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Future Population Scenario Data and Global Development Potential Indices Released

April 16, 2020

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) managed by CIESIN has released several new datasets valuable in assessing future global energy development and land use and in characterizing potential long-term future population distribution in the context of climate change.

One dataset, Global One-Eighth Degree Population Base Year and Projection Grids Based on the SSPs, was developed by Bryan Jones of the City University of New York and Brian O’Neill of the University of Denver. The dataset consists of global urban, rural, and total population data for the base year 2000, and population projections at ten-year intervals for 2010-2100 at a resolution of one-eighth degree (7.5 arc-minutes). These are consistent both quantitatively and qualitatively with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) that were developed in support of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments. A second dataset, Global 1-km Downscaled Population Base Year and Projection Grids Based on the SSPs, provides a downscaled version of the first dataset, at 1-km resolution (about 30 arc-seconds). This dataset was developed by Jing Gao of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Spatial demographic scenario data are key inputs for the analysis of future land use, energy use, and emission patterns together with potential future climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation.

A third dataset, Global Development Potential Indices (DPI), was developed by James Oakleaf of The Nature Conservancy, and colleagues. This dataset ranks global land suitability in the sectors of renewable energy, fossil fuels, mining, and agriculture, to aid in setting priorities for development and conservation efforts. Each sector-based DPI is a 1-km spatially-explicit, global land suitability map that has been validated using locations of current and planned development.

SEDAC is one of NASA′s Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) in the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System. SEDAC seeks to improve access to and use of key socioeconomic and interdisciplinary data that are or can be integrated with remote sensing data. SEDAC datasets have been cited in more than 5,000 different scientific publications during the past 20 years.

See: Global One-Eighth Degree Population Base Year and Projection Grids Based on the SSPs, v1.01 (2000 – 2100)
       Global 1-km Downscaled Population Base Year and Projection Grids Based on the SSPs, v1.01 (2000 – 2100)
       Global Development Potential Indices (DPI)


Research Data Alliance Conducts Its 15th Plenary Online

April 13, 2020

CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in the 15th Plenary of the Research Data Alliance (RDA), which was held virtually from March 18 to April 10 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Downs gave the presentation, “Repository Implementation Approaches: Choices and Decisions,” co-authored with Kerstin Lehnert of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and others, in a March 31 session he led in his capacity as a co-chair of the RDA Repository Platforms for Research Data Interest Group. Downs also served as a co-chair of the RDA Data Versioning Working Group, which concluded its activities during the session, “Data Versioning WG: Final Report and Next Steps,″ held March 26. RDA is a grassroots community of data scientists, users, and producers with more than 10,000 members from over 140 countries. The 15th RDA Plenary was originally scheduled to be held March 18–20 in Melbourne, Australia.

See: RDA VP15 RPRD IG Session
       RDA VP15 Data Versioning WG Session


New Map Viewer Shows Population Characteristics in Relation to Reported COVID-19 Cases

April 10, 2020

screenshot of New York City showing age distribution of defined area

A new mapping tool shows the density of population in relationship to reported coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases at national and sub-national levels, and permits users to obtain custom estimates of the number of people by age and sex living in an area of interest, including areas not currently reporting large numbers of cases.

Developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), the SEDAC Global COVID-19 Viewer: Population Estimates by Age Group and Sex lets users quickly access relevant population information without having to download and analyze large amounts of spatial population data. The Viewer’s unique capability is that it allows users to obtain population estimates for specific age and sex categories for any area, such as a metropolitan region that cuts across multiple jurisdictions or countries. The Viewer displays age and sex structure charts and pyramids in response to a user-drawn circle or polygon. Data on COVID-19 cases from the Johns Hopkins University are updated multiple times per day.

The SEDAC Global COVID-19 Viewer is meant for researchers, educators, and policymakers who are interested in visualizing key population characteristics such as high concentrations of elderly individuals in urban or rural areas that are, or may become, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Viewer may be especially helpful for regional analyses or for countries with limited access to spatial population data. The underlying population data are from SEDAC’s Gridded Population of the World (GPW) Basic Demographic Characteristics, v4.11, for the year 2010, with estimates to 2020. The COVID-19 data are from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. SEDAC is one of the NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) and is operated by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

See: The SEDAC Global COVID-19 Viewer


CIESIN Staff Co-Author Publications on Coastal Vulnerability Mapping and Data Risks

April 7, 2020

Associate director for Science Applications Alex de Sherbinin is a co-author of the open access article, “A Systematic Review of Coastal Vulnerability Mapping,” appearing in the journal Sustainability. The paper, by Anamaria Bukvic of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Guillaume Rohat of the University of Geneva, Alex Apotsos of Williams College, and de Sherbinin, evaluates the state of coastal vulnerability assessment mapping efforts and recommends improvements in methodological rigor, policy relevance, and alignment with other vulnerability assessment paradigms. The paper stems from previous work supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation. The paper is dedicated to the memory of second author Rohat, who passed away unexpectedly in October 2019.

