Updates on National EO Coordination, Infrastructure and Digital Earth Australia

May was  a very good month for Earth observation in Australia, with some strong foundations laid for us to take the next steps in realising the full potential of these data and its associated infrastructure for science, industry, government and society more broadly.

National Research Infrastructure

We are pleased to draw your attention to the recently released 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, the document that lays the foundation for future investment in national research infrastructure.  This document highlights the critical importance of Australia increasing its exploitation of Earth observation data, from satellites as well as other sources, and the need for strong national coordination and community engagement.  The document flags the importance of the Australian Earth Observation Community Plan for guiding future investment that is meant to explicitly build on past investments.

The Roadmap document specifically identifies the need for:

  • New infrastructure integrated with eResearch to enable existing and new data with new technologies and modelling to build an Environmental Prediction System for Australia. 
  • Enhancing capability in remotely sensed data infrastructure, including sensors and sensor networks, and calibration sites across Australia.  
  • Enhancing capability to provide a wide range of new and innovative remotely sensed products and high quality field data to the research community, business, government and industry in near real time. 

These 'hooks' will be of great interest to many of you, we are sure, as you have advocated for their importance for many years.

The Department of Education and Training, with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, will develop an investment plan, informed by business cases for each of the nine priority areas identified in the Roadmap.  It is understood that the investment plan will also be developed in consultation with the Innovation and Science Australia and the Commonwealth Science Council, and is expected to be completed in late 2017.  We expect that an Australian Government response to the Roadmap would be made in early 2018.

The workshop run at the recently completed NCRIS Environment Symposium was a start linking that process to the Australian Earth Observation Community Plan.  The community's engagement with the process, wherever possible, will be critical, and we hope that the AEOCCG can provide a forum to help us work together as a united community and get the most from this process.

Digital Earth Australia

 We are also pleased to draw your attention to the Australian Government's recent commitment to the operationalisation of the Australian Geoscience Data Cube, a successful pilot system, to create Digital Earth Australia (DEA).  DEA will be an important component in the bigger picture of national infrastructure our community requires.  

Funded through the Public Service Modernisation Fund, DEA's initial target will be to transform and streamline the core business of Australian Government agencies using EO.  In doing this, GA will be able to integrate new datasets, add capabilities, and enhance usability and interfaces.  All of the functionality will be released as open source under the framework of the Open Data Cube project, which is supported by CSIRO, NASA, USGS and CEOS.

GA will be working closely with the community as the project moves forward to ensure this investment not only meets its core goal of supporting Australian Government agencies to transform their business, but that it also benefits the broader Australian EO community and the international EO community as much as possible by providing a powerful system to support science and innovation. This will be done through direct involvement in the implementation of the Australian Earth Observation Community Plan by AEOCCG to ensure DEA provides a complementary resource to the further development of Australia EO research infrastructure and industry capabilities.

National EO Infrastructure Planning

Many of you will recall that the Commonwealth developed a National Earth Observations from Space Infrastructure Plan (NEOS-IP) a number of years ago.  While this document has remained internal to government, it has guided investments by Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, including the recent major upgrade to the Alice Springs Ground Station which strengthens Australia's contribution to key international partner USGS. 

Consistent with the NEOS-IP, the Australian Government EO agencies will shortly begin planning for a review of the document.  This comes at a good time: significant progress has been made to implement the original plan, but the strategic context has changed considerably (e.g. with Australia's international partnerships strengthened) and so has technology. Although the scope of the plan is Australian Government agency investments and coordination, it is well understood that such investments are a major part of the national picture, and must take this bigger picture into account.  The AEOCP, and input from the community, will be key reference points for the review, so please stay tuned.

Future of National EO Coordination

We would also like to highlight the significant progress that has been made in designing a future mechanism for effective national EO coordination.  The need to transform the AEOCCG to be fit for the changing Australian EO community was identified by the community in the development of the AEOCP, and work over the last few months has taken on board the views of industry, the research community and government. We look forward to the release of the Business Plan for AEOCCG in the coming months and collaborating in the AEOCP implementation.

Stuart Phinn
Director, Australian Earth Observation Community Coordination Group
The University of Queensland

Adam Lewis
Branch Head, National Earth and Marine Observation
Gesoscience Australia 

Alex Held
Director, TERN Auscover