WASHINGTON—The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded $3.5 million to Resources for the Future (RFF) to lead a consortium tasked with quantifying the socioeconomic benefits of Earth observations. The five-year agreement will enable experts to advance the valuation of the applied benefits linked to information from space-based observations of Earth, catalyze a community of research and practice of Earth scientists and social scientists, and disseminate findings to key stakeholders from academia, government, NGOs, and elsewhere.
From its Washington, DC, headquarters, RFF will start up the consortium for the Valuation of Applications Benefits Linked with Earth Science (VALUABLES) early next year. RFF has committed co-funding to the VALUABLES Consortium with expert staffing and other support.
RFF President Richard Newell said of the new challenge, “Earth observations from space provided by NASA touch all of our lives every single day. They predict extreme storms, help manage transportation networks, monitor the quality of our environment—and so much more. This new consortium made possible by NASA will be dedicated to discovering and disseminating the importance of space-derived information—information that can directly benefit our personal health, the economy, and our environment.”
Lawrence Friedl, Director of the Applied Sciences Program in NASA’s Earth Science Division, said, “Countless organizations apply data from Earth-observing environmental satellites daily. This effort will quantify the economic and societal benefits and how the data informs their decisions. We could not ask for a better partner in this quest than Resources for the Future and its consortium.”
RFF Fellow Yusuke Kuwayama will serve as Principal Investigator on the grant and Executive Director of the consortium. Dr. Kuwayama, who has conducted research on the value of information for drought monitoring from NASA’s GRACE satellite, brings extensive experience working with interdisciplinary groups of researchers.
Dr. Kuwayama said of the consortium, “Our mission is to build an unparalleled community of practice and greater acceptance and visibility of the value of Earth science benefits. I am lucky to be working with many gifted and experienced colleagues in this awesome enterprise.”
The consortium will consist of three expert groups: The Socioeconomic Valuation Working Group (SVWG), a Scientific Council, and a Community Outreach Team.
The SVWG is largely drawn from key RFF researchers, whose ranks include economists, decision scientists, statisticians, and policy analysts. All of the SVWG members have published related studies and are considered leading scholars in their fields.
The Scientific Council will consist of scientists who are active in Earth science and satellite remote sensing, and who have demonstrated interest in working with and providing advice to valuation experts. The Council also includes the leadership of NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), a NASA center dedicated to advancing use of socioeconomic and Earth science data.
The Community Outreach Team will be led by RFF’s Shannon Wulf Tregar, who has more than 17 years of experience that include work for the governor of Arizona and the US Department of Homeland Security. She will be supported by RFF’s Director of Communications, Pete Nelson.
RFF President Richard Newell also added, “A great deal of the work necessary to achieve this vital undertaking was provided by our late and much-missed colleague, Molly K. Macauley. Heartbreakingly, she will not get to directly participate in the realization of her vision. But she has left us a tremendous base on which to build, an opportunity for which we are truly grateful.”