Home > Public Domain Data > Something to watch over us – The Economist says that the Earth should be monitored more carefully

Something to watch over us – The Economist says that the Earth should be monitored more carefully

A recent article in The Economist [http://earsc.org/news/something-to-watch-over-us?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter] makes a case that governments are spending too little on collecting information via Earth-observing satellites.  Starting with the news from 8 April 2012, when Envisat ceasing to communicate with observers, the article quotes a US National Academies report that states that the number of such satellites flown by the US government is likely to decline from 23 today to 6 in 2010, with the number of instruments declining from 90 to 20, with a potentially serious decline in Europe as well.

The article is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that a widely read and non-GIS journal such as The Economist is publishing something so central to GIS and remote sensing indicates that topics that were formerly only near to the geospatial community’s heart are now making their way to the general public.

Jill Clark and I make a case in The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data that government-supported satellite programs have helped spawn enormous growth in derivative data, services, and research in private industry, government, and academia.  But those programs carry with them large costs.  How much of these costs should be borne by government-sponsored data collection, and how much should be borne by private industry?  And if some of the programs are paid for by governments, and ultimately, citizens, shouldn’t citizens have access to the resulting data? If so, should they have to pay a user fee for it?  Should that data be copyrighted?

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