite data has provided a strong foundation for many GEO Work Programme activities, however there are opportunities for GEO to increase impact by also promoting greater sharing and coordination of in situ data.

Earth observations are not just satellite images, but also include in situ data, such as from ground-based instruments or wildlife observations. In situ data plays a key role in furthering our understanding of our planet and validating model-based predictions. There is a need to explore opportunities for greater collaboration between GEO Work Programme activities around access and use of in situ data. Partnerships are needed to avoid duplication of effort and to share knowledge and experience.

Get Involved

The GEO Programme Board and the GEO Secretariat are now halfway through implementing the 2020-2022 Work Programme. This Symposium was the first step in planning the call for the next iteration of the GEO Work Programme later this year and there are many ways you can get engaged with these activities.

All the GEO Work Programme activities are open to new participants and proposals for new Community Activities are always welcome. Participation from users of the products and services being developed is strongly encouraged to ensure that the activities reflect the needs of the community and that there is co-design included in the process.

If you would like to contribute to the implementation of the GEO Work Programme please contact Craig Larlee, GEO Work Programme Coordinator, who can explain the various ways you can get involved. You can reach Craig by email at clarlee@geosec.org

All recordings of the Symposium presentations are now available on the event website.



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