Knowing the Users and Meeting Their Information and Knowledge Needs

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We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” E.O. Wilson

SEE-IN KB: A Collaborative Platform for Users and Providers

The best way to get to know users and to capture and understand societal information and knowledge needs is to “listen” to stakeholders engaged in addressing societal tasks and challenges. An understanding of how users make use of information derived from Earth observations and what type of information and knowledge they want, need and create can be developed by observing users while they access and use such observations and derived information. Therefore, the SEE-IN KB aims to become a collaborative platform where decision and policy makers can access and use Earth observations and derived information. By bringing the providers and users together on this collaborative platform, it will be possible to “learn” how decisions and policies are informed by Earth observations and derived information, how Earth observations and models are used to create practice-relevant knowledge, and where the gaps are that need to be addressed.

The design of such an collaborative platform that is of value and attractive for both users and providers and at the same time capable of learning from the activities of users and providers on this platform has to be innovative. Designing the platform is challenging. However, achieving the necessary revolution in how Earth observations are informing decision requires this innovation.

Functionality and Design of the initial version of the SEE-IN KB

A core function of the SEE-IN KB is to facilitate the linkage of societal goals and targets to Essential Variables (EVs). For each of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of Targets have been established. These targets are connected to indicators. The indicators are report cards for the progress towards the targets and they are a planning tool for measures to achieve the targets. The associated EVs need to be monitored in order to allow a quantification of the indicators.

The SEE-IN KB collects information on objects such as user types, applications, observational requirements, a number of needs, societal goals and targets, and comprehensive information concerning the interconnections between instances of these objects. It documents the societal benefits of the “value chains” or networks from initial observations to end users. It also links instances of these objects to EVs and enables prioritizations. Queries can start at any point in the knowledge base and explore the near and far field environment of an instance. This allows the user to search for products and services for their information needs, and providers to search for users and applications benefiting from their products. The concept of networks inherent in the conceptual model of the SEE-IN KB also allow for the construction of business processes to answer “What if?” questions. This functions can support the planning of activities to make progress towards the SDGs. Increasingly, user types, applications and requirements are linked to actual users, models and dataset, respectively, and this allows the execution of business processes. Compliant to the principal of open knowledge, the full documentation of the business processes is made available to users.

The SEE-IN KB: A Core Element of the GEOSS KB

The SEE-IN KB replaces the GEOSS User Requirements Registry (URR). Of particular interest are those information needs that are linked to indicators defining the monitoring framework for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SEE-IN KB uses a goal-based approach for the identification of Essential Variables (EVs). Specifically, this approach is used to identify those variables that are essential for the quantification of SDG indicators. The approach aims to be consistent with the UN's System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA). The SEE-IN KB will include rules to define the observation needs for these EVs and the SDG indicators. A first operational version of the SEE-IN KB is expected to be available on-line in October 2016.


The Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) is envisioned as a system of systems that integrates environmental and socio-economic data with models to meet the information needs of societal decision makers. The GEOSS User Requirements Registry (URR) had the goal to inform GEOSS about the information needs of societal stakeholders.

At the Ministerial Summit on Earth Observations held in January 2014, the Ministers asked the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to focus on five priority activities, of which one was: “Develop a comprehensive interdisciplinary knowledge base defining and documenting observations needed for all disciplines and facilitate availability and accessibility of these observations to user communities.” In response to this guidance, GEO included the Foundational Task GD-09 “Knowledge Base Development” in the 2016 GEO Work Programme. The key objective of GD-09 is to develop a comprehensive interdisciplinary GEOSS KB defining and documenting observations needed for all disciplines. This will allow the sharing of not just data but also of how these data can be used to address key policy or scientific question, and link also to the community of users addressing similar problems. The GEOSS KB will document the relationships between the data and the processes (models, workflows, algorithms) needed to develop the selected information/indicators. The functionality of the GEOSS KB will support the GEOSS infrastructure in facilitating availability and accessibility of the observations to user communities. The GEOSS KB will include the rules for defining the observational needs and how to link them to user requirements, addressing a wide range of environmental and socioeconomic information needs. The GEOSS KB will be developed by leveraging existing knowledge repositories and databases (in particular, the GEOSS URR) and documenting what is being developed in association with GEO activities. It will include user feedback with respect to the fitness for purpose of both data and processes. Based on a broker approach, the GEOSS KB will utilize other existing knowledge bases. The GEOSS KB will be designed to work closely with the GEOSS Common Infrastructure (GCI) and the GEO Model Web initiative.