Federation of Earth Science Information Partners 2015 Annual Report

Credit: Ginger Butcher and Jesse Allen, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


The Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) is a non-profit, community-driven organization that advances the use of Earth science data through meetings and virtual collaborations around topics such as data stewardship, information technology and interoperability, and application areas like disaster response, climate, energy and agriculture.

In 2015, the work of our community enabled science, data and information technology practitioners to confront the myriad, complex challenges in their fields; these efforts benefit ESIP partners and all members of the Earth science data community. Our community continues to grow and attract new partners. ESIP now consists of 173 member organizations; 16 of these were added in 2015.

ESIP also supports and provides professional development opportunities for early career researchers through our Student Fellows program, FUNding Friday mini-grant competition and Robert G. Raskin Scholarship. We engage K-16 educators and students in STEM education initiatives through professional development workshops and other activities involving our partners.

This past year, ESIP began implementation of its 2015–2020 Strategic Plan, which sets a firm agenda to increase data use, advance science and encourage collaborations across institutions and sectors. Moving forward, ESIP will identify new ways to bridge the gap between technical communities and the public by improving the availability and usefulness of Earth science data; increase collaboration across traditional agency, discipline and sector boundaries; and improve society through the application of Earth and environmental science data and information.

Each of these initiatives and activities result in new knowledge, and the development of standards and best practices that make data discoverable, accessible and usable by scientists, decision-makers and the public. ESIP’s status as a leading collaboration network has made it the go-to place to forge consensus on emerging data-related topics.

Our Mission: To support the networking and data dissemination needs of our members and the global Earth science data community by linking the functional sectors of observation, research, application, education and use of Earth science.

Our Vision: To be a leader in promoting the collection, stewardship and use of Earth science data, information and knowledge that is responsive to societal needs.

Our Progress

Community Growth

ESIP’s strength comes from the expertise and dedication of its partner organizations, who advance Earth science information best practices in an open and transparent fashion. ESIP continues to grow and attract a diverse group of partners; sixteen new members were added in 2015, bringing the total number of partner organizations to 173.

The ESIP partner types are:

  • Type I: Distributors of satellite and ground-based data sets, as well as standardized products derived from those data
  • Type II: Providers of data and information products, technologies or services aimed primarily at the Earth science and research communities
  • Type III: Commercial and noncommercial organizations engaged in developing tools for Earth science

Optimizing Collaboration

The biannual ESIP meetings are an essential tool to build and sustain community, create community-driven collaborations and advance projects serving the entire Earth data science community. These meetings bring Earth science data and technology experts together to discuss and exchange current trends, technologies and expertise across the Earth science domain, functional and cross-sector communities.

The 2015 ESIP Winter Meeting, held January 6–8 in Washington DC, focused on food resilience. Approximately 250 people attended more than 40 breakout sessions and plenary talks covering a range of technical and non-technical topics.

Plenary speakers included Joseph Fiskel of the Center for Resilience at Ohio State University and Molly Jahn from the University of Wisconsin. Panel discussions on the subjects of user needs for food resilience and the enhanced use of Earth observations for societal benefit included participation from Lawrence Freidl, NASA; Curt Tilmes, NASA; Tim Stryker, OSTP; Fabien Laurier, USGCRP; and Rick Driggers, NOAA Climate Resilience Toolkit.

Winter Meeting proceedings can be found here.

The 2015 ESIP Summer Meeting poster session and reception. Credit: Bruce Caron

The 2015 ESIP Summer Meeting, held July 14–17 in Pacific Grove, CA, focused on data-driven community resilience. Nearly 300 in-person participants and 22 remote attendees spent four days discussing the many dimensions of community resilience, from place-based to virtual communities, and how technology enables communities to bounce forward in the face of stress and adversity. A total of breakout sessions covered data analytics, registries and standards and interoperability improving technical resilience

The plenary session and half-day Community Resilience Workshop focused on developing a framework to enable:

  • Increased communication and exchange among climate resilience stakeholders (data producers, data users such as policy makers and decision makers, and data translators)
  • Development of a set of data related protocols, best practices and standards to support climate resilience (e.g., assessing vulnerability and adaptability levels)
  • Identification of gaps in available data, knowledge and technology necessary to support climate resilience
  • Removal of barriers to data experimentation and encouragement of data innovation around climate resilience

Summer Meeting proceedings are available here. Summaries of the meeting were published in Eos and The Earth Observer newsletter.

