IGOS Partnership Forum during the UNISPACE III Conference

(Vienna, 21 July 1999)

IGOS: Perspective of the International Group of Funding Agencies (IGFA)

Thomas W. Spence

Distinguished Delegates, Colleagues, Ladies & Gentlemen


It is really a privilege for me to participate in this Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) Forum at UNISPACE III. The organizers of this Forum deserve our appreciation for having engaged all the diverse organizations which constitute the IGOS Partnership -- and thereby assembling a comprehensive overview of the IGOS for UNISPACE III.

I am here representing the International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research [whose acronym is IGFA]. I bring the greetings and best wishes of its Chair, Dr. Kirsten Broch-Mathisen of Norway. I would like to provide an IGFA perspective on the Integrated Global Observing Strategy. But before doing that, it is appropriate for me to provide some perspective on IGFA.

International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research.

With the advent of major international, large-scale, multi-disciplinary research programs in the late 1980's, it became apparent that the national research funding agencies and science ministries needed an effective forum to discuss these programs and related issues of mutual interest.

Consequently IGFA was established about 10 years ago to provide such a forum. The members have met annually since its inception.

IGFA's objectives are to:

* Exchange information on national global change research programs, supporting activities, and facilities
* Discuss approaches to integrate and phase the research programs in light of available resources
* Promote access to and coordinate the deployment of specialized research facilities
* Optimize the allocation of national contributions to global change research.

On the basis of these objectives, IGFA must remain in close contact with international scientific organizations (e.g., ICSU, ISSC), various international coordinating bodies, the global research programs (WCRP, IGBP, IHDP), the observing systems (e.g., GCOS, GOOS, GTOS) and intergovernmental organizations (e.g., UNESCO, WMO).

The [now 21] members of IGFA represent their national funding and science agencies and ministries. In most cases, the national components of their research programs undergo peer review to ensure the highest quality projects are supported. Funding for international collaborative elements required for global change research (e.g., networks, facilities) are often coordinated through informal discussions among IGFA members. IGFA members also provide support for core and/or project offices of the major international global change research programs. Securing the resources required to conduct the international research agenda is a continuing concern of IGFA.

The IGFA partnership works at both the global and national levels through its support for the international offices of the global programs and through member support of various conventions and international agreements. In addition, IGFA works at the national level by coordinating the efforts of national agencies supporting various aspects of global change. As expected, this latter activity varies considerably from country to country.

IGFA has also established key contact or working groups to address resource issues, the human dimensions of global change, and interaction with the international aid agencies. More notable in the context of IGOS is the IGFA Working Group on Data and Observations.

In establishing this Working Group, IGFA recognized the critical need for a strategic framework to secure the global observations required by the research programs and to meet the varied needs of the participating nations.

The Working Group is encouraging the development of mechanisms to obtain essential observations, to ensure their high quality, and to sustain them for the long-term as required. This latter step may, in some countries, require the transition from research based funding to more operational, long-term support. For other countries, the resources to make consistent high-quality observations ab initio are extremely limited and mechanisms must be found to provide needed resources in such countries.

IGFA also recognized that while many observational programs are now in place, the resulting data are often not effectively shared. The Working Group and IGFA members are encouraging government agencies and the private sector to identify and share these essential datasets particularly when they meet common international goals and/or priority needs of international conventions.

As the concept of an Integrated Global Observing Strategy was emerging, IGFA immediately recognized the importance and potential of the IGOS to enhance the observational capability needed for global change research and applications. Similarly, IGFA recognized the significant capability residing in the research community to contribute its expertise to the IGOS. Thus, at an early planning meeting to discuss the development of the IGOS, IGFA proposed a "partnership" and agreed to actively participate in the IGOS. Today you see the members of the partnership -- which now includes key international agencies, national space agencies, the research community, and the developing global observing systems.

Integrated Global Observing Strategy

As indicated by earlier speakers, the IGOS is intended to

"... unite the major satellite and surface-based systems for global environmental observations of the atmosphere, oceans,and land.

It is "... a process, involving many partners, that links research, long-term monitoring and operational programs ...that delivers maximum benefit and effectiveness."

Clearly, to meet this lofty goal requires a high degree of organization and planning and a strong commitment by the various Partners.

The IGOS also requires:
1) an agreed framework for determining specifically what observations are required;
2) a group of capable organizations to assume responsibility for acquiring the essential observations and of course to see the process through to effective dissemination of the information, appropriate application to important societal issues, and user-friendly archival for future use; and
3) effective strategies and mechanisms to marshal the needed resources.

Let us consider these in turn.

