RFF Consortium

The Consortium for the Valuation of Applications Benefits Linked with Earth Science (VALUABLES)

RFF is creating a new consortium, in cooperation with NASA, to help experts better understand the socioeconomic benefits of Earth observations.

The iconic Blue Marble and other photos from space have revolutionized public perception of the planet. Likewise, new information from satellites and other Earth observation tools has deepened fundamental understanding about the oceans, terrain, atmosphere, and how humans interact with the environment. Traditional uses of Earth observations, such as weather and crop forecasts and geologic exploration, have advanced to focus on information about natural resources that improves the quality of life: the prediction of storms, droughts, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic activity; the dynamics of disease outbreaks; monitoring air and water quality, land use, and a changing climate; managing utilities and transportation networks; and responding to natural disasters.

Although these Earth observations have obvious benefits for improving the quality of life, the magnitude of these benefits is less well understood and appreciated. For example, how much is information about storm predictions worth? How can these observations be made more useful, and at what cost? Accurately assigning an economic value to the data gathered by satellites and aircraft is critical to ensuring environmental and human health as well as financial well-being around the world.

In 2016, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded $3.5 million to RFF to help answer these and other questions by creating and leading the Consortium for the Valuation of Applications Benefits Linked with Earth Science (VALUABLES). The VALUABLES Consortium convenes a core group of nearly 20 social and Earth scientists around the United States through its Socioeconomic Valuation Working Group and Scientific Council. Their work will center on new and existing methods in the science of the value of information, an approach widely used in finance, engineering, information technology, risk assessment and management, and other business and scientific domains. They will also engage in a full suite of communications activities, including experimentation with web-based multimedia, crowdsourcing, and open innovation research.

The VALUABLES Consortium will focus on three pillars:

  1. Research: To apply existing and innovative methods to quantify the socioeconomic benefits of information from Earth observations;
  2. Capacity Building: To catalyze interdisciplinary linkages between Earth scientists and social scientists; and
  3. Communications: To communicate the value of Earth observations to stakeholders in government, universities, the NGO community, and the interested public.