Making Data Matter

Collaboration Area Activities

The work of the ESIP community is advanced through member collaboration areas, which contribute expertise to resolving common problems of the Earth science data and technology community. Their ongoing activities continue to produce vast amounts of knowledge that benefit our partners and the entire Earth science data community; here we highlight some of their accomplishments from the past year.

Data Stewardship Committee

The ESIP Data Stewardship Committee develops and fosters practices and standards that ensure continued and reliable information content, quality, access to and usability of Earth system science data for as long as they are deemed to be of value.

Documentation Cluster

The ESIP Documentation Cluster improves understanding, utilization and integration of the documentation dialects used in the global environmental community.

  • Attribute Convention for Data Discovery Version 1.3; Approved December 2014. The Attribute Convention for Dataset Discovery identify and define a list of NetCDF global attributes recommended for describing a NetCDF dataset to discovery systems such as Digital Libraries. Software tools will use these attributes for extracting metadata from datasets, and exporting to Dublin Core, DIF, ADN, FGDC, ISO 19115 etc. metadata formats.
  • Documenting the Big Earth Data Initiative (BEDI): Metadata are a critical component of BEDI. Metadata are essential for facilitating data discovery, access, usability and understanding. The purpose of this BEDI project is to provide data producers with the guidance necessary to create high quality metadata. The ESIP Documentation Cluster is developing a new ensemble approach for identifying criteria for high quality metadata in multiple Earth science documentation dialects and providing quantitative tools for evaluating and improving metadata using those criteria.
  • Encoding metadata groups and attributes in HDF and netCDF

Semantic Web

  • Ontology Repository: The Community Ontology Repository (COR) is a prototype and evaluation service hosted by ESIP, and consisting of a deployment of the MMI Ontology Registry and Repository. The COR is available for any member of ESIP or the public to test the creation and management of Earth science ontologies and vocabularies.
  • ToolMatch: Supported by ESIP’s Semantic Web cluster and funded by an ESIP Products and Services Testbed Project, ToolMatch is a web-based service that uses community-built semantic web applications to provide data users with the basic means to match their datasets with a comprehensive list of useful, appropriate tools, and also provide data tool developers with datasets or data collections that will work with their tools.

Agriculture and Climate Cluster

The ESIP Agriculture and Climate Cluster continue to engage with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) Network and the National Agricultural Library (NAL), which handles the data system aspect of LTAR. Together they are exploring areas of collaboration, with a current focus on linking NASA and other satellite data with LTAR sites.

Energy and Climate Working Group

The ESIP Energy and Climate Working Group focuses on issues related to data provenance, access and transparency issues for energy applications. It continues to pursue stakeholder engagement and observation gap identification, and participated in the National Council for Science and the Environment meeting in January 2015. The group is also supporting the second U.S. GEO Earth Observation Assessment energy SBA.

Disaster Response Cluster

The Disaster Lifecycle Cluster built upon a previous proposal funded by ESIP’s FUNding Friday small grants program that established a Collaborative Common Operating Picture (CCOP) to provide a platform from which to share geospatial data in a collaborative environment. This resulted in the establishment of a CCOP Testbed with StormCenter Communications Inc., NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and others.


Interest in the ESIP Testbed continues to increase. Projects related to the semantic web, digital identifiers, disasters, data quality and others are underway or complete. In 2015, the Testbed started a new tradition of showcasing funded work, beginning at the Winter Meeting poster session. A new class of incubator Testbed proposals was invited in spring 2015 from across the ESIP community. The two projects funded in this round were: Evaluating Prototypes in ESIP’s Testbed Ecosystem, and Collaborative Common Operating Picture Testbed, with StormCenter Communication, NASA JPL and others.