1. How will IGOS determine what observations are truly essential?

On this issue we have been and are currently being very well served by several of the IGOS Partners and by communities that IGOS will serve. First the research programs [as reported earlier by WCRP and IGBP] are engaging the scientific community. Driven both by the urgency of scientific discovery and by societal needs, these programs have outlined observational requirements as essential elements of their planning. For example, the CLIVAR Program of WCRP, addressing Climate Variability and Predictability, has identified a comprehensive suite of variables which the program views as essential for success. These include ongoing operational measurements (e.g., World Weather Watch), global monitoring (e.g., GOOS and GCOS) and specific research measurements [primarily the responsibility of the research community itself]. Similar activities are seen to characterize nearly all the global change programs.

Second, the global observing systems [the G3OS] have identified those critical observations required to meet their objectives. For example, the Global Climate Observing System has documented requirements for observations of the atmosphere, ocean, and land surface to characterize the global climate. It has also identified the essential space-based observations which are needed.

Third, organizations responsible for the operational programs have developed clear priorities to meet their objectives. They have considerable experience, not only in identifying needs, but in devising effective strategies to meet them. One may note that the World Weather Watch, consisting of a constellation of satellites and a world-wide in situ network, is in effect an Integrated Global Observing Strategy. [Perhaps the next speaker will comment on this point].

I noted earlier that many important requirements are identified and prioritized by the user communities themselves. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, for example, has invited expert groups (e.g., GCOS, IPCC) to identify what observations are essential for the FCCC to assess climate change, and to gauge the efficacy of the various FCCC protocols being considered. The upcoming Fifth Conference of the Parties will address "systematic observations" in this context.

However, not all observing requirements demand an IGOS. It will be the responsibility of the Partners to consider the spectrum of observational requirements as posed by the various groups above and to identify those for which an IGOS is absolutely essential.

2. Do the IGOS Partners have the capability to acquire the essential observations?

In my view, IGOS has attracted an impressive array of active and committed Partners who are competent to address both the space-borne and surface-based observing elements and to develop the Integrated Global Observing Strategy.

Of course the challenge to provide and sustain the flow of global information to meet ALL requirements is clearly beyond our current capabilities. But the essence of the strategy is to develop our capabilities through the judicious and cooperative use of the resources and talents we do have in partnership -- and to apply them to the critical high-priority issues confronting us today.

It is illustrative to consider the progress made on the "strategy" to date. Once the initial discussions of the IGOS were concluded [in 1996 workshops sponsored by CEOS and the G3OS], a number of "pilot" projects were identified. These pilot projects were intended to explore the IGOS as a concept, but also to address a variety of real observational requirements. Six projects were initially selected. Under the leadership of appropriate sponsoring organizations each project formulated an effective approach and successfully tested or demonstrated facets of the strategy. Each provided an important lesson now being used to guide future development of the strategy.

Based on the results of the six pilot projects, the most recent meeting of the Partners discussed a "theme" approach. The Partners considered that the concept of themes would provide a more effective structure to advance the observing strategy. The themes would be carefully selected to represent a balance among the capabilities and missions of the various Partners and the priorities of the intended user groups. Examples cited (e.g., oceans, climate, land processes, carbon and water cycles, disaster management) would require the Partners to take a more comprehensive and integrated approach.

Even more importantly -- the themes should more effectively engage both the space and in situ communities with the ultimate user groups.

3. Does IGOS have an effective strategy to acquire resources?

As with all such programs, the resources must come from the participating countries -- either through individual, but coordinated efforts, or through international funding organizations. IGFA currently provides a mechanism to coordinate the contributions of its member organizations in support of the research programs in global change. The participation of the research programs is symbiotic -- the programs have the expertise to propose and develop observing systems which may become an element of IGOS and the programs derive benefits from the long-term, high-quality data that the IGOS will provide.

The presence of IGFA in this Partnership at this juncture is very significant. While the Group does not define the observational requirements nor collect observations, it does assume a key role in supporting the various activities of the research community. The resources contributed by IGFA members provide the research programs with the capability to participate substantively in the IGOS -- both in defining and meeting requirements. Further IGFA supports emerging technology and scientific infrastructure. Through its comprehensive support of the research enterprise, IGFA will assist in providing a sound basis for the future development of the IGOS.

IGFA is committed to the establishment of an effective observing system which will incorporate the active participation of the research programs and will contribute substantially to the research effort. As effective and often influential spokespersons in their own countries, IGFA members will actively seek to increase resources in support of IGOS, and observational programs more generally.


The International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research is pleased to be a Partner in the development of IGOS -- and is committed to its success. It pledges its members to support the efforts toward an integrated capability for observations which not only meets the needs of the research community, but more importantly, increases the capability of societies to cope with the challenges of future global change.

Thank you.

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