Communities of Practice

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 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.


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