In addition to the incubator projects, in spring 2015 the ESIP Testbed Configuration Board held a workshop in Boulder, CO on April 24 and 25 to discuss technology evaluations within the Testbed.

Starting in August 2015, ESIP performed technology evaluations of three projects funded through NASA’s Advanced Information Systems and Technology (AIST) program. This work was part of a Cooperative Agreement between NASA and the Foundation for Earth Science to expand evaluation capabilities within the Testbed. To organize the evaluation process, ESIP developed the Technology Evaluation Framework (TEF), a web portal built using the Open Science Framework, which provided a space for AIST project PIs and project evaluators to find information about the evaluation process.

Seed Funding for High-Risk Ideas

ESIP provides small grants to members and students to allow them to test new technologies and innovative ideas. We recognize that innovation requires a willingness to take risks; these grants give the community the freedom to be inventive and apply creative approaches to challenging problems.

In July 2015, ESIP hosted its seventh annual mini-grant funding competition, known as FUNding Friday, for ESIP members and student fellows. The competition showcases how ESIP leverages current technologies and member skills to add new services with a modest amount of effort and funding; it encourages collaborations across member organizations that demonstrate the value of ESIP participation; and is open to the imaginations and the needs of ESIP members.

2015 FUNding Friday award recipients. Credit: Rebecca Fowler

There were six FUNding Friday winners at the Summer Meeting: four students received $3000 each for their project and three ESIP partners received $5000 prizes. In addition, the ESIP provided $8000 in seed funding to the new Drone Cluster to allow them to create a drone platform that will contribute to an interdisciplinary project on agricultural emissions monitoring.

2015 FUNding Friday Award Recipients

Sean Barberie (student): HumanHAB
Brandon Whitehead (student): Semantic models for the ESIP community
Sarah Ramdeen (student): Stewardship of physical data, Use case and community engagement
Sophie Hou (student): Roadmap for the Next Generation Data Management Training Modules
Wade Bishop: Harvesting Information Partnerships for Geospatial data Education and Outreach (HIPGEO)
Shelley Olds: Interactive Interface To Explore Natural Hazards And Vulnerability In Coastal Communities
Soren Scott: A Github Badging System

Cultivating Science Data Literacy Through Education and Outreach

ESIP is committed to STEM education and has a strong track record of engaging teachers and students. Through the ESIP Education Committee’s leadership and other outreach, professional development and engagement efforts, ESIP provides additional channels for science results to extend beyond the research community. We aim to enhance K-16 education and provide training/fellowship opportunities for graduate students, with efforts to involve underrepresented minority students and those with limited access to mentoring and networking opportunities.

Teacher Training

Teacher workshop attendees at the 2015 ESIP Summer Meeting. Credit: Rebecca Fowler

In July 2015, during the ESIP Summer Meeting, seventeen California high school science teachers and community college faculty attended a one-day professional development workshop on integrating Earth science data into the science curriculum.

Educators were introduced to a suite of online data and tools, including: The analysis and visualization of data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), led by Robert Downs, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN); NASA’s Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project (LMMP), taught by Emily Law, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); and MY NASA DATA, led by Preston Lewis, Science Systems and Applications, Inc.

The workshop was sponsored by ESIP and led by Margaret Mooney of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Student Fellows

ESIP Student Fellows are graduate students and postdoctoral researchers interested in bridging the gap between informatics and Earth science. During their yearlong fellowship, these students and early-career scientists learn about career paths, enhance their Earth sciences data and informatics skills and expand their professional networks. ESIP supported six fellows in 2014–2015.

Ignite at AGU

The popular science storytelling event Ignite at AGU returned to the 2014 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA. Sponsored by NASA’s Applied Sciences Program and held in partnership with the ESIP and AGU’s Earth and Space Science Informatics Section, the event enables scientists to showcase their professional and personal interests through fast-moving, creative presentations. Some talks are about serious science, others are more lighthearted, but all focus on a compelling idea or story.

