International Engagement

GEO Week 2019: the annual GEO Week, and 4-yearly Ministerial Summit, is one of the world’s largest gatherings of EO practitioners and policy makers.

The Centre for Earth Observation maintains an active presence and leadership role on key international earth observation coordination bodies on behalf of CSIRO and Australia.

Australia’s representation in both key international fora is a ‘team effort’ – CSIRO is lead for Australia in CEOS; Geoscience Australia (GA)  in GEO. Both organisations, alongside other domestic partners like the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and the Australia Space Agency (ASA), work closely together to increase Australia’s participation and impacts on the international stage (CEOS, GEO), foster the Australian EO community in these organisations, support GEO’s objectives (open data policy) generally through advocacy of EO and the work of GEO.

Membership of International Earth Observation Organisations

Committee on Earth Observation Satellites

The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) is an international organisation involving 60 agencies operating 156 satellites. Its mission is to ensure international coordination of civil space-based EO programs, and advocacy of the free and open exchange of data, to optimise societal benefit and inform decision making for securing a prosperous and sustainable future for humankind.

CEOS is an international body which coordinates a range of space-based EO capabilities and activities, with participants that develop, operate and support civil EO satellites. The work of CEOS ranges from the development of detailed technical standards for data product exchange, through to the establishment of high-level inter-agency agreements on common data policies for different applications areas.

CSIRO, through the Centre for EO, is an active member of CEOS and leads Australia’s engagement in this forum, that includes the widest global membership of civilian government EO satellite agencies.

CSIRO became SIT (Strategic Implementation Team) Chair during 2020 and 2021, together with Geoscience Australia (GA) this time which strengthened our domestic collaboration on EO too. SIT is the machinery of CEOS and provides ongoing strategic guidance on the direction, progress, and status of agreed implementation activities in relation to the established priorities, commitments, and partnerships of the CEOS organisation.

Attendees of the 33rd CEOS Plenary 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam – last one held face-to-face

Despite having to run all our 4 meetings virtually in the end due to the global health crisis, we managed to successfully address our 3 priorities:

  1. Implementation of a CEOS ARD (Analysis Ready Data) Strategy for space agencies,
  2. Improved coordination of  satellite-based observations of the earth’s carbon & biomass stocks,
  3. Continue to support CEOS activities linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

See more information about our first SIT meeting (originally planned in Hobart), and other SIT-36 and Technical Workshops as per the last one in September 2020.

CSIRO has recently been very active in CEOS with other contributions (leadership and technical):

  • SDG Coordination Group member and co-lead of the sub-Ad Hoc Team on Land Degradation Neutrality
  • Working Group Disasters and CEOS COAST (coastal observations) member
  • Former Chair (2019-2021) of the Working Group on Information Systems and Services (WGISS): activities and expertise of WGISS span the full range of the information life cycle from the requirements and metadata definition for the initial ingestion of satellite data into archives through to the incorporation of derived information into end-user applications.
  • Former Co-Lead of the Ad Hoc Team on Sustainable Development Goals (AHT-SDG) during 5 years: to connect satellite EO with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and contributed to the Earth Observations in Support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development report.
  • Former Chair (2018-2020) of the Working Group on Calibration & Validation (WGCV): to ensure long-term confidence in the accuracy and quality of EO data and products and to provide a forum for the exchange of information about calibration and validation, including the coordination of cooperative activities.
  • Former CEOS Chair, with the 30th Plenary held in Brisbane (2016)

Group on Earth Observations

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is an intergovernmental organisation working to improve the availability, access and use of EO for the benefit of society. GEO works to actively improve and coordinate global EO systems and promote broad, open data sharing. GEO’s global priorities include supporting the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

GEO consists of 105 member countries and 127 participating organisations. CSIRO is a member of the Australian government delegation together with Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology. Geoscience Australia currently leads Australia’s engagement in this forum and is GEO Executive Committee member for 2018.

The theme for GEO Week 2019 and Ministerial Summit was to bolster investment and support for EO.

CSIRO’s roles has included or is till currently active in:

  • Secretariat:
    • CEOS representative at GEO Executive Committee meetings (during SIT Chair term)
    • GEO Programme Board
    • GEO Expert Advisory Group
  • Work Plan activities:
    • GEO PIAG (Pacific Islands Advisory Group – Co-lead)
    • GEO EO4SDG Initiative
    • GEO Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (Co-lead)
    • Other GEO initatives with CSIRO participation: GEOGLAM (Agriculture- Advisory Group member), GFOI (Forest), Blue Planet (Oceans), AquaWatch (inland and coastal water), GEO BON (Biodiversity)
  • Annual attendance at the GEO Plenary to report on activities, organise and participate in side-meetings (SDGs, Open Data Cube, ARD, Commercial egagement)
  • GEO Ministerial Summit (every 4 years) and Plenary was held in Canberra, 4-9 November 2019: led by Geoscience Australia, and supported by the CCEO and ASA. In the Industry Track, the CCEO organised the Earth observation 2.0 workshop with Big Data providers and SMEs to showcase data platforms and how they can meet user needs.

Attendees interacting with the demonstrations from product providers at the EO 2.0 Workshop held during GEO Week 2019

Bilateral and Regional Partnerships

The Centre manages several bilateral agreements which have been signed (or in discussion) with space agencies around the world, to name just a few:

Some agreements cover all EO activities, when others are dedicated to NovaSAR and other SAR data or technology exchange.

The Centre often hosts international delegations and contributes to several international workshops, meetings and events. These provide opportunities for side-meetings, signing, reinforcing partnerships, discussing opportunities and forging collaborations. Our geographic focus is on the Asia Pacific region. Recent and current initiatives include:

  • SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) workshop in Suva (Fiji), November 2019
  • Earth Observation for Pacific – workshop held in Brisbane, October 2018
  • Open Data Cube for Vietnam – regular capability building workshops

Pacific panel, EO for Pacific Workshop, Brisbane October 2018

Management of Capability and Space Science Applications

Our work in space applications is international in nature, including

  • NovaSAR-1, which is a partnership with the UK, India and the Philippines
  • Open Data Cube, created by an international partnership with USA (NASA, USGS), UK, and others members of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) through their Agencies.

Other strategic programs relying on international partnerships

The AquaWatch Australia mission that CSIRO is leading with its foundational partner SmartSat CRC and other domestic partners is already engaging with international stakeholders to build partnerships at different levels:

  • Creation of a Science Advisory Group,
  • Establishment of a network of Pilot Sites,
  • General outreach: link with existing initiatives (GEO AquaWatch; PrimeWater; IWA)
  • Cooperation with Space Agencies,
  • Construction partners collaboration

Maintaining satellite calibration and validation infrastructure, as well as boosting the development of the CSIRO’s EASI are also heavily dependent on and impact our international collaborations.