THE CONCEPT OF AN
INTEGRATED GLOBAL OBSERVING STRATEGY
John TOWNSHEND, GCOS
David WILLIAMS, EUMETSAT
The Overall Structure of
Processes within an IGOS
Levels of Integration
Promotion of IGOS
Figure 1: An outline
of the overall conceptual structure of an IGOS
Figure 2: Main activities
within an IGOS
Figure 3: Levels of
integration in the current form of an IGOS
The background and rationale for an Integrated Global Observing Strategy
(IGOS) has been discussed widely within the Committee on Earth Observation
Satellites (CEOS) and spelt out in a number of basic documents. These
include the Irvine meeting documents, particularly the one on the comparative
advantage of IGOS and the subsequent scoping paper.
The potential advantages for an IGOS all basically stem from the benefits
that can be realised from improved international cooperation and coordination.
These benefits arise from the impossibility of any single nation providing
itself with all their needed observations either because of costs in
the case of space observations or logistically in the case of many in
situ observations. The need for co-operation between data-provider agencies
also arises from the fact that contemporary data products often require
the integration of multiple observations from multiple sources.
Various attempts have been made to indicate how existing organizations
such as CEOS and the Global observing systems can play a role in such
an integrated strategy. This paper attempts to bring together four issues
on which agreement is needed if progress is to be made in implementing
This paper does not attempt to identify with any degree of specificity
the roles that various existing organizations should play nor have any
new structures been proposed where there are no existing organizational
structures. Such deliberations should be secondary to agreement on the
principle and the nature of the processes occurring with an IGOS. On the
basis of agreement on the principles and processes, a next step will be
to use existing and, as necessary, new structures to achieve the implementation
of an IGOS.
- the principles under which an IGOS should operate
- a description of the overall structure of an IGOS
- the various essential processes (or activities) that need to operate
within an IGOS
- the need for concerted promotion of the strategy.
IGOS is a strategy to involve the major systems for global environmental
observation (satellites and ground based) for the atmosphere, the oceans
and the land in a framework that delivers maximum benefit and effectiveness
in their final use.
A fundamental issue for an IGOS is the identification of what it can
contribute, that cannot be achieved through existing national and international
mechanisms. In short the added value of an IGOS has to be demonstrated.
Ultimately, IGOS will be judged by whether it enables better observations
to be derived in both a more cost-effective and more timely fashion.
To succeed it has to build upon current successes, thus recognising
that there are existing programmes, which already provide integration,
and that these could be regarded as the basic existing core of an IGOS.
De facto they are the current set of priority activities.
Basic principles of an IGOS are that it should:
In striving to respond to these principles contributions to an IGOS should:
- provide a framework for a coherent set of user requirements so
that providers can respond to them
- be an overarching strategy for global observations allowing those
involved in their collection to improve their contributions and make
better decisions in the allocation of their resources to meet their
own priorities by taking advantage of better international collaboration
and coordination. These resources may be used to upgrade existing
or establish new systems
- provide a framework for decisions that have the intent of providing
long term continuity and spatial comprehensiveness for key observations
- provide a framework for decisions that will result in the scientific
research needed to allow a better understanding of Earth processes
- build upon the strategies of existing international Global observation
programmes and focus the need for additional efforts in areas where
satisfactory international arrangements and structures do not currently
- build on existing international structures that successfully contribute
to current global observations rather than create a centralized decision-making
- provide improved understanding for Governments on the need for
Global observations through the presentation of an overarching view
of current system capabilities and limitations
- be helpful in efforts to reduce unnecessary duplication of observations
- provide opportunities for capacity building and assisting countries
to obtain maximum benefit from the total set of observations
- facilitate the creation of improved high level products by facilitating
the integration of multiple data sets from different agencies and
national and international organisations
- identify situations where existing international arrangements for
the management and distribution of key global observations and products
could be improved
- assist in the transitioning of systems from research to operational
status through improved international cooperation
OVERALL STRUCTURE OF AN IGOS
- for key variables have the intent of providing long term continuity
- provide adequate data archiving and access capability for all data
- provide for consistency of data quality where there are disturbances
to the record e.g. due to new technology
- provide sufficient visibility of ancillary data to enable users
to make judgements on the data quality
Figure 1 below indicates an overall conceptual
structure of IGOS. External scientific, social, economic and political
motivations at international and national levels must drive the strategy.