The 2014 event featured 14 talks, which covered subjects such as air quality, climate, disaster response, oceans and ecology. More than 200 people attended; the complete list of talks is below.


Each year, ESIP recognizes community members who make significant contributions to ESIP and the broader Earth science data and informatics community.

Charles S. Falkenberg Award

Curt Tilmes of NASA received the 2014 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony in recognition of his sustained accomplishments in Earth science informatics over a period of more than 15 years, especially in ensuring the credibility of ­data-​­derived science

ESIP President’s Award

The 2015 ESIP President’s Award was shared between Vice President Emily Law of NASA JPL and Products and Services Chair Christine White of Esri. The President’s award was created in 2012 and is given in honor of ESIP community members.

Martha Maiden Lifetime Achievement Award

Ted Habermann of The HDF Group was awarded the 2015 Martha Maiden Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to the Earth Science Information Community. The award, named for Martha Maiden, Program Executive for Earth Science Data Systems at NASA, honors individuals who have demonstrated leadership, dedication and a collaborative spirit in advancing the field of Earth science information.

Robert G. Raskin Scholarship

The Robert G. Raskin Scholarship is awarded annually to a current graduate or postgraduate student in the Earth or computer sciences who has an interest in community evolution of Earth science data systems. Named for longtime ESIP member Rob Raskin, the scholarship was created to promote collaboration and research support for talented students in Earth or computer science.

2015 Robert G. Raskin Scholarship recipient Chris Waigl presents her work at the ESIP Summer Meeting. Credit: Bruce Caron

Chris Waigl, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, received the 2015 Raskin Scholarship. Waigl implements a processing workflow that combines near real-time satellite imagery with GIS data, and processing via algorithms that were specially adapted to interior Alaska’s boreal zone.


The following officers began their terms on January 10, 2015 and served until January 2016.

President: Peter Fox, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Vice President: Emily Law, NASA/JPL
Chair, Constitution and Bylaws Committee: Ken Keiser, University of Alabama-Huntsville
Chair, Finance and Appropriations Committee: Bill Teng, NASA GSFC
Chair, Partnership Committee: Tyler Stevens, NASA Global Change Master Directory
Chair, Education Committee: LuAnn Dahlman, NOAA
Chair, Information Technology and Interoperability Committee: Ethan Davis, UCAR/Unidata
Chair, Data Stewardship Committee: Justin Goldstein, USGCRP
Chair, Nominations Committee: Denise Hills, Geological Survey of Alabama
Type I Representative: Danie Kinkade, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/BCO-DMO
Type II Representative: Steve Richards, Arizona Geologic Survey
Type III Representative: Ted Habermann, The HDF Group

Board of Directors

Chair: Karl Benedict, University of New Mexico
Secretary: Ruth Duerr, ESIP/Ronin Institute
Treasurer: Bruce Caron, ESIP/The New Media Studio
Mike Daniels, ESIP/NCAR
Bob Downs, ESIP/Columbia University/SEDAC
Tamara Ledley, ESIP/TERC
Hampapuram Ramapriya, ESIP/NASA/SSAI
Jim Buizer, University of Arizona (At-large)
Stefan Falke, Northrup Grumman (At-large)
Jim Frew, University of California, Santa Barbara (At-large)
Chuck Hutchinson, University of Arizona (At-large)
Dave Jones, StormCenter Communication (At-large)
Bill Michener, University of New Mexico (At-large)
Patricia Reiff, Rice University (At-large)
Brian Wee, NEON Inc. (At-large)


Executive Director, Erin Robinson
Community Director, Annie Bryant Burgess
Communications and Outreach Director, Rebecca Fowler
Logistics Coordinator, Annie Keyes
Operations and Special Projects, Dan Keyes

This report covers fiscal year October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015.

ESIP’s core sponsors are NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). We are grateful for their support, which has enabled ESIP’s long and versatile history of service to the Earth science data community

Stay connected with ESIP through our Facebook, Twitter, weekly updates and AGU data blog posts. Visit esipfed.org to learn more about our work.

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