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Workshop report


Building a User-Driven GEOSS: Methods to Capture, Analyze, and Prioritize User Needs
Sydney, Australia, April 10, 2011


Incomplete DRAFT

Workshop Report


This report describes the findings and recommendations of the workshop. The Workshop program and the list of participants are included in Appendices A and B below. Full documentation of the workshop including the presentations is available at

Workshop Scope and Objectives

The objective of the workshop was to contribute to a truly user-driven development of GEOSS by discussing the currently applied and other potentially useful approaches to the gathering of user-related needs and information relevant for GEOSS. The Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) is intended to be user-driven. Therefore, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) through its Committees, Work Plan Tasks, and Communities of Practice (CoPs) has initiated a number of activities directed towards the collection and analysis of user needs and observational requirements. A key goal of these activities is to inform providers and to support a prioritization of Earth observations that have maximum benefits in user communities. The User Interface Committee (UIC) has a leading role in these activities. The workshop reviewed across all GEO components current activities to assess user-needs, discussed additional activities to be implemented, and considered ways to bring the collected information and analysis results to the providers in an effort to ensure that prioritization is in agreement with identified user needs.

Specifically, questions addressed during the workshop included:

  • How can GEO best capture user feedback and engage users?
  • How well can users in the nine SBAs express their needs?
  • Does GEO's approach to user needs and user feedback facilitate a dialog between users and providers?
  • How well are GEO's approaches suited to identify gaps between user needs and available Earth observations?
  • How is GEO prioritizing and to what extent are user needs the basis for prioritization?
  • What can we learn from other organizations to improve the GEO approach to a user-driven system?


The workshop was open for all interested stakeholders of GEO and GEOSS. In particular, all participants in the ISRSE-34 meeting were encouraged to consider participation in the workshop. The sixteen participants included members of the UIC, ADC and STC, representatives of Participating Organizations, and external experts in the collection of user-related information.

Workshop Format


Workshop Notes

Here we will summarize the main messages of the presentations. Each presenter is asked to provide a short paragraph (not more than half a page) with the key message of the presentation.

Summary of Workshop Findings

GEO user engagement activities: a review

The review of GEO activities intended to engage users in the development of GEO and understanding the needs of users in terms of decision support through Earth observations identified the following issues:

There may be potentially large undiscovered user groups: The user-related GEO activities are mainly focused on those user communities known to the User Interface Committee and other GEO units involved. Potentially large 'undiscovered' user groups need to be considered in the future.

There is diversity in terminology: Users have a strong tendency to express their needs in a terminology specific to their field and community. This diversity in terminology poses a challenge to GEO in collecting user needs and converting them into requirements for observations, products, infrastructure, services, and information.

Licensing of GEOSS products could be a turn-away: The licensing required for products, applications and software accessible in the frame of the Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP) could easily turn away potential users of these entities.

Multiple registrations are a hassle for GEOSS users: Many data providers require users to register and log in before they can access data products they have discovered through GEOSS; this could lead users to use other search tools instead of GEOSS.

Delays in outreach activities are detrimental: For some activities reaching out to users, large delays relative to a published time line and insufficient feedback to users have caused uncertainty and dissatisfaction and have turned users away.

Games promoting Earth observations need to be web-based: Games are an interesting means for the promotion of Earth observations, but such games need to be web-based and available for large communities.

Users want products, not just information where products could be found: Users strongly are interested in getting products or services responding to their needs, while meta information restricted to data availability is often not useful for them. While some meta data, for example, information on accuracy, latency, resolution, etc., is of value to many users, meta data restricted to source information is not considered useful.

Surveys of web usage could provide clues on Earth Observation users: Surveys of what web users search for could provide important clues and who is using Earth observations and derived information when and for what; such surveys may lead to the discovery of currently unknown user groups of Earth observations.

Broad stakeholder involvement in processes can ensure that solutions are supported widely: INSPIRE processes broadly involved stakeholders and thus guarantee that solutions arrived at have a wide support. GEO processes may have to be revised to broaden stakeholder involvement in order to ensure wide support for solutions.

Separation between users and providers increasingly more diffuse: User and providers are increasingly in overlap; therefore, there is a need to revisit the conceptual separation between users and provides, and an alternative may be to use applications as the key entities, to which some contribute and others benefit from.

Questions that should be addressed

Related to the issues identified in the review, the following question should be addressed:

  • How could the UIC and GEO identify and engage users of Earth observations and derived information that are currently not discovered?
  • How could a GEOSS-wide user registration system be designed so that a log in to GEOSS would 'triple' down to data providers and remove the necessity to register and log in with the individual data providers?
  • How should GEO processes be modified to guarantee a wide support for accepted solutions?
  • Should GEOSS be developed more as a basic underpinning infrastructure providing only a limited number of common-value services while leaving many value-added services to the commercial sector?

Workshop Recommendations

Taking into account that GEO is based on voluntary contributions from member countries and Participating Organizations, and recognizing that there are considerable temporal fluctuations in committed resources, it is recommended that outreach activities should focus on a few well planned, organized and followed-up activities instead of starting too many initiatives that later experience long delays because of a lack of resources to follow up everything.

