Archive for August, 2007

Communities of Practice

August 6, 2007

In the IGOS world there are various themes that address observing system issues. In the GEO/GEOSS world, “communities of practice” (CP) play a similar, but broader, role. What is a community of practice? Etienne Wenger, Cambridge University Press (at http://www.ewenger.com/theory) describes CPs this way: “Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. A community of practice is not merely a community of interest – people who like certain kinds of movies, for instance. Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources…”

A Community of Practice will (some of the following is from Rick Lawford, IGOS Water Cycle Theme):

  • Have a broad representation of producers and users.
  • Be a comprehensive advisory mechanism for Earth observations. Advise GEO and other CPs. Bridge the GEO committees (User Interface Committee, Science and Technology, Architecture and Data, Capacity Building).
  • Provide information. Tell data and information providers what types of information are needed and how it could be most effectively provided. Give decision-makers access to better information. Provide the public with better and more cost effective services.
  • Optimize observations through dialogue and integration.

Some objectives of a CP are:

  • To facilitate the development of appropriate observations and the use of data products derived from these observations.
  • To maximize the economic benefits of the observations.
  • To develop assessments and statements about the benefits of the observations.
  • To provide a forum for discussion on new approaches that are needed to more fully utilize observations and products.
  • To facilitate linkages with the GEO societal benefit areas.
  • To identify the research needed to develop and exploit the observational capabilities and data products.

As part of GEO, the CP will (this is the Water Cycle case):

  • Enhance existing in situ networks.
  • Develop a network of supersites.
  • Develop a data integration system and integrated products.
  • Evaluate information needs.
  • Coordinate in situ and satellite data integration and dissemination.
  • Promote the use of Earth observations.
  • Provide free and open data exchange.
  • Engage in capacity building and the evaluation of barriers to capacity building.

So as you can see, CPs perform many of the same functions as IGOS themes, particularly with regard to assessing, defining, and developing observing systems. But they do this in the context of GEO/GEOSS, which means linking to SBAs, maximizing economic benefits, and working with the GEO committees.

Accepted

August 2, 2007

The IGOS Cryosphere Theme Report was approved at the 14th Session of the IGOS Partners held at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in Paris on May 30. No fewer than 80 scientists in 17 countries contributed to the report, so this is truly a credit to the community. The comments by the Partners and theme leads where unanimously positive and glowing. They liked how comprehensive the report is, and referred to it as the “bible” of cryospheric observations. One of the two IGOS co-chairs concluded the comment period stating that “Ice is now a component of the Earth System”!

At the time of this writing, IGOS is preparing to merge with GEO (or be “absorbed” by GEO). GEO recognizes that the IGOS themes provide a wealth of information on observing system capabilities and requirements, information that is critical to GEO’s success. So both bodies have agreed that the IGOS themes will become part of GEO, though exactly how this will happen remains to be seen. One thing that will have to happen is that detailed recommendations or implementation actions from the various IGOS themes will need to be consolidated into broader tasks before they are incorporated into the GEO Work Plan.

So what’s next for the Cryosphere Theme? Implementation of the recommendations in our report is the priority. How? We’ll have to talk about that one.