Senior digital archivist Robert Downs is also co-author of the open access paper, “Risk Assessment for Scientific Data,” published in the CODATA Data Science Journal. Authors of the paper are Matthew Mayernik of the National Center for Atmospheric Research; Kelsey Breseman of the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI); Downs; Ruth Duerr of the Ronan Institute for Independent Scholarship; Alexis Garretson of George Mason University; Chung-Yi (Sophie) Hou of the Ronin Institute; EDGI; and the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Data Stewardship Committee. The paper presents an analysis of data risk factors that scientific data collections may face, together with a data risk assessment matrix to support risk assessment and mitigation efforts.


CIESIN Operating Remotely Until Further Notice

March 20, 2020

Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, all CIESIN staff are working remotely until further notice. All of our Web sites and online services remain fully operational. CIESIN and SEDAC User Services staff are working regular hours, Monday through Friday, 9 am–5 pm US Eastern Daylight Time, except on major US holidays. For the quickest response to questions, problems, or requests for assistance, please contact us via the SEDAC Help Desk (https://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/help) or send an email to ciesin.info@ciesin.columbia.edu. Please note that access to Columbia University′s campuses is restricted to essential personnel, and that domestic and international travel for business purposes is currently prohibited.


CIESIN Visitor and Staff Transitions

March 10, 2020

Prof. Yan Sun of Hohai University in Nanjing, China, departed CIESIN recently after a year-long stay. Sun worked with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, on her research on the social impact of involuntary resettlement. She gave a presentation, “The Willingness of Elderly Rural People to Transfer Their Homesteads to Changzhou City, China,″ at a seminar January 16. Sun is vice director of the Land Resource Management Institute of Hohai University.

Also completing his appointment as a visiting scholar  was Raphael Villela, a PhD student with the National School of Statistical Sciences/Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, who departed the end of February. During his six-month visit at CIESIN, Villela focused on income inequality, living conditions, well-being, and the environment in metropolitan areas of Brazil, under the supervision of CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo. He gave a brownbag seminar, “The Effects of Income Inequality in Brazilian Metropolitan Areas,″ on February 20.

Rya Inman has been hired as a research staff assistant in CIESIN’s Information Technology division, where she is contributing to geospatial data and services development for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). Recently an intern at CIESIN, Inman graduated from the dual BA program between Columbia University and Sciences Po Paris, where she majored in social sciences and earth science. She has worked as a teaching assistant for Kytt MacManus, senior systems analyst/GIS programmer.


CIESIN Scientists Lead and Contribute to Climate Workshops in Africa and the U.S.

March 9, 2020

CIESIN associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska led a workshop on climate information to support the new national adaptation planning process, held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, February 24–28. The workshop brought together twenty-five national experts from the fields of environment, forestry, water resources, fisheries, agriculture and food security, and meteorology to define what constitutes useful climate information and what type of data is necessary for the planning process. Organized by the West African Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC) project funded by the US Agency for International Development, the workshop underscored the critical value of developing meterological services and the importance of investing in robust climate information going forward.

As part of the initiative, Household Water Insecurity Experiences-Research Coordination Network (HWISE-RCN), CIESIN associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin participated in a workshop, “Connecting the Dots between Climate Change, Water Insecurity, and Migration,″ held at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, March 4–6. Also joining was Earth Institute (EI) Fellow Beth Tellman from the EI Columbia Water Center. The goal of the workshop was to better understand connections between climate change impacts on water supplies and quality, household water insecurity, and migration. The HWISE-RCN group is a community of scholars and practitioners who research and work in the interdisciplinary field of water insecurity. The RCN is an initiative funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation building a community of practice that explores the causes and outcomes of water insecurity at the household scale. This is the second HWISE-RCN workshop since the initiative’s inception in 2018.