The first stage in the IGOS is to assess the requirements for observations
given these priorities. In concert, the capabilities of existing and
planned observation systems need to be evaluated. Bringing together
the assessment and evaluation allows an analysis to decide what needs
to be changed. Commitments then have to be obtained from implementing
agencies, both national and international. This is the critical phase
in the overall success of IGOS.
Changing the observational systems then follows. This may result in
the deployment of different observational assets or more frequently
may result in alterations in the way data are collected and processed
to create enhanced products better able to satisfy requirements. Products
are then put to use. Accompanying the use should be a further stage
of product monitoring and analyses to ensure that the observations are
being acquired as planned and meet requirements as expected. This then
forms a feedback loop for further evaluation of the capabilities of
In summary an IGOS must provide the framework that will enable suppliers
to be able to respond to requirements that have been set by users. It
must involve processes that will determine deficiencies, enable resources
to be garnered to remedy such deficiencies and be capable of improving
not only the observational assets but also the various stages by which
observations are turned into useful products. Finally there must be
a process by which the products and observations are monitored and analyzed
to ensure they are fulfilling their goals.
1 An outline of the overall conceptual structure of an IGOS
WITHIN AN IGOS
Within the overall structure of an IGOS each of these individual stages
can be examined and the activities needed in each stage that are necessary
for the implementation of an IGOS can be elaborated. The activities
of each stage are illustrated in figure 2 and
- Assess Requirements: This necessitates establishing a consensus
on what are the requirements for observations meeting specific information
needs. Products need have to be defined which will respond to these
needs and then the observations needed to generate these products.
- Evaluate the current capabilities of observational systems.
This needs first to involve a consideration of product capabilities
and then to evaluate the capabilities of current systems against the
- Deciding what needs to be changed. This involves an analysis
of the requirements and the capabilities in order to isolate deficiencies
in observational systems. Implicitly or explicitly there needs to
be a process of prioritization amongst the many deficiencies that
such an analysis will reveal. The net result is a set of priorities
for enhancements to the existing capabilities.
- Obtaining commitments for changes. Having determined what
are the priorities for change it is necessary then to establish the
commitments to obtain such changes. These commitments will be made
independently by the relevant national or international organizations.
- Change the observational systems.
- Deploying new observational assets. This would involve
individual agencies agreeing to develop, deploy and maintain new
assets, either in terms of satellite based or in situ systems.
- Enhancing the product processing chain. Many improvements
can be made through better exploitation of existing assets. This
may involve changing the acquisition strategy or making other changes
in the product processing chain. These may be in the areas of Calibration
and Validation, data access and networking, the assembly of data
sets, improving data archiving and product generation.
- Monitoring and Analysis of Products and Information services.
To determine whether or not the resultant observational systems are
operating satisfactorily and meeting their objectives a continuous
monitoring and analysis procedure is needed, which conceptually feeds
back into the evaluation of current capabilities.
2 Main activities within an IGOS
Implementation of an IGOS necessarily means that many activities must
be carried out in an integrated manner. However, certain activities
involve very discrete and agency specific decisions that do not involve
integration. For example changes in observing capabilities are an agency
Figure 3 shows a view of the current status
of certain elements of IGOS in terms of the level of integration. It
is most likely that some of these should be more closely integrated
than at present. It is however inevitable that many of these can conceivably
only be quite modestly integrated. A remaining question is therefore
what is the desirable level of integration and whether this is sufficient
to ensure an effective implementation of an IGOS
3 Levels of integration in the current form of an IGOS
The above section has focussed on the description of the activities
that are necessary to implement a global strategy. Throughout the process
there is a real need to promote awareness on two fronts namely:
No one agency can take responsibility for this promotion and it is incumbent
on all to promote the value and need in a coherent way. This will hopefully
result in resources being made available and additional countries and
agencies seeing the benefit of the strategy.
- The value of implementing IGOS and hence the need for resources
being made available at a relevant level
- The benefits arising from the infrastructure that follows an IGOS
in terms of its contribution to meeting the political objectives that
have been set to improve the way we understand and manage the Earth.
This paper has set out the principles and processes of an IGOS. If
these can be agreed then the specific roles and responsibilities of
the partners can be discussed and set out.