  • Recognizing that users express needs that often imply more than observational requirements, it is recommended that GEOSS develops the methodology to translate user needs into requirements for observations, products, infrastructure, services, and knowledge.
  • Recognizing that the collection of information on user needs and requirements for observations, infrastructure, products and services requires a variety of methods, it is recommended to maintain an ensemble approach to this task, including at a minimum continuous crowd sourcing, frequent analyses of published reports, and comprehensive harvesting of relevant registries.
  • Recognizing that there may be potentially large unknown user groups of Earth observations and derived information, it is recommended that an attempt be made to identify these groups through an analysis of web usage and other processes as appropriate.
  • Recognizing that user groups use their own, group and/or field specific terminology to express their needs, and realizing that it will not be possible to educate users to use a common, GEOSS-wide ontology, it is recommended that GEOSS respects the diversity in user terminologies and develops tools that allow to map the user needs into requirements expressed in a common GEOSS ontology.
  • Considering that users consistently express a need for GEOSS as a social media, and recognizing that initiatives such as the Supersite initiative draw more contributions and usage than the GEOSS registries, it is recommended that GEO makes a dedicated effort to learn from social media and to add a strong social media component to GEOSS.
  • Understanding that many outreach activities to user groups require a thematic focus, and realizing that a thematic approach often overlaps with several GEO Communities of Practice, it is recommended that themes be identified for which several CoPs should coordinate and work together in order to reach to the users within these themes.

Actions to follow up

The following actions were proposed during the workshop:

  • The workshop conveners will write a brief report for the next GEO Newsletter. This report is due in a few days.
  • The workshop conveners will draft input for the Work Plan 2012-2015 and iterate this with the Workshop participants. The goal is to submit this before the Work Plan Symposium in May.
  • The workshop conveners will draft the outline of a workshop report and invited input for the report from all participants.


A. Workshop Program

Sunday, April 10, 2011

0900 - 1040:Session 1: UIC and CoPs (Chair: Michael Nyenhuis)
0900 - 0905:Francesco Pignatelli, Hans-Peter Plag: Welcoming remarks
0910 - 0930:Masami Onoda: Building a user-driven GEOSS: the view from the GEO Secretariat (presentation)
0930 - 0955:Gary Foley: GEO Communities of Practice: a scheme for the dialog between providers or between providers and users? (presentation; for associated documents, see here ...)
0955 - 1020:Lawrence Friedl: US-09-01a: Identifying priorities based on expert surveys and published requirements (presentation)
1020 - 1040:Hans-Peter Plag: Building a user requirement registry for a dialog between users and providers (presentation)
1040 - 1100:Coffee Break
1100 - 1120:Gary Foley: GEO Portal and Clearinghouse: reaching out to users with user-friendly interfaces (presentation)
1120 - 1320:Session 2: Other GEO activities (Chair: Lawrence Friedl)
1120 - 1140:George Percival: Implementing architecture with, and for users (presentation)
1140 - 1200:George Percival: Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP) Data Sharing investigations for GEOSS (presentation)
1200 - 1220:Jim Parker, Hans-Peter Plag: SaveEarthGame - A Game Contest to Promote Earth Observations (presentation)
1220 - 1240:Brad Reed: A call for proposals as a link to science users and contributors (presentation)
1240 - 1330:Lunch
1330 - 1350:Stuart Minchin: Gap analysis: analysing the match between GEOSS and user needs (presentation)
1350 - 1500:Session 3: External advice (Chair: Hans-Peter Plag)
1350 - 1420:Mark Rodda: How do Australian agencies reach out to and care for users? (presentation)
1420 - 1440:Francesco Pignatelli: INSPIRE and its users: developing policies consistent with societal needs (presentation)
1440 - 1500:Herbert Haubold, Michael Nyenhuis: GMES users: advices for GEO (presentation)
1500 - 1530:Coffee Break
1530 - 1550:All: Discussion what could GEO learn from social media and market-oriented approaches?
1550 - 1700:Session 4: Looking Forward (Chair: Francesco Pignatelli)
1550 - 1605:Carsten Dettmann and Michael Nyenhuis: Recommendations to GEO and the UIC (presentation)
1605 - 1645:All: Discussion
1645 - 1700:Hans-Peter Plag: Summary and Actions (presentation)

B. Workshop Participants

NameGEO Member/POAffiliation
Jens DanzeglockeGermanyDLR, Germany
Carsten DettmanGermanyFederal Ministry of Transport, Germany
Kathleen FontaineUSANASA, USA
Lawrence FriedlUSANASA, USA
Edward J. HyerUSANaval Research Laboratory, USA
Agnes LaneAustraliaBOM, Australia
Stuart MinchinAustraliaCSIRO, Australia
Michael NyenhuisGermanyUniversity Bonn, Germany
Francesco PignateliEuropean Commission - Joint Research Centre
Masami OnodaGEO SecretariatGEO Secretariat, Switzerland
Hans-Peter PlagIEEEUNR, USA
George PercivalOGCUSA
Brad ReedGEO SecretariatGEO Secretariat, Switzerland
Erin RobinsonESIPUSA
Mark Rodda Hitwise, Sydney, Australia
Lerato SenekoSouth AfricaDST, South Africa

Last edited 02 December 2016

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