Developments in Data and Statistics Discussed at Media Briefing

March 6, 2020

CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in a March 3 briefing for media representatives organized by the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Solution Network (SDSN), held in conjunction with the 51st Session of the UN Statistical Commission in New York City. During the briefing, which included journalists from Springer Nature, Devex, Inter Press Service, and Bloomberg’s QuickTake, Chen discussed the accessibility and use of gridded population data for sustainable development applications. He subsequently attended a UN Statistical Commission side event, “The Data for Now Initiative,” at UN Headquarters, and was interviewed by the UN News Centre. His interview, released March 6, focused on the use of satellite imagery and gridded population data to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including applications such as monitoring of the impacts of epidemics.

See: UN News Centre interview with Robert Chen March 6


Alex de Sherbinin Appointed as Senior Research Scientist at CIESIN

February 19, 2020

Photo of Alex de Sherbinin

Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN's associate director for Science Applications, has been promoted to senior research scientist. The promotion recognizes de Sherbinin’s significant contributions to research on population-environment interactions, his global leadership in a range of scientific, policy, and data initiatives, and his central role in CIESIN′s continuing success. Senior research scientists are officers of research at Columbia, whose qualifications and contributions to their fields of research are equivalent to those of a full professor. The promotion comes after a thorough review by Earth Institute faculty and Columbia University’s Office of the Provost.

Alex de Sherbinin originally joined CIESIN in October 1999 as a senior staff associate and became associate director of CIESIN′s Science Applications Division in January 2015. Since 2006, he has served as deputy manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. He has been a lecturer in the Sustainability Science Program in the School of Professional Studies since fall 2018. In 2015, he was appointed to the Scientific Committee of the International Science Council (ISC) World Data System, became vice chair in 2018, and was elected as chair in January 2020. He coordinates the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) under the auspices of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) and Future Earth. He has also served on a range of task groups and advisory committees on diverse topics, including citizen science data, the value of Earth Observations, population displacement, and conservation. He has published widely in leading journals such as Science, Scientific American, WIRES Climate Change, Climatic Change, The Geographical Journal, and Global Environmental Change, and co-authored high-impact policy-focused reports such as the 2018 World Bank reportGroundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration.

He holds a PhD in Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation from the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) at the University of Twente in The Netherlands. He also holds a MA in geography from the University of Syracuse and a BA in geography from Dartmouth College. Prior to joining CIESIN, he worked for the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in Switzerland and the Population Reference Bureau in Washington DC, and served in the Peace Corps in Mauritania in 1984–1986.


Scientists Gather in Seattle to Envision Tomorrow′s Earth

February 17, 2020

Robert Chen gives a NASA Hyperwall talk at the AAAS annual meeting in Seattle, Washington, on February 15, 2020

Scientists, students, journalists, and others from around the world met February 13–16 in Seattle, Washington, for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), focusing on the theme, “Envisioning Tomorrow's Earth.″ The meeting addressed a broad range of topics about Earth′s future, including tracks dealing with biomedical and health futures, digital futures, future Earth systems and climate, and urban futures. As part of a session, “Artificial Intelligence and Big Earth Data to Support Urban Sustainability,″ CIESIN director Robert Chen gave a presentation on harmonized global gridded population data, highlighting how machine learning approaches applied to diverse new sources of remote sensing data are helping to transform our ability to map human settlements and urban development around the world. The session was moderated by Prof. Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington and also included presentations by Daniele Ehrlich of the European Commission′s Joint Research Centre and Io Blair-Freese of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Chen also gave a talk, “Our Human Planet: Mapping Population and Infrastructure Today and Tomorrow,″ at NASA′s “Viewing the Earth from Space” Hyperwall, in the meeting′s exhibit hall. Highlights of the AAAS meeting included a plenary address by AAAS president Steven Chu, a Nobel Laureate and former U.S. Secretary of Energy, and by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The mission of the AAAS is to advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.

