global network. GEOSS is the most recent attempt to realize the promise of international collaboration.14 Finally, the committee notes again the importance of leveraging international activities for the sequencing of missions (see Box 3.4).

Recommendation: A formal interagency planning and review process should be put into place that focuses on effectively implementing the recommendations made in the present decadal survey report and sustaining and building an Earth knowledge and information system for the next decade and beyond.

Investing in People Through Education and Training

The training of future scientists who are needed to interpret Earth observations and who will turn the measurements into knowledge and information is exceedingly important. The need for such training points to the importance of a continuous and stable stream of funding for university and government researchers. The committee noted with interest the interim report of the Committee on Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, which made the following recommendations (NRC, 2006e, p. 4).

  1. NASA should develop a workforce strategy for ensuring that it is able to target, attract, train, and retain the skilled personnel necessary to implement the space exploration vision and conduct its other missions in the next 5 to 15 years. The agency’s priority to date has been to focus on short-term issues such as addressing the problem of uncovered capacity (i.e., workers for whom the agency has no current work) [footnote in original omitted]. However, NASA soon might be facing problems of expanding needs or uncovered capacity in other areas and at other centers. Therefore, it is important to develop policies and procedures to anticipate these problems before they occur.

  2. NASA should adopt innovative methods of attracting and retaining its required personnel and should obtain the necessary flexibility in hiring and reduction-in-force procedures, as well as transfers and training, to enable it to acquire the people it needs. NASA should work closely with the DOD to initiate training programs similar to those that the DOD has initiated, or otherwise participate actively in the DOD programs.

  3. NASA should expand and enhance agency-wide training and mentorship programs, including opportunities for developing hands-on experience, for its most vital required skill sets, such as systems engineering. This effort should include coordination with DOD training programs and more use of exchange programs with industry and academia.

Part of that committee’s charge was to consider the role that universities can play in providing hands-on space mission training for the workforce, including the value of carrying out small space missions at universities.15

As described in Chapter 5, an essential component of a successful Earth observation program is effective and extensive use of data by the scientific and user communities. To ensure that effective and productive use of data is maximized, resources must be dedicated to an education and training program that spans a broad array of communities. A robust program to train people in the use of observations will result in varied societal benefits—improved weather forecasts, more effective emergency management, better land-use planning, and so on. Education and training for smaller, more specialized communities can be


GEOSS grew out of the U.S.-led 2003 Earth Summit, whose objectives were to promote the development of a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system or systems among governments and the international community to understand and address global environmental and economic challenges and to begin a process to develop a conceptual framework and implementation plan for building this comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system or systems. See “Earth Observation Summit” at


Editor’s note: the final report (NRC, 2007) is available at

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