The Sciences

Add Your Big Data to the Big Picture and Support Global Sustainability

Citizen Science Salon iconCitizen Science SalonBy GuestOct 10, 2015 9:24 PM
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(Image credit: Shutterstock/blackdogvfx) It’s getting harder to track big data around the environment. To address this problem, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Eye on Earth Alliance are putting key environmental data at everyone’s fingertips on the new UNEPLive ​website. For decades, timely access to quality data has been a problem for everyone from government agencies fighting climate change to nonprofits seeking meaningful engagement with the complex challenges of human impact on the world we share. The UN launched this big-data analysis platform to support evidence-based decision making on sustainability issues at the highest levels of government, but it’s open—wide open—to anyone. And it just might need an upload from your database. This month UNEP Live is getting a significant push from a data drive—an open call for data—that coincided with the Eye on Earth Summit held from October 6-8 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Organized by the Alliance, the Summit convenes global thought-leaders to develop strategies for improving the access to and sharing of timely data to support decision making by policymakers and others. The UNEP Live platform is already revolutionizing our ability to collect, use, and share information. Nations to track their progress toward UN Sustainable Development Goals,carbon-emission targets, and other environmental milestones on UNEP, but anyone, anywhere, regardless of job title, can use it—that’s the point. Use it to explore a wide range of data sets from around the world and download publications, maps,info-graphics, and reports on air quality, emissions, health, climate change, econometrics, and so forth. Tools include apps for digging into the data. The platform launched with an impressive breadth and depth of data sets contributed by partners from​ the private sector (such as Amazon Web Services), government resources (such as the Water Quality Portal), academia (such as Notre Dame GAIN) and citizen-science tools (such as Azavea’s OpenTreeMap and the SciStarter Citizen Science API), plus dozens more from around the world.​ Impressive as that inaugural roster is, UNEP, the Eye on Earth Alliance, and their consulting partner SecondMuse want more. The value of this professionally crowd-sourced data clearinghouse will grow exponentially as new partners contribute. That’s where your company, government agency, research institution, ornon-governmental organization comes in. You might be sitting on a key database that someone in Belgium or Bangalore needs to achieve their eureka!​ moment​ for sustainability. If you have data or tools related to the environment, climate change, or health issues, consider sharing them on UNEP Live. Solutions and big new ideas spring from connections—among people, between data sets, and inside creative brains working with information that bears on the problem at hand. Given the scale of the problems we face, transformative answers must come from free-flowing collaboration nourished by a rich stream of timely information. UNEP Live can make that happen.


This is a guest post by Carrie Freeman, a partner with SecondMuse, a consultancy​ specializing in coordinating unique partnerships between diverse organizations to address complex problems.

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