See: 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting


Migration in West Africa Examined at New York City Workshop

February 14, 2020

Experts from West Africa, Europe, and North America met at Columbia University in New York City February 13 for a workshop organized by the recently funded National Science Foundation (NSF) “convergence” research project, “Disentangling Climate, Food Security, and Social Factors as Drivers of Migration In and Out of West Africa.” Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications, helped organize the workshop in his capacity as one of the project′s co-principal investigators, together with Lamont Research Professor Richard Seager, who is the project′s principal investigator. Members of the project team served as session chairs, including Sonali McDermid of New York University (NYU), who led the session, “Setting the Stage”; Andrew Bell of NYU, who led ”Research Findings on Environmental Migration”; and Michael Puma of the Earth Institute′s Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR), who led “Cross Cutting Perspectives and Methods.” At the end of the day, approximately 70 people attended an Open Forum, “Migration In and Out of West Africa—Is Climate a Red Herring?” Wolfram Schlenker of Columbia′s School of International and Public Affairs chaired the Open Forum, and de Sherbinin moderated the panel discussion. The Open Forum was co-sponsored by The Earth Institute, Columbia University′s Committee on Forced Migration, the Pop Dynamics and Environmental Change Seminar Series, and the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN). Convergence research was identified by NSF in 2016 as one of its 10 “big ideas” for future NSF investments; it is seen as a means of solving vexing research problems focused on societal needs, by integrating knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines and forming novel frameworks to catalyze scientific discovery and innovation.

See: Workshop agenda


New Chapters by Former Postdoc Address Communicating Sea Level Rise Risks

January 31, 2020

Two handbooks recently published by Springer include chapters on communicating the risks of sea level rise, written by former CIESIN Fulbright scholar Saleem Khan, with CIESIN co-authors. The Handbook of Climate Services, edited by Walter Leal Filho and Daniela Jacob, features the chapter, “COREDAR: A Coastal Climate Service Framework on Sea-Level Rise Risk Communication for Adaptation Policy Planning.” CIESIN director Robert Chen and associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin contributed. The Handbook of Climate Change Resilience, edited by Filho, includes the chapter, “Building Resilience of Urban Ecosystems and Communities to Sea-Level Rise: Jamaica Bay, New York City,″ co-authored with GIS programmer Kytt Macmanus and geographic information specialist Jane Mills. Khan was a Fulbright-Nehru postdoctoral scholar at CIESIN 2015–16. He is currently based at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, India.


Seven New Members Appointed to SEDAC User Working Group

January 31, 2020

Seven scholars from diverse disciplines have joined the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The UWG provides strategic guidance to SEDAC on user needs and priorities for interdisciplinary data and services that support research and applications on human-environment interactions. The new members are: Sara Curran, director of the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington; Keith Garrett, senior geographer with the Geospatial Operational Support Team at the World Bank; Laura Kurgan, director of the Center for Spatial Research (CSR) at Columbia University; Stefan Leyk, associate professor of geography at the University of Colorado; WenWen Li, head of the CyberInfrastructure and Computation Intelligence Lab at Arizona State University; Julie Sweetkind-Singer, interim assistant university librarian for Science and Engineering Resources (SERG) at the Stanford University Libraries; and Danielle Wood, lead of the Space Enabled Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. The new members are expected to serve for four years. The UWG is chaired by Barbara Ryan, former executive director of the Group on Earth Observations, and currently includes ten other members from the public and private sectors. Nancy Searby of NASA′s Applied Sciences Program recently became SEDAC′s program scientist.

See: SEDAC User Working Group


POPGRID Data Collaborative Updates Web Site, Announces Webinar

January 24, 2020

screenshot of POPGRID Home page

The POPGRID Data Collaborative, an initiative launched by CIESIN in 2017 to improve the quality, access, and use of global-scale spatial data on human population, settlements, and infrastructure, has recently updated its Web site and announced an international Webinar to be held February 4 in collaboration with Geospatial World.

The POPGRID Web site helps users learn about the many different gridded population data sets now available, providing detailed background information and documentation, and direct links to the data and data sources. In addition, the POPGRID Viewer lets users easily compare different data products for their specific regions of interest. The updated site now includes links to recent publications and recorded Webinars about gridded population data, together with updated information from the data providers. POPGRID is collaboratively managed by CIESIN, the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and NASA. More than 20 different groups from both the public and private sectors are active in the POPGRID Data Collaborative. The POPGRID Viewer was developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

On February 4, CIESIN director Robert Chen and Maryam Rabiee of TReNDS presented the Webinar, “Leaving No One Off the Map: Gridded Population Data for Decision Making,″ in coordination with Geospatial World. It attracted 150 participants from around the world. The Webinar focused on how gridded population data can help decision makers and other applied users improve efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the international community in 2015, and in particular to help reach those who might otherwise be left behind. Recent advances in mapping make it possible to better determine the location and characteristics of human settlements and households, allowing for more effective and efficient assistance, e.g., for vaccination campaigns, development assistance, and humanitarian relief. However, the proliferation of different data sets utilizing different methods and sources may confuse users about which data sets are the most appropriate to use in different situations. The Webinar discussed ongoing efforts by the POPGRID Data Collaborative to address this issue, and ways in which the geospatial community can both benefit from, and participate in, POPGRID activities. A recording is available here.

See: POPGRID Data Collaborative Web Site


New Postdoctoral Scientist Joins CIESIN to Work Collaboratively on Flood Risk

January 22, 2020

photo of Carolynne Hultquist

Carolynne Hultquist has joined CIESIN’s Science Applications division as a postdoctoral research scientist beginning January. Hultquist specializes in the fusion and validation of spatial data sources to better understand complex environments, especially during disasters. Her current research focuses on developing computational methods to assess flood risk. She is working collaboratively with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director of the division; Marco Tedesco of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO); and Andrew Kruczkiewicz of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). Hultquist has a PhD from the Pennsylvania State University in geography and social data analytics, and previously worked as a postdoctoral scientist with Prof. Guido Cervone at the GeoInformatics and Earth Observation Lab. Cervone is a member of the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.


Earth Science Information Partners “Put Data to Work” at Winter Meeting

January 10, 2020

CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs traveled to Bethesda, Maryland, January 7–9 for the winter meeting of the Earth Science Information Partners, a nonprofit, volunteer, and community-driven organization that advances the use of earth science data. The ESIP theme for 2020 is “Putting Data to Work,” focusing on the importance of building public-private partnerships to increase resilience and enhance the socioeconomic value of data. During a session organized by the ESIP Disaster Cluster, Downs presented “Global and Local Population Data for Community Lifeline Decision Making,” co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen, who participated remotely. Downs also presented the poster, “Meeting Evolving Practices for Sharing and Managing Earth Science Data.” The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN is a Type 2 member of ESIP, which was established in 1998. Other partners include federal agencies and data centers, government research laboratories, research universities, education resource providers, technology developers, and various nonprofit and commercial enterprises.

See: 2020 ESIP Winter Meeting


New Spatial Data on U.S. Urban Extent and Global Pesticide Use Released

January 3, 2020

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has released two new data sets, one focused on a new approach for assessing urban extent in the continental U.S. and a second that estimates the potential exposure of major food crops around the world to selected chemicals used in pesticides.

Urban Extents from VIIRS and MODIS for the Continental U.S. Using Machine Learning Methods is a highly accurate urban settlement layer at a spatial resolution of 500 meters that is based in part on nighttime lights data from NASA’s Black Marble project. Machine learning methods were used to provide a more consistent, quantitative measure of urban extent, drawing on observations collected at high temporal frequency by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) remote sensing instruments. The data set was developed by former CIESIN scientist Xue Liu, now at Harvard University′s Center for Geographic Analysis, together with SEDAC deputy manager Alex de Sherbinin and former staff member Yanni Zhan. The derivation of the data set is described in a recent open access article by Liu et al. in the journal Remote Sensing.

The Global Pesticide Grids (PEST-CHEMGRIDS) data set was developed by Federico Maggi of the University of Sydney and colleagues, to assess human and ecosystem exposure to potential and recognized toxic chemicals, for the purposes of environmental modelling and assessment of agricultural chemical contamination and risk. PEST-CHEMGRIDS includes comprehensive data on the 20 most-used pesticide active ingredients, on six dominant crops and four aggregated crop classes, at 5 arc-minute resolution (about 10 kilometers at the equator), estimated for the year 2015 and projected to 2020 and 2025. The data set includes 200 data quality maps for each active ingredient on each crop. The data set is described in detail in a recent open access paper by Maggi et al. published in the journal Scientific Data. 

These data are distributed as part of SEDAC′s mission to archive and disseminate key socioeconomic and related environmental data sets that either utilize or complement satellite-based remote sensing data, in support of scientific research, applications, and education. Data selection is overseen by SEDAC′s User Working Group (UWG). Data set authors are invited to submit their data for possible SEDAC archiving and open dissemination; for the submission criteria and form, please see the SEDAC Data Submission page.

See: Urban Extents from VIIRS and MODIS for the Continental U.S. Using Machine Learning Methods
       Global Pesticide Grids (PEST-CHEMGRIDS), v1 (2015, 2020, 2025)